The role of crop diversification in improving household food security in central Malawi
This paper (PDF) in the Agriculture and Food Security journal investigates the influence of crop diversification and other household socioeconomic characteristics on improving household food security in central Malawi. In Malawi, rain-fed food production systems by smallholder farmers are facing increasing challenges from land degradation and declining soil fertility. Maize is grown by the majority of farmers, which has led to a “maize poverty trap”: maize fails during prolongued drought, leaving farmers food insecure. Due to increased cases of malnutrition and food insecurity, in the wake of climate change, the government of Malawi has in the past few years intensified extension efforts for crop diversification. Results show that higher crop diversification intensities are more likely to have a diverse diet and less likely to adopt food insecurity coping strategies. Farming households with more than one crop are more secure in terms of food supplies and income. They cater their household food requirement, hence crop diversification improves food security. Furthermore, education of the household head, access to credit and cattle ownership are crucial factors for food security. Therefore, the study concludes that crop diversification can ensure establishment of resilient agricultural systems that can contribute significantly to household food security. A policy recommendation is that the government of Malawi needs to intensify promotion of crop diversification in smallholder farming. This is particularly so in this era of climate variability that poses an extra burden to farmers. Moreover, policies to ensure smallholder farming households’ access to credit, education and draft power are also recommended. For example by a collaboration between government and microfinance organization to offer small loans with low interest rates.