Malawi has pursued an agricultural-led development strategy since its independence in 1964. This agricultural-led development strategy was based on the promotion of a dual agricultural system comprising estate (large-scale) production mainly for cash (export) crops and smallholder agricultural production mainly to support the food security needs of the population. In the post-independence era, the objectives of an agricultural strategy were four fold: To raise agricultural productivity and accelerate growth and export performance. To diversify the export base from the dominance of tea exports. To indigenise estate (large-scale) agriculture. To encourage production by smallholder farmers. In the early years of independence, government policy was biased towards estate-led agricultural development. Nonetheless, smallholder agriculture remains an important source of livelihoods for a majority of the rural population, and approximately 84 per cent of agriculture value-added comes from 1.8 to 2 million smallholder farmers who on average own only 1 hectare of land. This study argues that past agricultural strategies have been less successful because they ignored the land question among smallholder farmers. After four decades of agricultural-led development strategies in the post-independent Malawi, economic growth has been erratic and a large proportion of the population live below the poverty line. Agricultural policies favoured large-scale (estate) production at the expense of smallholder farmers who account for more than 80 per cent of households. Smallholder farmers face several constraints including landlessness, small land holdings, and declining agricultural productivity. We show that access to land via agricultural production is one of the important factors that can translate growth to poverty reduction. Hence, for agricultural based strategies to be pro-poor in Malawi, land redistribution or resettlement programmes for the landless or near landless should be central and a pre-condition for the effectiveness of pro-poor growth strategies in agriculture.The author concludes that as Malawi reviews her poverty reduction strategies, land reform should be the top ranked strategy for the agricultural sector to generate pro-poor growth.
Authors and Publishers
Chancellor College is the largest among the constituent colleges of the University of Malawi. In the year 1973, the college was relocated from Blantyre to Zomba, where it rests in the shadow of the majestic Zomba Mountain, home to flora, fauna and myth.