Sources of Technical Efficiency among Smallholder Maize Farmers in Southern Malawi
The agricultural sector in Malawi is vital to the economy for incomes and food security. The sector accounts for 35% of national income, generates 90% of foreign exchange, and provides paid and self-employment to 92% of the rural population. One constraint in achieving food security has been the small size and fragmented nature of land holdings among a large proportion of households in Malawi. Nonetheless, since independence there have been several attempts by the government to improve the productivity of food crops on small farms, particularly for maize, including the development of high yielding maize varieties, subsidization of farm inputs, provision of credit facilities, and the liberalization of both farm produce prices and farm produce marketing. While there have been several studies on food production in Malawi, the focus has mainly been on technology development and adoption, production constraints, the impact of structural adjustment policies, and the impact of price and marketing liberalization. This paper estimates technical efficiency among smallholder maize farmers in Malawi and identifies sources of inefficiency using plot-level data. We find that smallholder maize farmers in Malawi are inefficient; the average efficiency score is 46.23% and 79% of the plots have efficiency scores below 70%. The results of the study reveal that inefficiency declines on plots planted with hybrid seeds and for those controlled by farmers who belong to households with membership in a farmers club or association.
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