The Effect of Cash Cropping, Credit, and Household Composition on Household Food Security in Southern Malawi

by Andrea S. Anderson


Diversifying household activiies is essential to household food security in Southern Malawi.  Farms are extremely small; many farms are less than half a hectare.  With these small landholdings, food security cannot be achieved by subsistence farming alone.  Cash crops and off-farm income are key to these livelihood systems.  This paper presents the findings of research conducted in 1998 as a part of a study to examine options for improving household food security in Southern Malawi.  The researcher used linear programming to model household farming systems.  These models were used to test different options for improving food security.  The following options were tested: a maize safety net, a fertilizer safety net, introducing credit for tobacco, increasing off-farm work opportunities, and introducing a loan to start a small business.  This study also considered differences between female-headed households (FHHs) and male-headed households (MHHs) to discover if there were differences between the two household types, and if so, to find out how the differences affect the households’ situations.

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