1985 annual report from the social science component


Material Information

1985 annual report from the social science component BeanCowpea CRSP Malawi Project
Physical Description:
43 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Barnes-McConnell, Pat
Luna, Carlos
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural systems -- Social aspects -- Malawi   ( lcsh )
Agricultural systems -- Economic aspects -- Malawi   ( lcsh )
Beans -- Varieties -- Malawi   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:


Analysis of data from farm family observations and surveys administered to the population of northern Malawi are the basis for the information in this report.
Includes bibliographical references (leaf 43).
General Note:
General Note:
Caption title.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
oclc - 646849183
lcc - S473.M3 N56 1985
System ID:

Full Text


Pat Barnes-McConnell


Socio-cultural research in the Bean/Cowpea CRSP Malawi project has

concentrated on understanding the farming systems of northern Malawi,

especially as the socio-cultural factors relate to the maintenance of bean

diversity. Specific objectives are:

1. To identify fundamental factors in the small farm agricultural systems

which support genetic diversity in the Malawi bean population.

2. To analyze the inter-relationships among these factors.

3. To contribute to an understanding of the degrees of freedom within the

system which can support change.

Analyses of data from farm family observations and surveys administer

the population in this region are the basis for the information which make

this study.

d to

s up

Data Base of This Report

Throughout the year, there are many variations in the demands on the

smallholder farming system as well as among the environmental and social

resources available to address those demands. Thus, the information generated

by this study was analyzed by month and organized so as to bring out the unique

elements among the three growing seasons of the region. These seasons are

roughly the four months in the periods November to February, March to June and

July to October.

All data were not received from the field at the writing of this report.

Unfortunately, among the data which were received, there were none for the

month of November, expected to be a very important one in the agricultural

cycle. Until those data are in, findings must be interpreted with caution.


A description of the methodology generating the data is available elsewhere

(see Technical Report No. 1) and therefore will be omitted from this report.

-Population Sample of This Report

There were 75 families from the northern region of Malawi that made up the

population under study. These families were comprised of 460 persons whose

gender and age distribution are shown in the chart below.

Research Population of Northern Malawi by Age and Gender

0-9 Years 10-19 Years 20-39 Years 40 and Above Total

Male 55 79 45 37 216

Female 64 73 67 40 244

Total 119 152 112 77 460

In the questionnaires, where persons did not give responses to questions,

analyses were based on the number that did respond. In the observations,

persons away from the research site were recorded as engaged in activity as

reported by the respondents.

General Results

Environmental Constraints

All crops have among their major challenges, evolving varieties

appropriate for a season's soil and air moisture. In addition, a crop needs

to have a growth cycle that is coordinated with labor availability sufficient

to meet cultivation requirements. That is, crop varieties must have a growth

cycle which readies them for harvest at a point during the dry period when

competition for harvesting labor by other more important crops does not

adversely affect their yield (labor for weeding at critical periods is also a

significant issue).

For example, introduction of the longer season hybrid maize has conflicted

with what has traditionally been the largest bean production season. Some of

the women report that this situation is responsible for delayed bean harvest-

ing. Such a delay can support heavy pest and insect damage in the field which

results in severely reduced yield. The labor constraint during, and immediately

following, the rainy season is also strongly influenced in Malawi by the high

rates of illness and death among the farm family members who provide most of the

agricultural labor.

In addition to regular food production, there are strict regulations for the

growing of the region's major cash crop (coffee) which also must be considered.

Under the direction of the Smallholder Coffee Authority, many of the families

cultivate a limited number of coffee trees and sell the cherries to the

Authority as a source of family income. The information reported suggests that

in many ways agricultural, climatic and socio-cultural constraints are

interrelated. General information on the climate and cropping seasons in the

region of this study is presented in the next four pages.

Bean Cropping Seasons in the Northern Zone of Malawi
Crop Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct

Maize Traditional variety

Hybrid variety

Beans Wet season (limited
Dry season (largest
Dimba (residual

Coffee The major cash crop in this zone
Managed under the Malawi Smallholder Coffee Authority

M up to 2,000m

P/N beqinninq at

l b
0 0 ,

100 d0 0,
Z 30 40

J A SO N D J F M A M J -----------------------

Source: Adaptcd from Anthony Young and Dorccn M. Young. A GC'egraphy (if M ila.
wi. L.ondon, 1964. p. 20.

Mean Annual Rainfall and Tempcraturc. Malawi

Region of the study was Musuku Hills (M) south to Mphompa/Nchenachena

(P/N) area. Most of the M families report getting three cropping seasons a

year; most P/N families report getting only two.


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Farm Family Health

As previously mentioned, among the resources especially important in the

subsistence farming system is health. Labor demands are strenuous and the time

restrictions severe.

The chart below gives data from the researchers on the rainfall observed

weighted by half-days. The pattern of spontaneous reports of illnesses and

deaths in relation to the weather reported by the recorders' was striking with

most of the reports of illness toward the end of the rainy season. Their

reports of dampness (see high humidity level in previous charts) and water

problems inside some of the households, where sometimes there was no dry place

to sit, suggests why this relationship may exist. Death reports appear to

follow the same pattern with the least rain, least illnesses and least deaths

occurring together within the cycle.

Health in Relation to Observed Rain by Month, 1984
Reported by One Observation Group

Wt'd Observed Rains
(in days) Family Illness Reported De<

10.0 1
11.0 1
4.5 1
10.0 3
35.5 6
11.0 5
7.5 6
2.0 2
4.0 2
24.5 15
2.5 1
1.5 1
0 1
1.0 0
5.0 3

iths Reported





Farm Family Activity

The first analysis by season was done on the family activities performed

within the farming system. It was anticipated that this analysis would

illuminate critical farm family stress points. Knowledge of these stress

points would assist in understanding the adaptive features of the present

system and in the development of technological interventions. Such interven-

tions then could fit the system better and might more readily become accepted

by the farm family. Farm family activity was observed in the categories of

agriculture, child care, domestic, economic, personal and social. Age and

gender were important in all data aggregation.

