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The politics of agriculture: understanding Malawi's transition from estate based export crops to smallholder food crops

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This paper seeks to reveal the motivations for the Malawian government’s decision to firstly, change its agricultural policies away from the estate bias to a clear smallholder bias and secondly, to undergo a fertilizer subsidy introduction and removal cycle throughout the period of Structural Adjustment. This paper will argue economic crisis forced President Banda to turn to the World Bank and accept the macroeconomic conditions imposed. Upon the advent of democratic transition, the Muluzi administration focused on building political support among the smallholders through the popular fertilizer input subsidy programme. Although the World Bank sought the removal of the programme, the government continued to reintroduce it, as it was politically beneficial. Additionally, unanticipated negative outcomes met each removal attempt, such as economic crisis or drought, reversing the removal. Consequently, the fertilizer subsidy programme has become a mainstay of Malawi’s agricultural policies.
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