The quiet rise of medium-scale farmers in Malawi

The Quiet Rise of Medium-Scale Farms in Malawi

Ward Anseeuw and John Kotsopoulos, along with Thomas Jayne and Richard Kachule published a paper on Land Vol 5, No19



Medium-scale farms have become a major force in Malawi’s agricultural sector. Malawi’s most recent official agricultural survey indicates that these account for over a quarter of all land under cultivation in Malawi. This study explores the causes and multifaceted consequences of the rising importance of medium-scale farms in Malawi. We identify the characteristics and pathways of entry into farming based on surveys of 300 medium-scale farmers undertaken in 2014 in the districts of Mchinji, Kasungu and Lilongwe. The area of land acquired by medium-scale farmers in these three districts is found to have almost doubled between 2000 and 2015. Just over half of the medium-scale farmers represent cases of successful expansion out of small-scale farming status; the other significant proportion of medium-scale farmers are found to be urban-based professionals, entrepreneurs and/or civil servants who acquired land, some very recently, and started farming in mid-life. We also find that a significant portion of the land acquired by medium-scale farmers was utilized by others prior to acquisition, that most of the acquired land was under customary tenure, and that the current owners were often successful in transferring the ownership structure of the acquired land to a long-term leaseholding with a title deed. The study finds that, instead of just strong endogenous growth of small-scale famers as a route for the emergence of medium-scale farms, significant farm consolidation is occurring through land acquisitions, often by urban-based people. The effects of farmland acquisitions by domestic investors on the country’s primary development goals, such as food security, poverty reduction and employment, are not yet clear, though some trends appear to be emerging. We consider future research questions that may more fully shed light on the implications of policies that would continue to promote land acquisitions by medium-scale farms.

The article, which belongs to the “Special Issue Changing Land Use, Changing Livelihoods” can be downloaded here

Note: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Ecological Society of America

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the dynamics of well-being

The Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation  director Lorenzo Fioramonti published a guest editorial in the Ecological Society of America, titled ‘The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the dynamics of well-being’, with Robert Costanza and Ida Kubiszewski.


On the BRICS of Collapse? Why Emerging Economies Need a Different Development Model

On the BRICS of Collapse? Why Emerging Economies Need a Different Development Model (DEMOS/Rockefeller Foundation, December 2013) Author: Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation Picture_1 Since the turn of the millennium, the world’s attention has focused on the role of emerging economies and their impact on the global economy. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the so-called BRICS, have been described as a source of profound change. In particular, the 2008 financial collapse, which left the BRICS largely unscathed, seemed to confirm that a new phase was beginning. Yet, when one analyzes key social, economic and environmental trends in these countries, it becomes clear that the development model adopted by the BRICS is not sustainable. These emerging economies have pursued economic growth with little or no investment in human, social and natural capital. This has created profound imbalances and instabilities, which are further exacerbated by the current decline in GDP growth. For more info see: