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South African Journal of Agricultural Extension

On-line version ISSN 2413-3221
Print version ISSN 0301-603X

S Afr. Jnl. Agric. Ext. vol.43 n.1 Pretoria  2015


Effects of dysfunctional stakeholder collaboration on performance of land reform initiatives: Lessons from community based rural land development project in Malawi



Luwanda M. C; Stevens J. B

Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development, University of Pretoria





Most countries have implemented land reform programmes to assist address the challenges of poverty and inequality especially in rural areas. Land reform becomes relevant in countries whose rural livelihoods remain predominantly agro-dependent making land a primary productive resource. In many of these countries land reform was given greater political priority than agriculture, perhaps more symbolic than real. However, only a few land reform projects have managed to meet both in the short and long term delivery targets after transferring the land to beneficiaries. A study was conducted to evaluate the impact of Malawi's Community Based Rural Land Development Project (CRLDP) two years after its phase out in 2011. An assessment of the efficacy of post settlement support was included in the study to help explain any causes for attainment or nonattainment of the stated objectives. The paper argues that adequate post-settlement support and effective collaboration of all role players are necessary preconditions for sustained performance and functioning of land reform beneficiary groups. The results showed that Beneficiary Groups faced greater difficulties to access agricultural inputs, credit, markets, extension services and infrastructure to support their agricultural production and access to social services. This was attributable to poor collaboration of stakeholders which affected integrated and holistic provision ofpost settlement support. As a consequence, household food and income security deteriorated after phase out of the project in 2011. The study recommends adoption of an interactive institutional framework for coordinated provision of post settlement support for land reform projects like the CBRLDP. This entails embedding project management arrangements that should encourage and support effective interaction and involvement of public sector, private sector and the NGO sector to close service and information gaps needed by land reform beneficiaries.




Malawi has an economy that is predominantly agro-based making agricultural land stand as the basic resource for social and economic development. Agriculture contributes 36% of the GDP, provides 85% of employment and contributes 90% of foreign exchange earnings, but land distribution is starkly disproportionate (Government of Malawi, 2009). Smallholders have limited access to land, while there are significant areas of unused lands, belonging to medium and large estates or Government agencies. It was estimated that 2.6 million hectares of suitable agricultural land remained uncultivated in the estate sector accounting for 28% of the country's total land area lying idle. Given annual population growth rates at 2.8% (Government of Malawi, 2010) land pressure for agricultural purposes has increased in recent years. In order to ensure sustainable economic growth as well as equity in the use of agricultural land in Malawi, land reform programs are needed to address these challenges.

The Government of the Republic of Malawi, through the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, implemented the Community Based Rural Land Development Project (CBRLDP) from 2004 to 2011, in the pilot districts of Mulanje, Thyolo, Mangochi, Machinga, Balaka and Ntcheu as an integral part of implementing the 2002 Malawi National Land Policy. The aim of CBRLDP was to increase the incomes of about 15 000 landless and land poor rural families by implementing a decentralized, community-based and voluntary approach to land reform in the pilot districts. The project provided land to the landless and land poor beneficiary groups/households in the pilot districts specifically for agricultural production. Through CBRLDP it was envisaged to improve land delivery systems, titling and registration; addressing security of land tenure; increase agricultural productivity and increase household incomes (GOM, 2002). This paper aims at sharing some lessons that were learned from the implementation of the CBRLDP program and emphasises the importance of well designed post settlement support programs for successful land reform.



Support services or complementary development support include assistance with productive and sustainable use of land, infrastructure support, farm credit, agricultural inputs and access to markets for farm outputs. Different institutions adhere largely to application-based or demand-led approach project or extension for post settlement support. This means that land reform beneficiaries who need support have to approach project extension for the necessary support. Extension plays a pivotal role in the planning and implementation of business plans drawn for land reform.

The term 'extension' has evolved into a generic term referring to the variety of systems/approaches and providers that have emerged for communicating and transmitting information and technology to farmers and other rural populations (Rivera & Suleiman, 2009). Perspectives on the nature and role of extension have changed in scope and emphasis over time, from agricultural production to helping farmers organize themselves, and linking farmers to markets (Rivera & Suleiman, 2009, Shepherd, 2007). Extension is perceived to be a driver of structural and institutional arrangements for propelling the process by which new knowledge, information or technology is developed, adapted, diffused and used to lead to social and economic change (Rivera & Suleiman, 2009).