The issue of gender contributions is especially interesting when viewed

from the perspective of the family unit as well as from the perspective of

individual member's responsibilities. First, the major categories of basic

survival activity important to the family unit were analyzed: agriculture,

domestic (excluding child care) and economic.

For all but three (February, May and June) of the eleven months for which

data were available, the male/female partnership generated nearly equal total

activity across these categories (categories added together). That is, in nine

of the eleven months, there was less than a two-hour daily differentials in

activity between males and females. There were much larger gender differences

among and within the categories however.

The chart below shows the importance of this adult partnership. Children's

activities (ages 0-9) were omitted when it was found that their numbers con-

founded the data. Activity in all categories will be analyzed separately for

this age group when the remaining data are in and the sample size is thus large

enough to report.

Average Hours of Activity














Average Hours of Activity
in the Categories Given by Gender

Gender Ag Dom


M 4.3 1.2
F 3.2 4.6

M 4.1 1.3
F 3.1 4.7

M 4.6 1.2
F 3.3 4.6

M 3.9 1.9
F 2.8 4.9

M 4.0 1.2
F 3.9 4.0

M 2.1 1.0
F 1.8 4.1

M 1.6 1.0
F 1.3 3.0

M 1.3 2.1
F 1.9 3.4

M 4.1 2.5
F 3.0 4.7

M 4.0 3.3
F 2.3 4.9

M 4.5 1.9
F 1.9 7.3

A further analysis within these categories enabled a report of what, on the

average, engaged the adults of the family team by month as observed or reported

on the days the homesite was visited.

per Observation Day
and Month (age 0-9 omitted)

Econ Total Grand Total


4.1 9.6)
1.6 9.4) 19.0

5.3 10.7)
3.1 10.9) 21.6

4.0 9.8)
3.7 11.6) 21.4

4.1 9.9)
3.4 11.1) 21.0

3.4 8.6)
2.4 10.3) 18.9

2.6 5.7)
3.1 9.0) 14.7

2.8 5.4)
3.4 7.7) 13.1

3.6 7.0)
2.9 8.2) 15.2

5.5 12.1)
3.7 11.4) 23.5

4.3 11.6)
3.7 10.9) 22.5

5.4 11.8)
2.6 11.8) 23.6



November--Data missing.


In agriculture, both the males and the females were heavily engaged in

plowing as well as planting, although the males were mostly occupied

with the cash crops.

In domestic, the females were heavily occupied with routine food processing

and preparation, including hauling water and wood for various domestic

needs. A brief review of the chart suggests there is a basic level

of activity in this category continuously required by the household,

below which labor cannot fall.

In economics, the males were engaged in selling and buying during this



In agriculture, the chores of December continued, but the major demands for

both males and females were weeding (again for the males, mostly the

cash crops). In addition, the females continued heavy planting


In domestic, the heavy domestic demands continued for the females.

In economics, males were active in wage work as well as continued selling

and buying. Females at a somewhat lower level were also active in

wage work.


In agriculture, the males were observed clearing land for the upcoming

season. Both males and females were still actively weeding the

previous crops and were still continuing to plant. By this month

females were observed actively harvesting some of their crop.


In domestic, the previous pattern remained.

In economics, there was a clear increase in female buying and decrease in

male buying during this period. Wage work for males decreased but

still was reported at a level much higher than that of females, which

dropped precipitiously this month.



In agriculture, males continued land clearing. Both males and females were

also observed ridging. Mostly males were planting while both partners

were weeding. Females continued some harvesting.

In domestic, the gender pattern continued.

In economics, the previous level of buying and selling was only slightly

changed with wage labor for males dropping to equal females.


In agriculture, there was a sizeable increase in ridging by females, even

surpassing that observed of males. Females also took over the level

of planting activity observed of males in March. Both partners

continue to weed as harvesting by females began a steady climb.

In domestic, again there was little change.

In economics, the pattern was slightly lower than the previous month for

both males and females.


In agriculture, there was a significant drop in all categories except

harvesting, which increased for both partners.

In domestic, the pattern was largely unchanged.


In economics, males showed a large increase in wage work while females

remained at about their previous level.

The total level of activity across all categories dropped significantly

this month, a pattern which continued over the next two months as well. This

three-month period will be referred to throughout the rest of this paper as

the period of "rest and recuperation" or R&R, which is such only relative to

the high level of work recorded in the other months.


This month showed the lowest level of activity across all categories.

In agriculture, the females were engaged in the greatest amount of

harvesting. A small number of males were observed preparing land

perhaps for dimba (residual moisture) gardens.

In domestic, the female activity was at its lowest while the male

maintained his lower level.

In economics, the pattern changed only slightly from the month before with

the wage work for males decreasing and females increasing.



Although still comparatively low, the general level of family activity was

on the rise this month.

In agriculture, there was a present but even smaller involvement of males

in land preparation than the month before. No one was seen planting

except a very small number of females with dimba gardens which had

been prepared by the males. Harvesting continued at a high rate for

both partners.


In domestic, male participation began to rise as over the next few months

males were observed molding bricks, building pit latrines, thatching

roofs and otherwise preparing the household for the return of the

rainy season. Female activity also rose.

In economics, there was a large increase in male participation in wage






agriculture, male harvesting reached its highest level. Female

harvesting also continued although at a slightly lower level. Both

cash and food crops were involved.

domestic, male participation continued to increase as did female.

economics, there was the greatest amount of monthly male and female

activity, undoubtedly related to the sale of the harvest.


