Holden, S.T.

Can lead farmers reveal the adoption potential of conservation agriculture? : The case of Malawi - Amsterdam, Netherlands : Elsevier, 2018.

Peer review

This paper assesses the adoption potential of conservation agriculture (CA) and related technologies in Malawi, where CA appears appropriate to protect against land degradation and climate risks (droughts and floods). Estimation of adoption rates and their determinants is complicated by the relatively recent introduction of some of these technologies and limited awareness of CA principles and practices among the general population of smallholder farmers. We propose and use a lead farmer promoter-adopter approach, which relies on the promoters having had sufficient exposure and access to the technologies, their interest to adopt CA not having been distorted by excessive incentives, and them not being overly different from other smallholders in the target population. These conditions are reasonably satisfied in our application with a sample of 175 lead farmers from four districts in central and southern Malawi. Conditional on lead farmers being familiar with the technologies, we find adoption rates of 56% for organic manure and crop rotation, 26% for minimum tillage, 30% for mulching, and 12% for herbicide application. Lead farmers recommend CA and supporting agricultural practices to their followers at rates of 66% for organic manure, 49% for crop rotation, 45% for minimum tillage, 27% for mulching, and 6% for herbicide application. Assuming the validity of the promoter-adopter approach, these findings together suggest that, in central and southern Malawi, organic manure and crop rotation (in central Malawi only) have the highest adoption potential, mulching and minimum tillage come next, and herbicide application has the lowest potential. Ninety-seven percent of the lead farmers had adopted three or less of these technologies, full adoption of CA is therefore unlikely and suggest other reasons than information constraints as major impediments to its full adoption.

Text in English


Conservation agriculture
Food security


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