An assessment of hybrid maize adoption by small scale farmers in Southern Africa: some evidence from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Myers, D., 2020. An assessment of hybrid maize adoption by small scale farmers in Southern Africa: some evidence from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. DBA, Nottingham Trent University.

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Small scale farmers in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, defined as farming an area of less than 6 hectares produce 80% of the staple, maize, which is largely for subsistence purposes. Their maize yields are on average less than three metric tonnes per hectare for Malawi and Zambia and less than one tonne in Zimbabwe. These yields are far less compared to their counterparts, commercial farmers, who get yields ranging from four to fifteen metric tonnes per hectare in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These commercial farmers' yields vary depending on whether the maize crop is produced on dry or irrigated land.

The yields obtained by small scale farmers are, however, sometimes low in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe for multiple reasons; low hybrid maize adoption, poor farming methods, lack of credit for small scale farmers and perennial droughts. These low productivity problems are worsened by lack of awareness of the derived benefits from hybrid maize adoption by small scale farmers. This slow and low hybrid maize adoption is one of the major causes for low food productivity.

Low productivity, coupled by persistent droughts, forces the governments of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to occasionally give imported grain hand-outs to small scale farmers to alleviate hunger. The grain hand-outs are usually imported due to local short supply thus diverting foreign currency which could be used for other developmental projects.

The three countries in the study were once under British colonial administration and were referred to jointly as Rhodesia-Nyasaland. This gives Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe historical similarities, pre and post-independence. This has led to similar approaches on how the 3 countries administered agriculture. Hence the three countries have carried on with agriculture extension services that were inherited from the past. Extension services influence the adoption of hybrid maize by small scale farmers, but at varying success rates. In addition to the administrative similarities in agriculture Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi share similar weather patterns and the performance of hybrid maize across the 3 countries is fairly comparable.

Due to lack of funds by small scale farmers, the three governments assist small scale farmers with subsidised and free inputs using Farmer Input Support Programs (FISP). Even though the provision of inputs has temporarily improved productivity, budgetary constraints by governments of all three countries have made input support programs unsustainable. This has also been affected by lack of a well monitored mechanism for farmers to pay back to ensure program funds revolved sustainably. This situation is also worsened by perennial droughts that lead to low productivity by small scale farmers. Hence this study explores the impact of sustainable hybrid maize adoption by small scale farmers as a solution to low productivity and hunger, and barriers to this adoption.

Unlike other previous studies on hybrid maize adoption that looked at one or two factors, this study holistically explores various factors that affect hybrid maize adoption by small scale farmers. To analyse this, a pragmatism research philosophy is adopted for this study which has obtained evidence through sampled respondents from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe composed of small scale farmers, farmer organisations, policy makers, fertiliser and agro-chemical companies, non-governmental organisations and grain traders.

Research results from 460 completed questionnaires, analysed by Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and 30 in-depth interviews, show that hybrid maize largely achieves higher yields than open pollinated varieties (OPV) in the focus countries. To support the research finding on hybrid maize outperforming OPV, data collected show that farmers planting hybrid maize have a better net income than those farmers growing OPV maize, even though hybrid maize incurs higher production costs. This study also shows that the adoption of hybrid maize leads to improved social and economic livelihoods of small scale farmers.

Further results gathered from qualitative and quantitative analysis of the data show that policy makers and extension officers have the greatest influence on hybrid maize adoption by small scale farmers. The main handicap for extension officers is low government funding for their mobility, rendering them inefficient as they struggle to reach the farmers in their areas. Ultimately this lack of resources for mobility and lack of credit availability to small scale farmers results in slow hybrid maize adoption.

To resolve the credit availability problem the study recommends sustainable funding by private funders backed by banks and public organisations. The study shows that hybrid maize and OPV production can be affected by other factors like climate change, poor agronomic practice, lack of irrigation infrastructure and pre and post-harvesting losses. These adverse factors like drought can be mitigated by the establishment of irrigation to sustain the production of hybrid maize, and post-harvest losses can be reduced by the improvement of road infrastructure which will facilitate early grain deliveries, otherwise farmers are recommended to store maize using airtight hermetic bags that protect maize grain from storage pests.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Myers, D.
Date: August 2020
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Business School
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 27 Apr 2022 09:31
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2022 09:31

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