In agriculture, harvesting continued but little else in this category.

In domestic, male participation was at its highest. Female activity also

increased and maintained itself at a level greater than that of the


In economics, both partners were active with female activity holding steady

from the month before.


In agriculture, with this last month of the dry season, the male and female

participation in land clearing was at its height, with males more

active in this chore than females. Males were also observed to start

their planting again, not so the females.

In domestic, the male participation dropped dramatically while the female

participation was extremely high, undoubtedly reflecting the


processing of the harvest and the completion of home improvements

(e.g., "smearing," as in whitewashing, with a special clay the

structures built or repaired previously by the males).

In economic, wage work continued at a high level but highest for females.

Buying activity was high for males.

It was demonstrated that the significant partnership involves not only

subsistence production but also the cash crop production and wage labor

contributed by both males and females. The extent and distribution of labor

among the adult members of the farm family suggest the importance of timing

and the significance of the male/female partnership in total successful farm


Bean-Specific Results

Preliminary Findings from Bean Field Measurements Data

The chart below gives the preliminary field measurements data for the

families from whom information was received. Pacing the fields and counting

the average plants, pods and seeds, data from the recorders were used to

calculate the average yield potential for those families (yield if none were

lost to pests, diseases or processing). These potential yield figures fit

within the range of yield reported by the Bunda College team growing the beans

from this region under irrigation in Malawi.


Preliminary Findings from Field Measurements Form


Field width/

Number of ridges

Ridge width

Ridge width range

January 8b
(M Families) Most
Mountainous Area

98.5/153 ft


3.7 ft

1.1/5.8 ft

Mid-Feb/Mid-Mar 85
(P/N Families)
Hilly Area

Bunda Report Collected
Germplasm Grown Under

191/226 ft


2.6 ft

1.4/3.4 ft

Average plants
per pace

Average plants per
foot on ridge

Plant density (b)
per field

Plant density (b)
per acre

Plant density (b)
per hectare

Acres per field
Number of fields
per family

Pods per plant (b)

Seeds per pod

Potential seed
yield per field

Potential seed
yield per acre

Yield potential




) 1.46 total
4) acres



1,585 kg/ha
@ 50 grams/cwt






2.3 total

< .5 ha holdings



2,374 kg/ha
@ 50 grams/cwt

724-2,476 kg/ha


Throughout the analyses of data, a conversion factor of 600 cups to the

acre was used because those interviewed reported getting, on the average, about

575 cups per acre. The figure seems quite low and may reflect a concern on the

part of those interviewed about letting it be known how much there really was.

This problem has been highlighted by the field team in their diaries and in

correspondence. On the other hand, from the bean observation sheets the

recorders' figures for pace-measured bean fields where beans were growing in

pure stands in the dry season compared with later cups in storage from those

fields suggested a yield of around 1,000 cups per acre or 250 pounds. Given

the likely loss to pests over the four to six month period these beans must

last, the likely smaller yield when beans are grown with maize and other

foodstuffs in the rainy season and yields by some of the most limited resource

farmers of less than 100 cups/acre, an average of 600 cups or 150 pounds seems

a reasonable compromise.

Observation of Farm Family Beans

At each visit the recorders attempted to assess the whereabouts and

condition of all of the family's beans. These data again are reported only as

general trends because of the absence of the final recordings and any data at

all for the month of November. Nonetheless, the following findings are of


The greatest number of beans were observed growing in the fields in the

months of May and June. The greatest amount observed in storage were in the

months of August and September. The co-variation between these two conditions

is worthy of attention. As shown in the chart below, for the most part with

an increase in beans growing, there was a decrease in beans in storage. This

suggested, as expected, that people were eating from and perhaps selling from


their stocks. It is likely these numbers also reflected a loss to pests over

time. As beans growing decreased, beans in storage increased, reinforcing,

again as expected, that at least some of the harvest was placed into storage.

Total Beans Observed in Households by Month (in cups)

Being Planted Growing*


14,578 --
-- 279 610










In Storage













The size of the stored beans seen in August versus that seen in July, in

relation to the planting month figures, suggests that during this dry season,

bean harvest may be delayed perhaps in favor of other more demanding chores.

Final analysis of these data will clarify this issue.

Another general observation was that as beans in storage increased so too

did beans cooked and beans held as leftovers. Incidently, in these incomplete

*Conversion Factor of 600 Cups/Acre Was Used














data the smallest amounts of beans observed as leftovers (suggesting the time

of the smallest amount cooked and thus eaten) was during the months of May,

June and July when there was also the least amount of beans in storage. This

was also the period of the least demands on the labor pool. These apparent

correlates suggest that if new technology can make better use of this "rest and

recuperation" time period, attention will have to be given to the availability

of food, especially maize, the staple in the country. Interestingly, produc-

tion of the preferred traditional maize yields early enough to contribute to

this time period. The hybrid varieties, pushed hard by the extension service,

do not. This may help explain the resistance of Malawi farmers to discontinu-

ing their production of traditional maize as urged strongly by the extension


Pre- and Post-Harvest Crop Management

The following findings were generated by the questionnaires administered

to get a further idea of how the bean crop is managed.

Most of the women indicated they do, in fact, select beans for planting.

They select for viability, removing the rotten ones which they say can't grow.

