Do Smallholder Farmers in Heterogeneous Settings in Malawi Use Commercial Input Purchasing to Adapt to Recurrent Weather Shocks?

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Makate, Clifton
Makate, Marshall
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African Economic Research Consortium
Agriculture in Malawi is mainly rain-fed, making it highly sensitive to climate risk, particularly weather shocks. Historical climate trends in the country show high climate variability, and extreme climate events such as drought and flood have been linked to low agricultural yields (Figure 1). Therefore, efforts toward building the resilience of smallholder farmers to persistent weather shocks are vital for sustainable livelihoods. Promoting strategies that enhance smallholder farmers' resilience to climate risks is high on the policy agenda of Malawi. This notion is evidenced by remarkable progress in incorporating climate change adaptation and management in the country's development plans, policies, and strategies in the past twenty years. Through the National Agricultural Policy (NAP), Malawi supports climate change adaptation in agriculture through Climate-smart agriculture (CSA). As evidenced in the recently launched National Agriculture Investment Plan (NAIP), which is the main implementation vehicle for NAP, resilient livelihoods and agricultural systems is one of the four programs1 targeted at transforming agriculture. To successfully transform smallholder agriculture with increasing climate risk, smallholder farmers need access to diverse inputs to adapt to climate change. Commercial input purchasing offers farmers the opportunity and autonomy to alter input choices and diversity in ways that improve the resilience of their agricultural activities to weather shocks.