The research was carried out to establish whether Malawi‟s fertiliser subsidy programme of 2009/2010 had a positive effect on maize yields and whether this influence varied with the gender of the household head receiving the fertiliser subsidy coupon. Furthermore, the survey assessed whether in any case the targeting of beneficiaries of the programme had advanced its pro-poor aspect.
The expectation was that recipient households would obtain higher maize yields than non-recipients households. It was further anticipated that making inputs available to female-headed households through the fertiliser subsidy programme would reduce the production gap that normally exists between female- and male-headed households. Since the programme targets the poor, including female-headed households, it was assumed that more of these households would benefit.
Regression results indicated that the fertiliser subsidy programme had a positive effect on maize yields, although certain factors, like climate, also make significant contribution. Maize yields varied with the agro-ecological zone in which a household was located. Lower shire and lakeshore zones produced less maize than the medium altitude zone, which is the reference agro-ecological zone (AEZ) and has more favourable conditions for maize production. Although maize yields of high altitude zones were less than those of medium altitude zones, the difference was not significant. Nevertheless, within each agro-ecological zone, recipient households produced statistically significant higher maize yields than did non-recipient households.
Irrespective of agro-ecological zone differences, recipient households produced 16 per cent more maize yields and had higher use of maize fertilisers and hybrid maize seeds than non-recipient households. The results further show that non-recipient male-headed households produced more maize yields than non-recipient female-headed households, confirming the usual production gap that exists between them. However, female-headed households which received fertiliser coupons obtained more maize yields than non-recipient male and non-recipient female-headed households.
A comparison of the maize yields between recipient male-headed and recipient female-headed households yielded insignificant results. Similar results were observed on the comparison of maize fertilisers and hybrid maize seed usage. Considering that female-headed households face constraints in accessing inputs, leading to low yields, the results would mean that the fertiliser subsidy to some extent improved their access to inputs and hence their maize yields. It was also evident in the survey that the change in maize yields was higher among female-headed households than male-headed households when the fertiliser subsidy was taken into account. This observation would imply that female-headed households were more efficient in using subsidised inputs than male-headed households were.
The results also illustrate that both male- and female-headed households were equally likely to benefit from the fertiliser subsidy programme, despite the fact that female-headed households were the main targets. It was also observed that farmers with large land holdings benefited from the programme. Although households with large family sizes benefited from the programme, this was insufficient to associate them with being poor. However, seeing that the number of female-headed households‟ receiving coupons was not significant, and that recipient households had on average large farms and high asset values, the hypothesis that the programme was pro-poor could not be accepted.
Dissertation (MScAgric)--University of Pretoria, 2015.