Are Increases in Maize Production in Malawi Due to Favourable Climate or the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP)?
The impacts of climate change and climate variability on the water and agriculture sectors in Malawi prompted the Government to implement in 2005 an adaptation program, the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP), to support the production of maize, the staple food crop. This program has subsidised maize seed and fertilizer to support dryland smallholder maize production. This paper provides a robust, spatially explicit, analysis of the dependence of observed maize yield on climate and uses it to assess the significance of the impact of FISP on yields in Malawi. The analysis was conducted across three maize varieties by applying the GROWEST plant growth index model to monthly climate for eight agricultural production zones. The analysis shows that FISP has made a significant contribution to increased yield beyond the impact of variations in climate. This addresses the misconception that the increases in maize yield after 2005 were due only to favourable climate conditions. This misconception has fuelled debate about the efficacy of FISP and its eligibility for continued government financial support. It is envisaged that this analysis could assist the Government of Malawi in assessing the impacts of projected climate change on maize production and the viability of ongoing investment in FISP to support improvement in food security under a changing climate.
KeywordsAdaptation Maize Food security Spatially explicit yield modelling GROWEST
The first author wishes to thank the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Australian National University (ANU) and the GBI office in Malawi for the academic, material and financial support to carry out this study as part of her Ph.D. studies.
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