In addition, they list the following (not prioritized) as selection criteria:

1. High yield

2. Remove climbers which are easily eaten by rats (mentioned by several)

3. Adapted to a lot of water, doesn't rot easily

4. Matures quickly

5. Keeps vegetables (leaves) a long time without getting hard

6. To reduce labor and time

7. Disease resistant

8. Easy weeding

9. Good taste/smell


10. Cooks fast

11. For selling, has weight

On the other hand, the problems which plagued the chosen varieties were

reported as:

1. Dispersed in the garden (shattered)

2. Less yield due to high rainfall

3. Beans eaten by rats, birds and wild animals

4. Too much rain during drying--germinated, became rotten

5. Leaf eaters destroyed them

6. Leaves shriveled

7. Insects ate beans in pod

8. Stem eaters a problem

In 1985, as in previous years, the women reported they mostly still sorted

the varieties of their seed. This is even though the government policy has

been changed to give the same price to sorted and mixed lots. When asked why,

they responded:

Sorters Non-Sorters

1. Stomach problems 1. All hard and not caught by weevils

2. Some rot quickly 2. Too much labor required

3. Caught by weevils because not hard 3. Saves time not to sort

4. Easy grading for selling or cooking 4. Grows only one kind

5. Easy for planting--some cook easily,

others ripen quickly

The question was then asked what do they do with strange beans that turn

up. The women responded as follows:


1. Select them out by cooking and eating them or by

a. Cooking and eating them

b. Throwing them away or leaving them in the field

2. Store for next planting

Most of them indicated they would leave the strange bean with the others.

In light of this, they were asked if they would plant one type that was high

yielding even if it were not a type preferred and secondly would they continue

to plant mixtures. Most responded yes to both questions although nearly as

many others answered yes they would plant a non-preferred high yielder and

would not continue to plant mixtures as well. Thus, it is apparent that, with

planting seed frequently mentioned as a constraint to greater bean planting,

the women would welcome improved seed. Perhaps as risk avoiding behavior,

however, most would also continue to plant their mixtures.

Loss of yield potential is critical and apparently, from the preliminary

field measurements presented earlier in this paper, is very severe. Selecting

appropriate planting seed appears to be an important element in responding to

this problem. It is significant that most of the women indicated that yield

was important to them. They even agreed that yield was the major reason they

would continue to grow hard-to-cook varieties even though these hard-to-cook

varieties would make more work for them. If the yield is high enough, it is

likely these will be the ones chosen for sale.

"Keepability" of cooked beans may be especially important in the months of

heavy labor demands when more water, more wood, more fire-tending are avoided.

Perhaps women can appease "hard work induced hunger" demands by being able to

have acceptable leftovers (beans that don't get too mushy). This is especially

important since, as reported earlier, the women make a sizeable contribution

in the strenuous labor demands of the system when the timing is critical (e.g.,

plowing, ridging).


Cooked on the average of three times per week, 5.5 cups per cooking, beans

were reported eaten, on the average, five times per week. With an average

family size of six to eight, this means about one-half cup of beans per person

each of the five bean meals per week. Eating them at this rate, a family needs

to produce in take-home yield a minimum of around 300 cups of beans per four-

month season (or 75-100 pounds). At the present estimated yield level of

around 1,000 cups (or 250 pounds) per acre when grown in pure stands (the

common practice in the dry season), the average family could manage with only

a half-acre in beans in the March season, in addition to a larger November

associated planting, if the family had access to a dimba garden (residual

moisture garden in low-lying areas or areas on river banks) of comparable size.

Without a dimba garden, however, it would be much more difficult than needing

a March season harvest of twice the volume. The large amount that would likely

be lost in storage over the eight-month period before the next harvest is in

would require an initial amount of considerable size.

Without a dimba garden, the family with larger March planting acreage could

likely get through the "R&R" period but would have to go into the heavy work

season of the November-December planting period with limited bean supply. This

may indeed contribute to the health problems reported earlier.

The respondents indicated a clear preference for indicated varieties,

including ones preferred for dimba gardens. These responses will be checked

against the bean observation sheets to see if what was said was actually done.


While some of the respondents indicated they never sell beans, most of them

reported having sold beans within the last year. Conversely, while a few of

the women bought beans, most indicated they never buy them. Of those that did

buy them, they reported they:


1. Bought them for planting, seldom for eating even when they ran out of


2. Tended to buy back the same varieties they had sold

3. Bought back a fewer number than they had sold

Selling fruits and vegetables, including beans, is a major source of funds

reported by nearly all of the women. In addition, a number of them reported

selling coffee as a source of funds. A few indicated selling beer.

Another source of funds for the families was off-farm employment. Many of

the families indicated they had members so engaged, both males and females

although males outnumbered females in outside employment.

Many of the families, in turn, hired others to assist at peak labor

periods. Of those that did, most hired others to do ridging, a particularly

strenuous job. A number also hired persons to help with weeding. Most paid

their helpers in wages, although some paid in maize, room and board or help-in-

kind. The hiring of outside labor did not appear to be related to family size.

This information and the other above generated from the questionnaires

administered to the families will be compared with the family activity

observation sheets to assess the extent to which what was reported matched

with what was observed (or reported on the day of observation).


Some of the interrelationships among the components of the system are

beginning to emerge. For example, as men and women increase their home

improvement activity, the demands on the woman may increase for such normal

support services as water to be hauled to the home site for the home improve-

ment chore. During the month of October, which is the last month of the dry


season, women were also observed boiling water much more than any other month

during the year. Is this related to the low level of water in wells and rivers

which is perhaps getting brackish? Although the government has installed a

laudable pipe system in the country, the nearest source of water to most of the

families in this mountainous region was a natural one.

The overall picture of labor utilizaton suggests a very finely tuned

system. This system will likely resist changes disrupting the balance of the

total family output in the major categories of activity unless, of course,

those changes will result in an overall major increase in family resources such

as was the case with the introduction of coffee. For those interested in crop

improvement, especially in beans as an important family resource, the greatest

contribution would appear to be in yield stability, a condition presently

sought by the farmers through mixtures.

