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Open AccessArticle

Responding to Crop Failure: Understanding Farmers’ Coping Strategies in Southern Malawi

World Agroforestry Center, United Nations Avenue Gigiri, P.O. Box 30677-00100, Nairobi 00100, Kenya
Center on Food Security and the Environment, University of Stanford, Energy and Environment Building, MC 4205, 473 via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Programme, Chitedze Agricultural Research Station, P.O. Box 30798, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
Box 5600 Lukanga Road, Kalundu, Lusaka, Zambia
Utica Street, Plainview, TX 79072, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Sustainability 2015, 7(2), 1620-1636;
Received: 5 November 2014 / Revised: 18 December 2014 / Accepted: 15 January 2015 / Published: 3 February 2015
PDF [914 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]


Malawi is a country in southern Africa facing high climate variability and many agricultural challenges. This paper examines farmers’ coping strategies for crop failure and the determinants of their choices using household level data from rural southern Malawi. The results highlight that farmers are not responding directly to climate variability, but to crop failure, which is influenced by climate stress, as well as other constraints, such as poor soil fertility and lack of agricultural inputs and technologies. The coping strategies adopted by households are mostly ex-post measures, including engaging in casual labor, small businesses and the sale of forest products. The main determinants of the adoption of these coping options are education, gender of the head of household, soil fertility and frequency of crop failure. This study concludes by recommending, among other things, that policies for the more efficient communication of climate change threats should emphasize the risk of crop failure. Furthermore, initiatives to assist households to better cope with climate change should take into consideration the local context of decision-making which is shaped by multiple stressors. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate variability; coping strategies; multiple stressors; crop failure; agriculture climate variability; coping strategies; multiple stressors; crop failure; agriculture

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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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MDPI and ACS Style

Coulibaly, J.Y.; Gbetibouo, G.A.; Kundhlande, G.; Sileshi, G.W.; Beedy, T.L. Responding to Crop Failure: Understanding Farmers’ Coping Strategies in Southern Malawi. Sustainability 2015, 7, 1620-1636.

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