The following post settlement priorities are listed in the Strategic Plan of South African agriculture (NDA, 2001):

  • Improved ability and efficiency of extension personnel within the national department of agriculture and the private sector
  • On farm infrastructure development support
  • Improved market access and removal of market barriers to new entrants
  • Enhanced transfer of technology to new farmers through one-stop farmer support centres at local level
  • Implementation of human resource development plan , which include young entrepreneurial development and mentorship programs
  • Improved access to comprehensive range of rural financial services via outreach and efficient rural financial institutions
  • Improved focus, collaboration and coordination between government institutions , organized agriculture, non-governmental organizations and civic organizations



The study was conducted in Machinga district, one of the implementing districts for the CBRLDP. Machinga district lies in the south-eastern part of Malawi and has 225 519 households and eight Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) There are 140 agricultural sections in this district, and the ideal is that each of these sections has its own extension advisor or Agricultural Extension Development Officer (AEDO). At the time of the study only 49 agricultural sections were filled with AEDOs. This implies that the current farmer: extension advisor is 4603:1 instead of the recommended 800:1 as presented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MOAFS). In the district six non-governmental organizations are also involved in providing agricultural services.

A mixed methods approach was used to conduct the study where quantitative and qualitative research techniques, methods, approaches concepts or language are combined into a single study (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Mixed methods approach was preferred as it offered opportunities for between-methods triangulation and explanation of existing causal relationships (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie & Turner 2007). Practically, performance of project beneficiaries was compared across randomly sampled beneficiaries obtained from a random sample of beneficiary groups that resettled in estates belonging to Nsanama Chikweo, Mbonechera and Nyambi EPAs. This was done to establish if performance differed significantly across the four distinct regions and further determine whether such differences were attributable to random error or errors inherent in the implementation process. The results of the analysis were compared with baseline information obtained from studies conducted at the inception of the project to establish if any improvements existed.


A total population of 4419 household beneficiaries resettled in Machinga district by the end of the program in 2011. The project beneficiaries settled in six EPAs namely Chikweo, Mbonechera, Nsanama, Nyambi, Nampeya and Nanyumba. Four EPAs with the highest number of beneficiaries were selected namely Nyambi (2589 groups), Mbonechera (968 groups), Nsanama (400 groups) and Chikweo (349 groups). A multistage random sampling method was used to select 397 respondents for the study. The beneficiary list for the selected EPAs was obtained from the District Commission Office.

Purposeful sampling was used to identify the following eight key implementing or support agencies responsible for assistance with productive and sustainable use of land, farm credit and inputs:

  • District Agriculture Development Office for Machinga
  • Agriculture Extension Development Coordinators for sampled EPAs
  • Agriculture Extension Development Officers from the sampled EPAs
  • Director of Planning and Development for Machinga District Council
  • Former District Lands Officer representing the Project Implementation Unit
  • Former MASAF justification officer for Machinga District
  • Area Development Committees
  • Project Management Committees for the sampled Trusts

The data was collected through interviewing using structured household questionnaires in the four EPAs and semi structured interviews with key informants from the above listed organizations.



4.1 Land tenure status

The CBRLDP program had as one of its objectives the improving of land access to land poor smallholder farmers and ensuring of tenure security for the acquired land parcels. One of the thrusts of the study was to ascertain whether landholdings had actually increased for beneficiary households and also to what extent the acquired land was secured from expropriation. The average landholding size for farming was increased to two ha per beneficiary household. Considering that landholdings of households were less than 0.4ha before the CBRLDP program was initiated, landholding size increased by nearly 400%. Individual land parcels were registered under a Trust consisting of a group of beneficiaries. 99.2% of respondents report holding acquired land under leasehold tenure as opposed to customary tenure under which they hold land before the project.

In Malawi, three major categories of land control exist, namely customary land, public land and private land. The customary system of land tenure has the traditional concept of considering land in a village as belonging to the community, although the individual in the community has the right to cultivate it and uses it as though he/she was the owner. The inheritance of customary land in Malawi is not catered for under the statuary law, but follows the customary law. Land is transferred predominantly through inheritance from relatives and marriage is one of the means to access land. Since many of the land beneficiaries occur from this form of land tenure, a mix understanding of tenure rights exists, with 71.5% of respondents of opinion they have only freedom to transfer title deeds of land within the household. The major benefit of land security for 57.5% household beneficiaries is the future security it offers to siblings; while a very small percentage (2.9%) were aware of the benefit to offer it as collateral with applying for credit. Barrows & Roth (1990) as cited in Maxwell & Wiebe (1999) argue that in many Africa countries, land titling is not sufficient for accessing financial sources of credit since farmers are not willing to mortgage land for these purposes.

4.2 Perceived effectiveness of CBRLDP on food security

The expectation was that with the increase in landholding size and complimentary support rendered that the average household food production will increase.