Another factor evident from the data is the virtual continuous harvesting

of beans for those with access to three seasons. The importance of temporal

distribution of seed yield, especially in relation to vegetable (leaf) yield

over a period of time, was emphasized. At this point it is unclear how the

lengthened production period contributes to the economic versus consumption

needs of the family. From their reports, it appears that there are small but

significant fluctuations in bean prices which may be affected by the production

of more beans over a longer period. In addition, what may reinforce the

existence of mixtures in this scenario may be extended harvesting; that is,

with other crops also due at the same time, all the beans not having to be

picked at once may be a major feature. Especially is this likely in the month

of August when coffee beans have to be picked daily when each is just right.

Varieties with "keepability," ease of harvesting and/or fast cooking are

all features which tend to be more important in certain points in the annual


cycle than others. Perhaps this is the real reason for sorting even when the

official prices are uniform. In fact, this issue may contribute to the lack of

uniformity in the local markets, the people knowing very well what they need in

food features at various points in time. The labor patterns suggest, for

example, the existence of a "fast food" time, the climate suggests the existence

of a "low input" period (e.g., low water availability) and the cropping seasons

suggest a period when there is the need for varieties with good root systems

that can grow under residual moisture to take the family through the lean, dry

months. Attempts will be made to tease information from the data that may shed

further light on this topic.

Issues such as taste, color, smell, etc. are clearly important in prefer-

ence. However, it is likely that the real issues are much more complicated and

people will adjust to whatever they think will improve their lives. That is to

say, while preference is important in the development of new bean varieties,

other features of the bio/social system, such as work cycles, may be just as

important. For example, while women undoubtedly are concerned about what they

serve their husbands (in relation to his tastes), especially if she is one among

several wives, the data reported here suggests there is another side. As a

major partner in the family work distribution pattern, it is likely she is

concerned that a crop is available to her for her domestic responsibilities

mutually supportive of her ability to hold up her end of the agricultural and

economic load, however unbalanced that load may be.

The data from this region of Malawi will be further analyzed to shed addi-

tional light on these and other issues emerging to explain the role and inter-

relationship of plant genetic diversity to the farm social and biological system.


Carlos Luna


The second agricultural survey called the National Sample Survey of

Agriculture (NSSA) was carried out on a national scale in the traditional areas

of Malawi from October 1980 to November 1981. The first NSSA was carried out in

the agricultural season of 1968/69.

In addition to updating the results of the first NSSA, the second NSSA

results were required for other specific purposes. Some of them are:

1. Monitoring and evaluation of agricultural programs: since 1978, the

Ministry of Agriculture has established eight Agricultural Development

Divisions (ADDs) throughout the country. The survey collected data

which facilitated planning and also comparison between ADD project


2. Assessment of land resource utilization.

3. The second NSSA collected information including income and expenditure

data which can be used in the compilation of the national accounts.

Results Related to Land Utilization and Employment

The average estimated area per household dropped by 24 percent from 1.54

hectares in 1968/69 to 1.17 hectares in 1980/81 during a period that the rural

farming population increased by 25.6 percent in absolute terms.

Malawi has approximately 6.58 million inhabitants (FAO, 1982) growing on

the average at 2.52 percent per annum (UN, 1978), but at 3.2 percent in 1984

(ERS, USDA)in Land area of 36,325 square miles, making Malawi one of Africa's

most densely populated countries, with much of the population concentrated in

the more fertile Southern and Central regions rather than the mountainous

Northern region.


In analyzing Table 1, it should be borne in mind that the rising

concentration in the South reflects not only a high immigration across the

frontier, but also a movement from North to South in search of employment.

In terms of percent of total paid employment, the Agriculture, Forestry

and Fishing sector maintains the largest at about 51 percent in 1983. Table 2

shows a decline in the absolute figure of total paid employment for 1981. The

drop in the percent for 1980 and 1981 period may have been due to factors like

unfavorable weather conditions, adjustment of quota systems for some crops and

a general rise in production costs, which resulted in a number of people being

laid off. The agricultural employment growth of only 2.2 percent in 1980,

compared to 5.8 percent in 1979 can partly be explained by the well publicize

African drought which affected many parts of the southern region.

Employment in the agricultural sector was decreasing over the three year

period from 1979-81. It fell from about 49 percent of total paid employment

across all nine sectors of the economy in 1980 to about 45 percent in 1981.

This was due to the closing down of a number of estates and a reduction in

estate acreage.

There are population pressures on cropland in Malawi as can be seen in

Table 3. In some areas of the country, newly formed households can only find

gardens by splitting up the area orginially cultivated by one household (NSSA


Data indicate an increasing disparity between Malawi population growth

and cropland expansion (table 4).

Malawi's population is increasing at a much faster rate than is the

increase in usable agricultural land. Technological change will be essential

in increasing crop production to meet the future food need.



Some portion of what is grown by small farmers may be marketed, but

marketing is not the sole or even primary reason for producing. The reason

for growing export or cash crops is to sell or barter them, while the primary

reason for growing food crops is to eat them.

Having a large share of food produced in the subsistence sector creates

some special.marketing and supply strengths as well as problems. In Malawi

smallholder farmers produce about 85 percent of the total agricultural output

(Malawi Economic Planning Division, 1978) a practice which assures that

generally food will be available to the majority of the rural poor without

having to rely on transport from central distribution areas. In a bad year,

the quantity of food marketed is likely to drop by much more than the

shortfall in production because producers likely will meet their own food

needs first, leaving little or nothing to send to market. This problem may

especially affect the urban areas but in fact may be a strength in rural

areas. A good year may increase marketing, since farmers need to provide only

a reasonable measure of food security for themselves. In general, however,

there will be greater fluctuations in marketed food than in the actual

production itself (Food Problems in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Decade of the

1980's. ERS, USDA. Report No. 166).

