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The evolution of agricultural input subsidy programs: contextualizing policy debates in Malawi’s FISP


  • Nkhoma, Peter R.


Malawi has been associated with the re-emergence of agricultural input subsidy programs in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) since its launching of the Farm Inputs Subsidy Program (FISP) in 2005. It has also been at the center of policy debates regarding its capacity to launch a uniquely African Green Revolution within a marketized and capitalist configuration, and in a context of constrained public resources. Such debates have been informed by the evidentiary literature, which has been mixed and sharply divided. This paper, using qualitative methods, explores how such debates have shaped Malawi’s food security policies and brought about recent alignment in government and donor policy positions. The results indicate that the recent change in FISP policy is intimately linked to wider concerns to commercialize agriculture and the general reconfiguration of food security policy to more accurately reflect presumed ‘possibilities’ and what is fiscally pragmatic. The paper highlights some of the complexities that have been faced by policy makers in the process of devising appropriate pro-poor agricultural and food security policies within the broader enterprise of economic growth in a rather challenging context. It contributes to scholarly efforts to untangle Malawi’s food security-development policy paradox™ which might be relevant to other countries in SSA.

Suggested Citation

  • Nkhoma, Peter R., 2018. "The evolution of agricultural input subsidy programs: contextualizing policy debates in Malawi’s FISP," World Development Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 9(C), pages 12-17.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wodepe:v:9:y:2018:i:c:p:12-17
    DOI: 10.1016/j.wdp.2017.12.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harrigan, Jane, 2008. "Food insecurity, poverty and the Malawian Starter Pack: Fresh start or false start?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 237-249, June.
    2. Chirwa, Ephraim & Dorward, Andrew, 2013. "Agricultural Input Subsidies: The Recent Malawi Experience," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199683529.
    3. Blessings Chinsinga & Colin Poulton, 2014. "Beyond Technocratic Debates: The Significance and Transience of Political Incentives in the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP)," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 32(s2), pages 123-150, September.
    4. Harrigan, Jane, 2003. "U-Turns and Full Circles: Two Decades of Agricultural Reform in Malawi 1981-2000," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 847-863, May.
    5. Carr, Stephen, 2014. "The challenge of Africa’s nitrogen drought: Some indicators from the Malawian experience:," MaSSP policy notes 19, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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