Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change (BRACC) in Malawi is a five-year program designed by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The main objective is to strengthen the resilience of poor and vulnerable households to withstand current and future weather and climate-related shocks and stresses. Core activities are implemented over 4.5 years (2019–2023) by a consortium of non-governmental organizations and UN agencies in Balaka, Chikwawa, Mangochi and Phalombe districts in Southern Malawi. IFPRI designed a randomized controlled trial study to evaluate the impact of the program and conducted the baseline survey for the impact evaluation. The survey covered 224 villages and 3,136 households in Balaka and Phalombe districts.
This comprehensive baseline report introduces the evaluation context and describes the BRACC program, details the randomized evaluation design, summarizes main findings from the baseline household survey, and tests whether the randomization successfully balanced baseline observable characteristics across the treatment arms.
The survey found that agricultural production in the covered village areas focuses overwhelmingly on maize and pigeon peas. Most farming households only grow one (53.4%) or two crops (32.7%), rendering them especially vulnerable to shocks like drought, pests, and crop diseases, and contributing to nutrient depletion from the soil. There is therefore considerable scope for promoting crop diversification. The yields of the two main crops – maize and pigeon peas – are on average extremely low. Insufficient use of organic and inorganic fertilizer certainly plays a role: households that applied at least some fertilizer to their land realized on average 113% higher maize yields and 69% higher pigeon pea yields than households that did not apply any fertilizer. Female-headed households report lower yields than male-headed households, youth-headed households report lower yields than households headed by prime-age (25–64 years) adults and the elderly, and ultra-poor households (whose consumption falls below the national food poverty line) report lower yields than their better-off counterparts. These differences could be due to labor constraints, experience in farming, and capital constraints, respectively. Follow-up qualitative studies could investigate these hypotheses further. Female-headed households are less food secure and have lower dietary diversity than male-headed households, but generally manage to maintain similar levels of micronutrient intake.
Drought, floods, and crop pests and diseases are cumulatively the most impactful shocks due to their frequent occurrence. Death in family and substantial damage to the house are infrequent shocks but devastating to the impacted household when they do happen. Interestingly, low prices of agricultural produce are of much smaller concern for surveyed households than anecdotal evidence may suggest.
The survey also found that consumption poverty is a good predictor of many outcomes that are relevant to the BRACC Programme. Poorer households have less diverse sources of income, use fewer agricultural inputs, and have lower yields than their better off counterparts. They are more vulnerable to shocks and are forced to employ negative coping strategies more often. They also are less food secure and have consistently lower calorie and micronutrient intake as well as dietary diversity.
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