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Land 2016, 5(3), 19; doi:10.3390/land5030019

The Quiet Rise of Medium-Scale Farms in Malawi

CIRAD & University of Pretoria—The Center for the Study of Governance Innovation and the Post-Graduate School of Agriculture and Rural Development, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University, Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture, 446 West Circle Drive, Room 317c, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Centre for Agricultural Research and Development (CARD), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), P.O. Box 219, Lilongwe, Malawi
GovInn—The Center for the Study of Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Claudia A. Radel and Jacqueline M. Vadjunec
Received: 1 August 2015 / Revised: 8 June 2016 / Accepted: 8 June 2016 / Published: 24 June 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Changing Land Use, Changing Livelihoods)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1346 KB, uploaded 24 June 2016]   |  


Medium-scale farms have become a major force in Malawi’s agricultural sector. Malawi’s most recent official agricultural survey indicates that these account for over a quarter of all land under cultivation in Malawi. This study explores the causes and multifaceted consequences of the rising importance of medium-scale farms in Malawi. We identify the characteristics and pathways of entry into farming based on surveys of 300 medium-scale farmers undertaken in 2014 in the districts of Mchinji, Kasungu and Lilongwe. The area of land acquired by medium-scale farmers in these three districts is found to have almost doubled between 2000 and 2015. Just over half of the medium-scale farmers represent cases of successful expansion out of small-scale farming status; the other significant proportion of medium-scale farmers are found to be urban-based professionals, entrepreneurs and/or civil servants who acquired land, some very recently, and started farming in mid-life. We also find that a significant portion of the land acquired by medium-scale farmers was utilized by others prior to acquisition, that most of the acquired land was under customary tenure, and that the current owners were often successful in transferring the ownership structure of the acquired land to a long-term leaseholding with a title deed. The study finds that, instead of just strong endogenous growth of small-scale famers as a route for the emergence of medium-scale farms, significant farm consolidation is occurring through land acquisitions, often by urban-based people. The effects of farmland acquisitions by domestic investors on the country’s primary development goals, such as food security, poverty reduction and employment, are not yet clear, though some trends appear to be emerging. We consider future research questions that may more fully shed light on the implications of policies that would continue to promote land acquisitions by medium-scale farms. View Full-Text
Keywords: Malawi; medium-scale farmers; land; livelihoods; farmer trajectories; farm expansion; land acquisition; land consolidation; domestic investors Malawi; medium-scale farmers; land; livelihoods; farmer trajectories; farm expansion; land acquisition; land consolidation; domestic investors

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Anseeuw, W.; Jayne, T.; Kachule, R.; Kotsopoulos, J. The Quiet Rise of Medium-Scale Farms in Malawi. Land 2016, 5, 19.

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