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Title: Adoption of improved maize cultivars for climate vulnerability reduction in Malawi
Author: Sutcliffe, Chloe Angelica Jane
ISNI:       0000 0004 5362 7771
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2014
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The projected negative impacts of climate change threaten to endanger smallholder rain-fed maize production and therefore food security across Sub-Saharan Africa. It is widely advocated that the provision of improved, climate-tolerant maize seeds will overcome this problem by enabling agricultural adaptation to changing weather conditions. However, attempts to launch new agricultural technologies in Africa have rarely successfully transformed prospects for the most vulnerable, and historical uptake of improved maize has remained low in some countries, including Malawi, despite a strong political legacy of modern input promotion. This thesis investigates how social dimensions (such as asset ownership, cultural preferences and perceptions of climate risk) affect the potential for cultivar adoption to enable equitable adaptation to climate change amongst smallholder maize farmers in Malawi. National strategies for the diffusion of maize cultivars are explored and analysed with reference to agricultural innovation theory. Adoption outcomes are then assessed using household data from two case study areas selected on the basis of their contrasting climate vulnerability characteristics and productive potentials for maize. Lastly, perceptions of climate change amongst research participants are explored and considered in relation to a statistical analysis of historical rainfall and temperature data within the two research areas, Kasungu and Ngabu. The empirical findings reveal that whilst Malawi’s maize seed industry is modernising, changes do not necessarily benefit smallholders, and access to cultivars and information about them remains unequal. State agricultural policies lack regional contextual specificity and have contributed to heightened vulnerability in Ngabu (the less productive case study area). Stakeholders’ perceptions and attitudes about current and future climate change reveal incongruities and misconceptions. Widespread beliefs that seasons are shortening are driving preferences for short season hybrid cultivars, which increasingly flood the seed market, but statistical analysis of historical seasonal rainfall data reveals no clear seasonal trend in this direction. New diffusion strategies, increasing policy sensitivity for dealing with climate vulnerability in marginal areas, and better understanding and communication about climate variability and change will all be required if cultivar adoption is to enable successful and equitable adaptation for Malawian smallholders. These goals could be better supported if vulnerability reduction, rather than corporate growth, was made central to the development of Malawi’s agricultural innovation system. Practical methods by which this change might be achieved are discussed.
Supervisor: Dougill, A. J. ; Quinn, C. H. Sponsor: Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available