As a consequence of the above, uncertainty about the reliability of the

supply of marketing by producers in the subsistence sector may be as serious

a problem for governments as the more frequently discussed cost of reaching

many small producers or the logistics of serving them. In recent years,

Malawi has invested heavily in costly marketing infrastructure and services.

It is costly in the sense of the subsidy involved in offering the same minimum


price countrywide. In doing so there maybe a direct financial aid to the

farmers in storage, transport and marketing if the price is not set at an

adequate level. The state marketing board (ADMARC) has set up some 900 buying

locations (Frequently tents on the roadsides) offering minimum prices. This

has brought many smallholders into the official market system, selling to

ADMARC their traditional labor-intensive production surplus. Malawi has

completed a complex of concrete silos, with a capacity of 180,000 tons (ERS,

USDA) in which the country's official produce is stored. The unofficial

markets, as in local purchases or purchases by private agents, provide another

very active outlet for farm family surplus.

Generally, farmers may be expected to respond to conditions in the

marketplace, but they will not permit those conditions to color the whole food

production process. Whether farmers in the subsistence sector make an effort

to market depends on the price they receive for their produce, their need for

money and the reliability of the marketing system itself. Prices, combined

with an adequate marketing system can create an incentive for regular


In trying to determine price responses of Malawi smallholder farmers,

J.C. Mills (1974) concluded that the smallholder does respond quickly to a

price change, but that the category of farmers is important. Smallholders,

grouped into three kinds of farmers (average, above average and below average

in agricultural practices), verified there were a series of factors

determining their production or acreage decisions.

In general, it can be said that production decisions regarding basic

foodstuffs depends on the size of the population, level and distribution of

income, tastes and the retail price of the commodities considered.


In Malawi most food production takes place within the subsistence

sector. The primary purpose for growing food is to feed the cultivators

themselves. However, the subsistence sector is large in Malawi, that is in

terms of population (table 5), but also in terms of contribution to the

National Income. In 1973, agriculture contributed 40 percent of gross

domestic product in a ratio of 2:1 in favor of the non-monetary sector and in

1977 that contribution was 45 percent (table 6).

Nature of Demand and Consumption

Although seriously effected by the drought in 1979-80, Malawi was one of

the few Southern African countries not seriously affected by the droughts of

1983 and 1984 and it is the only one not in need of major food imports in

1984-85. It is also the only sub-Saharan African country with 1983 per capital

food production above the 1969-71 period (table 7).

In Malawi, diets are heavily cereal based (table 8). Growth in income,

and particularly the way in which this growth is distributed, are determining

factors in the structure of demand. People in lower income groups spend a

larger percentage of their income on food and buy less costly food. There is

very little information on consumption patterns by income groups, but in table

9 it is possible to develop an idea of the income distribution in Malawi.

Income elasticities (percentage change in quantity demanded induced by a 1

percent change in income) by income groups would give better predictive

capacity than the aggregate figures which are generally used, but are

difficult to find. The ERS, USDA develops a model from which income

elasticities have been estimated using regional data on aggregate income and

food consumption. These figures can be used for developing a broad idea of


what is going on in the whole region, but are less useful for analyzing

specific cases. (table 10).

Agricultural Sector Performance and Prices

Malawi is a landlocked country endowed with virtually no natural

resources apart from generally fertile soil and adequate rainfall. As Malawi

has almost no exploitable mineral resources and a limited manufacturing base,

the performance of the agricultural sector is the key to continued development

(table 11). Malawi's development efforts have focused on creating for the

agricultural sector a transportation, communication and electrification

infrastructure sufficient to make it more viable (table 12).

Following the drought-reduced corn harvest of 1980, serious food

shortages developed and unusual corn imports were required, with an average

annual cereals import of 40,200 metric tons during the period 1976-78 (FAO).

Importing by Malawi involves considerable risk because of an insecure external

transport system, making corn self-sufficiency a major goal. Trade became

very difficult for this land-locked country in 1984. Mozambique, Malawi's

natural route to the sea, could not maintain security and its transport lines

continued to be undependable and dangerous. Warfare has continued to disrupt

the economy of Mozambique and also affects Malawi because of sabotage and

closure of key transportation routes. As a result, Malawi has had to turn to

a higher cost combination of truck and rail to ports in South Africa (ERS,

USDA). It is also beginning to use the port of Dar es Salaam, as a new

graveled road connecting Ibanbanda (Tanzania) with Karonga (Malawi) improves

this northern mountainous route (ERS, USDA).


Calorie levels in Malawi are relatively high, but the diet is heavily

dominated by maize. The average daily per capital calorie intake as a

percentage of daily requirement was 93 in the period 1976-78 (USDA, ESCS,

Global Food Assessment, 1979).

Accordingly, the Government raised the producer corn price by 30 percent

in 1981 and another 67 percent for the 1982 harvest. Prices of other crops

were not raised as much, however, and became less attractive than corn,

apparently explaining decreased smallholder deliveries of peanuts, rice,

tobacco, cotton and pulses.

The 1982 corn harvest reached 1.4 million tons as smallholders responded

to the 67 percent increase in the producer corn price. For 1984, the corn

producer price was increased by only 10 percent, while prices of other crops

were increased more. Peanuts, for example were boosted 70 percent (ERS,


Despite the recent increases, Malawi's 1984 corn price, equivalent to

$84.50 per ton, is still low when compared to its neighboring countries at

official exchange rates. Corn appears to be a promising crop for export given

the regional food situation and the likelihood of transport cooperation from

importing neighbors.

From its bumper 1983 corn crop, estimated at 1.5 million tons, Malawi

exported 160,000 to 180,000 tons while maintaining per capital corn consumption

at slightly under 200 kilograms. In 1984 it exported an estimated 100,000

tons of white corn to the Southern Africa region. Exports were aided by

severe corn shortages throughout the region, but financing difficulties arose

because neighboring importers suffer from lack of foreign exchange. As an

example, Zambia had to import over 50,000 tons of corn during 1984. Most of

this came from Zimbabwe and was bartered for electricity (ERS, USDA).


