Climate change effects on crop productivity and welfare sensitivity analysis for smallholder farmers in Malawi

Mutisungilire Kachulu

The effects of climate change on smallholder agriculture under different crop technologies, namely conservation agriculture, Falbedia albida, optimal fertilisation and intensive farming, were analysed against the conventional subsistence farming in Malawi. A biophysical economic modelling approach was used over a 60-year period to assess changes in crop productivity, total welfare and land-use options. The results indicate varying decreases in crop yield. For instance, when compared to the crop yield in 2010, maize yield decreased by -20% under subsistence farming and -0.1% under intensive farming in the seventh decade (2061 to 2070). Adaptation to climate change effects increased total welfare by 24% and producer revenues by 44% when compared to no adaptation. To optimise the welfare of smallholder farmers in Malawi, the study recommends increasing the adoption of intensive farming, conservation agriculture and Falbedia albida to at least 9.5%, 12% and 10% of total cultivated area in the 7th decade respectively. The study also reveals that farmers’ inability to optimise land use has a higher negative impact on welfare when compared to the effect
from climate change. This means that the optimisation of crop and technology choices may play a more vital role in improving farmers’ welfare than mere adaptation to climate change.