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Modeling AgroForestry Adoption and Household Decision Making in Malawi

by Paul H. Thangata, Peter .E. Hildebrand, and Christina H. Gladwin


Low resource farmers make decisions about adopting new technologies as part of the overall strategy for ensuring subsistence and cash income for their food security needs. This paper reports on a study conducted in Kasungu, Malawi, southern Africa, to evaluate the potential for small-scale farmers to adopt improved fallows. Simulations of two representative households, a male and a female headed, were carried out using dynamic ethnographic linear programming (ELP) in a ten-year model. Results show that the adoption pattern for improved fallows is driven by the amount of land and labor available rather than the gender of the household head. Female-headed households with insufficient labor may hire labor for other cropping activities, which enables them to plant improved fallows. Furthermore, simulations show that when households are able to sell seed from the woody species in the fallow, both male and female households stop taking credit for fertilizer for their cash crop.  They still grow the cash crop, in this case tobacco, but produce most of their maize without chemical fertilizers. It is concluded that in Kasungu, Malawi, improved fallows will be adopted in households with sufficient land and labor.

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Paul Thangata has received his Ph.D from the College of Natural Resources and Environment in the Interdisciplinary Ecology Program, at the University of Florida.

Peter Hildebrand is Acting Director of the International Programs-IFAS, and Professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, at the University of Florida.

Christina Gladwin is a Professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, at the University of Florida.

The authors are grateful for the patience and hospitality of farmers interviewed in Kasungu, Malawi, and for the help of the Rockefeller Foundation and the “Gender and Soil Fertility in Africa” project funded by USAID Soils CRSP. All errors and omissions are the responsibilities of the authors.

** Readers please note that due to an oversight, a draft version of the present article was online from July 30, 2002 – August 23, 2002. The current article replaces that version. Readers who may have cited material from the article should take special note of this change. We apologize for the inconvenience.




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