In this chapter an overview of the research is presented. The chapter provides some highlights on the importance of maize in Malawi, the background of the Farm Input Subsidy Program, problem statement, justification, objectives and organization of the study.
1.1 Background of the Farm Input Subsidy Program in Malawi
Malawi is a noncoastal tropical country that has a population of over thirteen million. Its economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, which employs about seventy eight percent of the national labor force (Malawi Government, 2009). Maize is one of the important crops grown in the country. It is a staple food crop that accounts for about fifty four percent of the daily caloric intake (FEWSNET, 2009). The crop is largely grown…show more content… Decades of intensive cultivation by smallholders, with lack of significant fertilizer use, have depleted soils of nutrients, especially nitrogen. As such, there have been generally low agricultural productivity in Malawi with national yields of maize averaging to about 1.3 metric tons per hectare (t/ha) during the years before the subsidy. This, however, is unlike Iowa in the United States, where the average yield for rain fed maize (1997–2006) exceeded 10 t/ha . Basically, over half of Malawi’s farming households operate below subsistence with only twenty percent of the farmers being able to produce surplus because of low productivity. As such, issues of maize availability (supply) and prices of maize are very crucial in the country as they have direct implications on food security and…show more content… Through this program, every smallholder farmer in the country was entitled to a free package containing sufficient fertilizer, hybrid maize seed and legume seed to plant about 0.1 hectare of land. The purpose of this program was to increase agricultural productivity and improve soil fertility. In the year 2002, the government reformed the SPS into a different program called the Targeted Inputs Program (TIP) due to financial constraints. Through this program, the government dropped the universal subsidy and reduced the number of beneficiaries for the program (Harrigan, 2003; Levy, 2005). In 2006, Malawi changed the TIP and transformed it to what is currently known as the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP ). One of the key objectives of this program is to increase food production and ensure food security at household and national level (Malawi Government,