Risk and maize-based cropping systems for smallholder Malawi farmers using conservation agriculture technologies
Eash, Neal S.
Lambert, Dayton M.
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Conservation agriculture (CA) offers the potential to increase yields, but the short-term risk of implementation can discourage adoption among risk-adverse, food-insecure smallholder farmers. This paper assesses the riskiness of CA adoption for farmers in Malawi. A six year study was conducted in 12 target communities in two agroecological zones which compared the risk of adopting CA techniques (no-till monocropped maize or no-till maize intercropped with a legume) against that of conventional agricultural practices (monocropped maize with tillage). Risk analysis was conducted using stochastic dominance, mean variance, relative risk criterion, target net return probability analysis, certainty equivalent and risk premium analysis. Using net returns data from both agroecological zones, each of these approaches calculated that CA presents lower risk than conventional agriculture. This also held true for the data from the lower altitude sites. However, at higher elevations, a less dramatic difference in net returns meant that CA would be preferred only by farmers who are not highly averse to risk; those who are highly risk averse would require a larger incentive.