Policy Integration and Coherence for Conservation Agriculture Initiatives in Malawi

  •  Edna Chinseu    
  •  Lindsay Stringer    
  •  Andrew Dougill    


In sub-Saharan Africa, development and dissemination of perceived new agricultural innovations dominate the development agenda yet hunger and poverty remain widespread. A conducive policy environment is essential to support these efforts. Despite that national policies are a critical component in the functioning of an agricultural innovation system, studies have often overlooked their relevance in farmers’ adoption of agricultural innovations. There is an urgent need to enhance understanding of how policies affect long-term adoption of agricultural innovations aimed at increasing productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers. This study utilises thematic content analysis to examine the extent of integration of Conservation Agriculture (CA) and coherence in Malawi’s national agricultural policies, and their implication for CA adoption among smallholder farmers.

Results indicate that inadequate integration of CA in the National Agricultural Policy (NAP), coupled with a lack of coherence of agricultural department policies, undermines farmers’ CA adoption. While inadequate integration constrains resource allocation for supporting CA activities, lack of coherence of agricultural policies radiates conflicting and confusing agricultural extension messages to smallholder farmers. We argue that inadequate CA integration and incoherence of policies are institutional constraints which prevent farmers’ sustained adoption. To facilitate long-term adoption of CA among smallholders, there is need to: (1) strengthen CA integration in agricultural policies; (2) improve departmental coordination to enhance coherence of agricultural strategies and extension messages disseminated to farmers; and (3) strengthen government’s role in supporting multi-disciplinary research to generate and disseminate best practices capable of sustaining CA adoption.

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