There are some difficulties confronting agriculture in Malawi, however.

Although the 1983 burley tobacco crop rose by 76 percent to a record 48,000

tons, prices have been depressed and a support program may be adopted. Malawi

has emerged as a major competitor to the United States in the world burley


Despite a good agricultural year, Malawi's export earnings dropped in

1982. Foreign debt had begun to grow rapidly in 1980, with debt-service costs

reaching 30 percent of exports in 1981.

Bouyed by record corn and tobacco crops, Malawi's real GDP in 1983

increased 4.5 percent, in contrast with only 2.9 percent in 1982. However,

the economic picture was marred by difficulties in external transactions.

While Malawi increased tea and corn export earnings, lower tobacco prices and

continued low sugar prices, combined with transportation blockages, kept

export earnings static. In addition, import costs increased, partly because

of high transport costs. Debt-service costs rose sharply, while international

reserves were reduced. The IMF's Extended Fund Facility and the World Bank's

structural adjustment loan are enabling Malawi to make its external payments.

Since 1973 the pressure on the balance of payments has been much

accentuated by a very sharp upward trend in import prices of capital goods and

oil, while prices of Malawian exports continue to fluctuate in response to

short-term market conditions. Petroleum prices rose on the average by 55

percent in 1979 (World Bank, August 1980), and the cost of importing oil

pre-empted 20 percent of total exports, compared to 10.6 percent in 1970 (see

table 13). The detoriation in the balance of payments compelled Malawi to

reduce very considerably the rate growth of imports (see table 14). There was

an absolute decline in the volume of imports. It seems that the curtailment


of intermediate goods import was particularly sharp. This led to a severe

reduction in the utilization of existing capacity not only in manufacturing

but also in transport, construction, agricultural extension services as well

as education and health.

The immediate reaction to the large deterioration in the external

position was to draw down reserves and borrow abroad. Net foreign assets fell

precipitously in 1975 and turned negative in some subsequent years (see table


By all accounts, the 1968 to 1978 period was characterized by

unprecedented instability in food prices. Partly as a result of a deliberate

policy in the United States to reduce the large grain stockpile accumulated

during earlier years, abundant global grain supplies were followed by years in

which poor harvest coincided with a sharply rising food demand related to

world wide economic expansion. In later years, demand was drastically reduced

as countries were restricted by the oil shock and the concurrent worldwide

contraction in growth.

A World Bank staff working paper (No. 728) by Kevin M. Cleaver catalogs

Malawi as a country with low or no farm price discrimination, and records that

its average growth rate of agricultural production (1970-81) was 4.1 percent.

The paper shows that there is a significant relationship between price

discrimination at farm producer level and the agricultural growth rate of 31

African countries.

Despite high transport costs, Malawi increased its tobacco and tea export

earnings in 1984 and was able to regain a small balance-of-payments surplus.

The country achieved real economic growth of 6.8 percent. It also raised its

foreign exchange reserves, which had dropped very low in 1983 (ERS, USDA).


Duality in the Agricultural Sector

Since independence in 1964, the principal focus of the government's

development strategy has been on raising agricultural production. As Malawi

is now virtually self-sufficient in food production, greater emphasis is being

placed on increasing and diversifying agricultural exports. Malawi is one of

the few African countries whose agricultural production has continued to grow

faster than its population (table 7).

Estate production, principally tobacco, tea and sugar used to provide

over half of Malawi's total exports and have been the most dynamic element of

the economy in recent years. Export earnings from the smallholder farm may

have been less important in the past as foreign exchange generators, but hard

statistics are not available.

The total domestic agriculture sector averaged an annual growth rate of

6.3 percent in 1984 over 1983 with the average contribution of 80 percent from

small-scale farmers and 20 percent from large-scale farmers. Smallholder

agriculture during this period accounted for the entire increase in

agriculture value added, as large scale agriculture had reached a standstill

(see table 16).

In smallholder agriculture, where producer prices were first increased

substantially in 1982 (by 43.9 percent), there has already been a substantial

increase in the production of certain crops. In particular, the real value of

smallholder cotton, tobacco, rice and pulses. When tobacco prices are not

good, world tea prices continue down and sugar prices remain depressed,

additional instruction from agricultural extension workers should be made

available to smallholders. According to Shlomo Reutlinger, the rural poor who

produce all or most of the food they consume would, of course, not benefit

from some general economic policies (for example, reduced food prices). This


segment of the population can be helped only through targeted measures which

provide them with more income, for example public employment, or subsidized

production inputs (as fertilizer) which would provide them with an immediate

augmentation of their income and hopefully would also lead to growth in

production of food and non-food commodities. Increased food production

associated with unchanged or even higher food prices will improve food

security, only in countries in which most of the people with inadequate access

to food produce the food which they consume and frequently produce small

surplus for sale.

Malawi has embarked on strategies aimed at increasing domestic food

production. These strategies have involved a variety of measures such as

infrastructure development and price support. This has sometimes been a

costly process. It has led to the diversion of resources away from other

investments which may have higher rates of return. This may be the cost which

governments are prepared to pay for being self-sufficient, particularly if

they feel vulnerable to food supply problems.


Table 1.

Percentage of Population by Regions: 1911-1966

1911 1921 1931 1945 1966

Northern Region 19 18 14 14 12

Central Region 40 39 39 37 36

Southern Region 41 43 47 49 52

Source: 1966 Census

Table 3.

