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SMALLHOLDER FARMERS’ PERCEPTIONS OF DROUGHT RISK AND ADOPTION OF MODERN MAIZE IN SOUTHERN MALAWI

MONICA FISHER, SIEGLINDE SNAPP

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SUMMARYModern maize varieties have been bred for drought tolerance and early maturity, to assist farmers in avoiding or escaping the effects of moisture stress in drought-prone areas. This study evaluates the prospects for widespread adoption of these modern maize varieties as a climate change adaptation strategy for smallholder farmers. Data are from a detailed household survey completed in four rural villages in Southern Malawi between May and July 2010. The empirical analysis involves estimation of an ordered logit regression model because the dependent variable is categorical, with one category for nonadoption (has never grown modern maize varieties) and three categories for the duration of growing a modern maize variety among adopters (this year only, 2 to 5 years and 6 years or more). The empirical findings indicate a positive association between a farmer's perception of drought risk and the adoption and continued use of modern maize. Regression results also show that farmers that value the traits of early maturity and drought tolerance are more likely to adopt modern maize varieties. There is evidence of some disadoption among farmers dissatisfied with maize genotype performance, in terms of poor storability and yield under drought conditions. Finally, the study highlights the urgent need for maize breeders interested in sustained use of modern varieties to simultaneously address robust drought tolerance, early maturity and storability. This underscores the importance of cognizance of local farmer preferences in crop breeding efforts.