4.2.1 Proportion of households with energy food reserves during critical months (December to January).

The procedure for calculating the percentage of households that were food secure and food insecure began with calculating the total household calorie requirements taking into consideration the energy content per kilogram (kcal/kg) of edible portions of major staple (energy) foods (King & Burgess, 1998). The process continued with computation of total household calorie requirements based on adult equivalents and standard calorie requirement per adult person (2100 kcal per day per adult equivalent). Total household calorie requirements for the lean period or critical months were then calculated after which the differential between energy required and energy balance was determined. A negative differential indicated that the household is food insecure and a positive differential indicated that the household is food secure (Storck, Emana, Adnew, Borowiecki, & Whawariate, 1991). Table 1 shows the results of this analysis.

Surprisingly only 15.25% of the sampled households were on average food secure during the 2012/2013 season. Considering that the 2012/2013 season received normal to above normal rainfall, the high proportion of food insecure households indicates that despite increased landholdings, the beneficiary households were seldom able to achieve adequate production levels to meet their household staple food needs throughout the year. Where land and rainfall are put out of the equation, the low staple food production pointed to either paucity of crop production skills or problems in accessing required inputs to support crop production.

4.2.2 Average incomes of beneficiary households.

Incomes were categorized in broad categories of on-farm and off-farm incomes in order to determine the contribution of each to the overall earning capacity of the households in the year 2013 (Table 2).

The average on-farm income was lower (MK60 117) when compared with an average of MK88 004 during 2011. This means that average farm income for beneficiary households substantially went down two years after phase out of the project. The real value would be much lower if time value of money was also taken into account. The variation between EPAs with regard to on-farm income can be attributed to the degree that the various EPAs were involved in the production of tobacco, since tobacco marketing in Malawi is highly organized and regulated. Off-farm income also varies between the EPAs, with Mbonechera off-farm income relatively higher due to the opportunity that exists to trade in dry fish harvested from Lake Chirwa.

4.3 Post Settlement Support

The restoring of ownership of land without additional support, financial, technical and farming inputs is meaningless. Training is crucial because of the lack of agricultural skills that took place during a period of landlessness.

4.3.1 The role of District Agricultural Extension Service System (DAESS) and Forestry Extension Services

The District Agricultural Extension Services System (DAESS) stood as the most appropriate service management arrangement for provision of coordinated post settlement support. The new agricultural extension policy for Malawi, developed in the 2000, advocates provision of demand driven and decentralized extension services (GOM, 2002). The system is integrated into the district assembly system through Stakeholder Panels (SP) and the District Agriculture Extension Coordinating Committee (DAECC). Under the system, each village is supposed to have an agriculture committee that takes all issues pertaining to agriculture and submit them to the Area Stakeholder Panel (ASP) which, after scrutinizing the demands, further sends them to the District Stakeholder Panel. The role of Stakeholder Panels is as follows:

  • To provide a forum for farmers to express their demands
  • Ensure right representation of all stakeholders and that each group is heard
  • Ensure that villages' demands are articulated and aggregated
  • Ensure that quality response to the demands is provided and maintained by the respective service providers

The Stakeholder Panels are appropriate structures through which beneficiary groups should be represented to express their demands due to the multidisciplinary composition of the stakeholder panels. The panels are composed of smallholder food security farmers (50% of the total membership), semi commercial and commercial farmers, NGOs, farmer organizations, agribusiness groups, community based organizations and relevant committees. CBRLDP Trusts being special interest groups had their own peculiar needs and demands that required them to be directly represented in decision making forums. Under this arrangement, the Village Development Committee (VDC), which is headed by the village headman, acts as the main development committee that plans and oversees village development across the board. The VDC further oversees and supervises all development activities in a given area. However, the VDC being a general committee does not normally have the time and expertise to do detailed analyses of problems and develop coherent plans of action. That is why, specific sub-committees, like the agriculture committee, are necessary to carry this function.

Local extension officers form part of the Area Stakeholder Panels (ASP), where they help local community representatives articulate their needs, aggregate demands from different villages and develop action plans. Where local level service providers do not have adequate capacity to respond to the emerging demands, they forward them to the District Stakeholder Panel (DSP) through elected representatives. After the demands from different villages in the district are aggregated, they are presented to the District Agriculture Extension Coordinating Committee (DAECC) that is composed of representatives from public extension, NGOs, private sector and farmer organizations. After coming up with the consolidated district plans, DAECC presents these to the full council meeting formerly the District Consultative Forum for adoption. Figure 1 illustrates the pathways through which needs and demands of project beneficiaries were channelled.

