Smale, M.

Maize of the ancestors and modern varieties: The microeconomics of high yielding variety adoption in Malawi - 1995 - Printed

Farmer adoption of seed/fertilizer technology can be characterized in terms of three simultaneous choices: whether to adopt the components of the recommended package; land allocation to new and old varieties; and the level of inputs such as fertilizer. Two distinctive features of maize technology adoption in Malawi are: land allocation to both traditional and hybrid maize varieties; and application of a modern input (fertilizer) to a traditional variety. The superior processing and storage characteristics of the traditional varieties compared to hybrid varieties play an important role in these decisions. Microeconomic theory provides four theoretical explanations for farmers' land allocation to both new and old varieties. The paper treats the four approaches as special cases of one general theoretical model, and tests empirically the importance of each explanation in the land allocation decision. The results are broadly consistent with the idea that consumption preferences, as expressed in a safety-first subsistence framework, and learning behaviour affect land allocation and fertilizer application to hybrid maize. Results also suggest that farmers' perceptions and relative yield variance affect the hybrid maize area they plant and the fertilizer they apply. Input fixity, as expressed in the package diffusion method and credit club membership, is likely to affect particularly the probability of adopting hybrid maize seed and fertilizer. Classical economic variables such as prices and cash flow are less likely to be significant factors in the hybrid maize adoption decision. Fertilizer application to traditional varieties is affected by both economic variables and consumption preferences


Economic analysis
Farm sector
High yielding varieties
Innovation adoption
Zea mays

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