Is there such a thing as sustainable agricultural intensification in smallholder-based farming in sub-Saharan Africa? Understanding yield differences in relation to gender in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia

Smallholder-based, sustainable, agricultural intensification is increasingly put forth as a development pathway that is necessary to improve farmer’s livelihoods, enhance productivity and engender a surplus that can be used to feed growing urban areas across sub-Saharan Africa.

The article examines trends in yields for Africa’s largest staple crop – maize – among smallholder farmers in six regions in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia, using longitudinal quantitative data collected in 2008, 2013 and 2017 in combination with qualitative data from nine villages.

Substantial increases in yields are found only in Zambia, while yields are largely stagnant in Malawi and Tanzania. In the case of Zambia, however, there is a persistent gender- based yield gap. We use the qualitative data to explain this gap and find that gender-based differences in yields need to be understood in relation to local production systems, as well as the varied positionality of women, where the biases facing women who head their own households are different than for women living in male headed households. In policy terms, technologies that can promote intensification are different depending on these factors, even within the local context of particular farming systems.

Authors: Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt, Göran Djurfeldt, Ellen Hillbom, Aida C. Isinika, Miriam Dalitso Kalanda Joshua, Wisdom Chilwizhi Kaleng’a, Audrey Kalindi, Elibariki Msuya, Wapulumuka Mulwafu & Mukata Wamulume

This pdf is of an original article published in the Development Studies Research, an open access journal. It is made available here under Creative Commons.

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