The role of women empowerment and labour dependency on adoption of integrated soil fertility management in Malawi
This paper explores the role of women empowerment and labour on enabling farmers to cross two hurdles: adopt and intensify soil fertility management (SFM), coming after six decades of SFM research that disseminated several technologies. Despite the assertion that productivity gains cannot be realized unless drivers of soil degradation are addressed, SFM usage is low. We collected data from a systematically drawn random sample of 238 farmers, representing 30% of farming households in five villages in Malawi's Rift Valley escarpments and analysed using a double-hurdle model. Descriptive results show that 90% of the respondents used inorganic fertilizers, 72% planted legumes and 57% applied organic manure. The empirical analysis shows that one percentage point increase in dependency ratio reduces probability to apply organic amendments by 0.4 percentage points and erodes the positive influence of increasing labour on application of inorganic fertilizer. As women become increasingly empowered in decision-making, there are significant trade-offs: a percentage point increase in women empowerment in agriculture index (WEAI) potentially leads to a one-third percentage point increase in the area allocated to legumes but reduces the amount of organic manure applied with higher elasticity of two percentage points. Considering the trade-offs, sustainable intensification could be achieved by harnessing the positive influences while concurrently reducing the
negative ones over a decision space. Notably, addressing the negative effect associated with women empowerment on manuring could unlock potentials for integrated SFM as women are already engaged in legume cropping.