The unequal distribution of land in Malawi has been identified as one of the binding constraints on agricultural productivity and production. Most smallholder farmers hold land under customary tenure and own less than one hectare, many being unable to produce adequate food. In order to improve access to land, the Government started implementing a land reform programme in 2005 through a market-assisted, community-based approach to land acquisition. This study highlights the impact of the land reform programme on investments, food production and agricultural productivity. The study shows that smallholder farmers that participate in the community-based land development programme have increased access to land and financial resources, are more likely to invest in improved maize seeds, tend to be more productive, and have overall better welfare than non-participants. However, the econometric results show that these positive effects are driven more by access to the financial resources provided under the package of assistance in the first season, than change in land tenure per se. New beneficiaries with only one season of farming under the programme tend to invest more in hybrid maize and are more productive than those that have been under the programme for two seasons. The results underscore the importance of complementary investments and assistance in order for land reform programmes to have significant impact of poor smallholder farmers.
IPPG Discussion Paper Series Number Eighteen, DFID, London, UK, 21 pp.