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The Impact on Farmer Incomes of a Nationwide Scaling Up of the Farmer Business School Program: Lessons and Insights from Central Malawi

Joanna Chilemba and Catherine Ragasa ()
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Joanna Chilemba: Agribusiness Specialist at the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD)

The European Journal of Development Research, 2020, vol. 32, issue 4, No 6, 906-938

Abstract: Abstract Various models and approaches are being implemented to provide technical assistance and support to improve smallholder farmers’ market access and incomes. This study evaluates the impact of the farmer business schools (FBS) program that has been scaled up to nationwide in Malawi. We focus on measuring impacts on crop choices and incomes of smallholder farmers, using the case study of Dedza district in central Malawi. The FBS approach, which has been implemented nationally by the Government of Malawi since 2011, consists of 1 year of group training and learning sessions for smallholder farmers. Training is designed to help improve market access and teach farmers how to establish profitable agribusiness ventures. This study used a multistage sampling procedure to collect data from 455 smallholder farmers: 162 FBS graduates, 84 FBS dropouts, and 209 nonparticipants. Using matching and difference-in-difference techniques, crop incomes from four groups of farmers were evaluated: FBS participants and FBS nonparticipants, as well as FBS graduates and FBS dropouts. The study finds a positive yet very small impact of FBS participation on crop income (US$20 per year on average), and no significant difference in crop income and production for farmers who graduated from FBS versus those who dropped out. While most participants reported gaining improved knowledge from the training, it did not seem to translate into new business ventures and improved incomes. Only a few graduates experienced improvement in income after FBS graduation. Insights from the qualitative research component of this study suggest that this is primarily due to the limited financial resources that smallholder farmers have to implement the agricultural management practices and business skills taught in FBS.

Keywords: Farmer business schools; Extension services; Market access; Impact evaluation; Income generation; Malawi (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1057/s41287-019-00246-y

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