CBRLDP beneficiary groups were linked to service providers through the local extension worker (37.6%), the village headman (32.9%) and the Village Development Committee (23%). In all these linkage mechanisms, the beneficiary groups had no direct representation at area and district level development forums. This made it difficult to have their service and information needs to be adequately supported.

Most beneficiary groups of CBRLDP resettled in remote areas previously occupied by estates and away from other village communities. As such, they were not adequately provided for with extension and social support services. Table 3 provides an overview on how beneficiaries perceived their level of access to knowledge support sources 77.5% of the beneficiaries had no access to any source of knowledge support since the phase out of the project. Among the knowledge support sources sometimes accessed by the beneficiaries, fellow farmers were the most available (19.7%) seconded by MOAFS front line extension workers (18.7%). In general, these results indicate that CBRLDP beneficiaries faced great difficulties to access formal providers of knowledge support. This was a result of them being relocated in very remote areas previously occupied by estates and not provided for with extension staff and the high vacancy rates existing in public sector extension. Such limitations should have provided a compelling reason to co-opt other service organizations e.g. NGOs, private sector and FBOs to fill the capacity gaps by sub-granting them to carry specific activity packages. Chi-square test was used to compare farmers' perceived level of access to various knowledge support sources across the four EPAs. The access to MOAFS extension staff varied significantly across the four EPAs (χ2 = 85.43; df = 9; p = 0.0001).

Similar trends occurred when a similar analysis was conducted on farmers' perceived level of access to Department of Forestry extension staff (Table 4). Huge differences existed in the access to forestry extension staff by the farmers in the four EPAs (χ = 50.1; df = 9; p = 0.0001).

Nsanama EPA enjoyed the highest access to forestry extension staff, while Chikweo and Mbonechera received the lowest frequency of access to forestry extension staff. Inadequate access to forestry extension services for the beneficiaries of land reform programs has far reaching implications on environmental sustainability of their major preoccupation which is farming. Firstly, lack of knowledge of the benefits of conserving natural forestry areas can lead to massive deforestation in the resettled areas bringing problems of erosion and soil degradation. Where forestry resources are not available, resettled farmers were also required to reserve a piece of land for establishment of a communal forestry area and this needed expertise of forestry staff.

4.2.2 Perceived level of support from private sector, non-governmental organisations and community based organisations

In recent times, knowledge generation and transfer have ceased to be the mandate of national research institutions and public extension only. World Bank (2006) recognizes how knowledge, information and technology are increasingly being generated, diffused and applied through the private sector. The recognition gives impetus for pluralistic and demand driven extension services. Farmers' level of access to other role players (private agro-dealers, NGOs, FBOs) across the four EPAs was analysed to determine existence of any relationships. Table 5 illustrates that statistically significant differences existed in access to private agro-dealers in the four EPAs (χ2 = 17.46; df = 9; p = 0.042).

Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs) are key players in the provision of agricultural extension services. Farmer organizations represent their members on the economic and political fronts. They also conduct capacity building programmes and the dissemination of production and marketing information (Hanyani-Mlambo, 2002). The variance in access to extension services from farmer organizations in the four EPAs is displayed in Table 6.

Although the difference in access to extension services from farmer organizations across the four EPAs was not statistically significant (χ2 = 19.46; df = 12; p = 0.078), the general tendency displayed is of very low or no access to extension services from farmer organizations across all the four EPAs. The results emanate from lack of notable presence of the farmer organizations in this area. Lack of access to farmer organizations in the area implies poor representation in policy advocacy, uncoordinated marketing of agricultural produce and general difficulties in dissemination of production information.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) categorized have been playing an important role in providing extension services in rural areas. Analysis was done to establish the relationship between EPAs and farmers' level of access to support from Non-Governmental Organizations. Accessibility to NGOs extension staff in the four EPAs was not statistically different (χ2 = 14.224; df = 9; p = 0.115). The low level of engagement of NGOs in the implementation of the project is worrisome and certainly had an effect on the generally low access to agricultural extension services in the resettled areas. This is because public sector extension did not have the capacity in terms of human and financial resources to extend regular coverage to resettled areas that were often located long distances from the local communities. NGOs could have been engaged by the project to complement extension efforts in areas poorly staffed with public extension officers or to attend to specific intervention areas in which they have special skills and competences.

4.2.3 Means of access to production inputs by beneficiaries

Beneficiaries largely accessed inputs using own purchases with 36% of seeds, 40.8% of fertilizers and 64.6% agrochemicals accessed through own purchase. Government subsidies came second as a means of accessing inputs (28.5% seeds, 46.5% for fertilizers and 15.7% for agrochemicals) (Figure 2).

