Determinants of Smallholder Farmers’ Livelihood Trajectories. Evidence From Rural Malawi
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This paper examines the determinants of livelihood trajectories of households surveyed in rural Malawi in 2007 that were tracked in 2018. Using a set of indicators, including income source diversification and participation in social assistance programmes, households were placed in different trajectories, namely, dropping out, stepping up, hanging in and stepping in. A multinomial logit model was used to analyse factors explaining placement in a livelihood trajectory. We find that the explanatory factors are not the same for farmers in different pathways. The stepping-up of households is likely with increasing commercialization and significant asset accumulation. Furthermore, the stepping-in trajectory is constrained by initial land holding sizes but is more likely if a household has had experience with the cultivation of several different kinds of crops. We find that crop diversification reduces the chance of dropping out but also increases the possibility of hanging in, implying that the blanket recommendation to farmers to diversify crop production may not attain the same benefits to all farmers. This may well be complemented with useful extension services, especially for young farming households. Overall, the study findings point to the complexity and the need for context-dependent development approaches to provide sustainable escapes from poverty.