The Role of Social Capital in Rural Household Food Security: The Case Study of Dowa and Lilongwe Districts in Central Malawi

  •  Joseph Dzanja    
  •  Mike Christie    
  •  Ioan Fazey    
  •  Tony Hyde    


This paper explores the contribution of social capital on the rural household food security. Social capital is the ability of community actors to secure benefits by virtue of membership in social networks or other structures. In the past decade, consensus has emerged among scholars and practitioners of development that social capital can contribute significantly to the alleviation of poverty. Food insecurity is an indicator of poverty. This paper therefore takes this view by investigating the impact of social capital on the food security situation of rural people in developing countries, using the case study of Malawi in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using household survey data different social capital variables were incorporated into the household social welfare model, controlled by human capital, physical capital, household and geographical characteristics in order to test the linkage between social capital and rural household food security situation in the context of a developing country. Household food security status was improved by membership to farmers’ organizations, household network size and engagement in voluntary activities. When all social capital variables were incorporated into the model the explanatory power of the model improved by 20% on household food security.

We conclude that social capital has positive influence on household food security; however, the effects vary depending on the nature of social capital. The results indicate the significance of social networks in improving the socio-economic livelihoods of the people in rural areas in developing countries.

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