However, own purchases assume that households have savings put aside for this purpose and the Government subsidies are usually targeted towards the poorest of the poor. Many households would usually have been left without any means of support for accessing production inputs.

4.2.4 Market availability and marketing challenges experienced by CBRLDP beneficiaries

Production inputs only facilitate to bring out the quantity and quality of produce, but how to sale the marketable produce at profitable margins is another arduous task where proper linking of farmers to markets is very much in vogue. 84.2% of the beneficiaries indicated marketing of agricultural produce was a major challenge. A cross tabulation was used to identify if the experiencing of market problems differed across the four EPAs. The results showed that there was a statistically significant difference between EPA and the experience of marketing problems (χ2 = 17.016; df = 3; p = 0.001) (Table 7).

In Chikweo EPA, more households experienced market problems (94.7%) than in the rest of the EPAs. The reason for this is that Chikweo EPA, agricultural production was generally higher than the rest of the EPAs, and hence the more need for marketing planning and implementation. Mbonechera EPA experienced the least marketing challenges (73.2%) than the rest of the EPAs. One possible reason is because Mbonechera EPA lies along the tarmac road which makes accessibility easy. Another reason is also the relatively high presence of private agro-dealers in Mbonechera who is also involved in buying agricultural produce.

Only 10% of respondents obtained loans during the 2011/2012 and/or 2012/2013 cropping seasons from any financial organisation for use in agriculture production. Accessibility to credit for agricultural production for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 cropping seasons did not significantly differ statistically across the four EPAs (χ2 = 3.942; df = 3; p = 0.268). The four extension planning areas equally experienced problems to access agricultural loans/credit to support their farming activities. Accessibility to loans is facilitated by purposeful institutional arrangements and capacity building to link farmers and agricultural credit institutions. The problems therefore point to a lack of efforts to link the demand and supply sides of rural/agricultural credit. For farmers to get linked to credit organizations they need to be organized in functional groups and open a savings account with a commercial bank. For most rural savings and credit groups, peer influence of the group provides a guarantee against default by any group member hence the importance of the group. The group is also supposed to prepare a detailed business plan complete with cash-flow projections in order to justify their ability to repay the loan. Interface meetings are also supposed to be facilitated between the farmers groups and the credit organizations. Extension workers are crucial in mediating this process.



A fundamental condition for overall social and economic growth in developing countries like Malawi is a dynamic agricultural sector. Beneficiaries' lack of access to knowledge support, agricultural inputs, agricultural loans and the general marketing challenges imply that few land settlement beneficiaries involved in the CBRLDP progressed into sustainable enterprises. Only a few households are involved in agribusinesses and very few are linked to markets. To achieve success, smallholder farmers require a comprehensive agribusiness support package, including access to finances, provision of technical knowledge support, linking to markets and contracted farming and favourable commodity prices. Although the implementation arrangements in the project manual explicitly provided for constructive partnerships with NGOs and the private sector in supporting beneficiaries, focus group discussions illustrated no NGO or private sector player involvement until the project phased out. With this approach, no convincing support package was in place, and therefore capacity building was notably inadequate in scope as it was largely oriented towards land delivery issues and activities for the initial years of resettlement. Training focused more on technical issues rather than other equally important areas of organizational and institutional development for coordinated post settlement support. This is consistent with assertions of Agwu, Dimelu & Madukwe (2008) when they recommend that extension approaches should explore and promote not only technical innovations but also institutional, organizational and managerial innovations.

A critical factor that affected sustainability of CBRLDP was the lack of coordination and collaboration among role players in the implementation of the post settlement support. There is need, for instance, to support district stakeholder meetings involving beneficiary groups' representatives, relevant government sectors, NGOs, farmer based organizations, research organisations and private sector players. Such forums would undertake decentralized joint planning and review meetings well informed by needs and demands of the beneficiary groups, develop specific plans of action with responsibilities given to role players who would best deliver the service. Such forums would also enable role players plan and solicit complimentary resources for financing specific services needed by the beneficiaries. Apparently, such linkage structure was left to chance for its emergence and operationalization. Recognizing the need of an integrated approach to provision of services, institutional arrangements need to be clarified from the onset to enable effective coordination and involvement of the key role players with specific rules and procedures provided for individual organizations to access funds from the project to implement agreed and needed interventions for the beneficiaries.

The results also show that planning for post settlement support cannot be a 'one size fits all' because different regions have different needs and land reform projects need to have flexible financing mechanisms to respond effectively to different beneficiary needs and demands.



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Stevens, J. B
University of Pretoria
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
Department of Agricultural Economics
Extension and Rural Development

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