Breakdown of Household Cultivated Area



Average no. of gardens
per household 3.1 2.3

Average no. of plots
per household 3.9 3.4

Average area per garden
(hectares) 0.49 0.5

Source: NSSA 1980/81

Garden: This may be a small or large piece of land. It must be
continuous, e.g. if a path, road or river of more than three meters
wide passes through the piece of land, then this divides it into two
gardens. One garden may have several different crops growing in it.

Plot: This is a part of a garden which contains a different crop or
crop mixture or is kept by a different operator in the same household
or has a different method of cultivation. It must be a continuous
piece of land and should not be split by a path of more than one meter
in width.



1974 1975 1976 1977 1978

Grand Total of the

Private Economy





































Agriculture, Forestry
and Fishing Sector
No. 80,381 93,023 101,424 154,696 169,008 178,804 181,136 157,195 179,215 197,201

% Share 35.4 38.0 39.1 50.1 49.9 50.8 49.3 48.0 52.1 50.89

Note: Due to changes in the industrial allocation of some ec
comparable to that of the previous years.

Source: Economic report (various issues), Malawi Government.

onomic activities made in 1977, data for 1977 is not directly

Table 2


Arable Land & Land Under Permanent Crops
Malawi, 1955-80

and Population
























Population x 10001

Area x 1000





















Sources: -Patterns and Trends in World Agricultural Land Use. ERS,
USDA. Foreign Agricultural Economic Report, No. 198.

Sources: 21964 72, Mid-year Population, ERS. 1974-82, FAO.

Table 4











Table 5

Percentage of Labor Force Employed in Agriculture, Malawi.

Year 1960 1970 1978 1980 1982

Percentage 92 89 86 86 82

Source: FAO and The World Bank

Table 6

Agriculture as Percentage of Gross Domestic Product GDP, Malawi

Year 1970 1973 1977 1980

of GDP 51 40 45 43

Source: The World Bank

Table 7

Indices of Agricultural and Food Production in Malawi,
total and per capital, 1977-1983.

1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983

Total Agricultural Production 134 141 144 142 149 164 169

Per capital Agricultural Production 108 110 109 104 107 114 113

Total Food Production 120 129 126 129 137 149 154

Per capital Food Production 97 100 96 95 98 103 103

Source: ERS, USDA. Sub-Saharan Africa: Outlook and Situation Report. July, 1984


Table 8

Calories from Cereals, Roots, Tubers and Plantains, Malawi
(daily average 1972-74)

Percentage of daily per capital Root, tubers
caloric intake from: Cereal and plantains Total

Percent 76.2 1.9 78.1

Source: FAO, Provisional Food Balance Sheets, 1972-74 Average.

Table 9
Income Distribution in Malawi
National Coverage Survey of Households, 1969

Lowest Middle Top
Income share of 40 percent 40 percent 40 percent

Percent 15.0 32.1 62.9

Source: Shall Jain, Size Distribution of Income. World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Table 10
Income Elasticities of Demand by Region,
Sub-Saharan Africa

Region Maize Pulses Rice

The Sahel 0.46 -0.14 0.93

West .15 .42 .65

Central .66 -.14 .93

East .28 -.02 .58

Southern .35 -.002 .56

Source: ERS, USDA. Food Problems and Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa: The
Decade of the 1980's, Foreign Agricultural Economic Report No. 166.
August, 1981.


Table 11

The Agriculture Sector as Origin of Gross Domestic Product
(at 1978 Constant Factor Cost 1980-85*)
(K million)


GDP at Factor Cost


As a Percentage


















N.S.D., Treasury and R.B.M
from the Economic Report, Malawi Government, 1985.

Table 12

(in Kilometers)

1964 1977 1980 1984

Total Roads 10,128 10,772 11,541

Paved Roads 431 1,087 1,899 2,165

Railroads 6781

Sources: Ecomonic Report,

Malawi government (various issues)

Table 13

Oil Imports in Relation

to Total Exports.

1970 1978 1979

Percent 10.6 16.0 20.0

Source: IMF, International Finance
Statistics. World Bank











Table 14

Volume of Trade. Malawi
(Average annual percentage growth rate)

Exports Imports
1968-73 1973-75 1968-73 1973-75

6 2 2 -3

Source: World Bank

Table 15

Foreign Exchange Position of Malawi
(Million US$; end of December)

1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979

International Reserves (Gross) 66.6 81.8 61.5 26.2 87.8 75 69
(total reserves minus Gold)

Net Monetary Assets 61.3 76.0 24.0 -26..7 11.9 -14 -98

Source: IMF, International Finance Statistics

Table 16
Contribution by Subsectors to the Malawi Agriculture Product
(At 1978 Constant Factor Cost 1980-85*)
(K Million)

1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985

Agriculture 284.1 260.7 278.7 290.6 308.0 313.9

Small-scale 231.2 210.7 216.9 224.7 243.3 247.2
Large-scale 81.4 80.8 77.8 77.3 78.8 78.8
52.9 50.0 61.8 65.9 65.5 66.7

18.6 19.2 22.2 22.7 21.2 21.2

Source: Adapted

from the Economic Report, Malawi Government, 1985.



Urban, Francis and Vollrath, Thomas 1984. Patterns and Trends in World
Agriculture Land Use. ERS/USDA: Foreign Agricultural Economic Report No.

World Bank. 1984. Policy Options for Food Security. Agricultural and Rural
Development Department.

Economic Research Service USDA. 1984. Sub-Saharan Africa: Outlook and
Situation Report. RS-84-10.

Malawi Government. National Statistical Office. 1984. National Sample
Survey of Agriculture 1980/81. Vol. I.

Mills, J.D. 1974. Price Responses of Malawi Smallholder Farmers Fast,
Slow or None: Occasional Paper No. 2. Department of Economics,
University of Malawi.

Malawi. Office of the President and Cabinet Economic Planning Division.
1985. Economic Report 1985. Budget Document No. 4.