Building Food Security and Social Resilience to Climate Change: Participatory Farmer Research on Agroecological Adaptation to Environmental Change and HIV/AIDS in Malawi





Longitudinal analysis of 400 smallholder farming households with agroecological climate change adaptations interventions


Ekwendeni Hospital, Bunda College of Agriculture, University of Malawi, International Development Research Council


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Bezner Kerr, R., J. Kangmennaang, L. Dakishoni, H. Nyantakyi-Frimpong, E. Lupafya, L. Shumba, R. Msachi, G.O. Boateng,  S. S. Snapp,  A. Chitaya, E. Maona, T. Gondwe, P. Nkhonjera and I. Luginaah. 2019. Participatory agroecological research on climate change adaptation improves smallholder farmer household food security and dietary diversity in Malawi. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, accepted April 2, 2019.



Snapp, S.S. Rachel Bezner Kerr, Valerie Ota, Dan Kane, Lizzie Shumba and Laifolo Dakishoni. 2019. Unpacking a crop diversity hotspot: Farmer practice and preferences in Northern Malawi. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Published online March 19, 2019.



Bezner Kerr, R., H. Nyantakyi-Frimpong, L. Dakishoni, E. Lupafya, L. Shumba, I. Luginaah, S. S. Snapp. 2018. Knowledge politics in participatory climate change adaptation research on agroecology in Malawi. Renewal Agriculture and Food Systems 33:238-251. doi.10.1017/S1742170518000017




Nyantakyi-Frimpong, H., F. N Mambulu, R. Bezner Kerr, I.  Luginaah and E.  Lupafya. 2016. Agroecology and sustainable food systems: Participatory research to improve food security among HIV-affected households in northern Malawi. Social Science and Medicine 164: 89-99. doi 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.020


This research project focused on participatory methods on climate change adaptation in rural communities in Malawi, aiming to understand local perceptions of and experiences with climate change and to test different agroecological approaches towards climate change adaptation. We have conducted a four year research project, with 400 smallholder farming households selected purposively based on their high level of vulnerability to food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and climate change. These households carried out agroecological experiments of their own choosing, and we assessed changes over time, using a mixed-method approach of surveys, agricultural data and in-depth interviews. We used multivariate analysis to assess the impact of the intervention, controlling for other factors that influence food security. Our longitudinal research, using a pre-post panel design, shows significant, positive changes in household food security, crop diversity and dietary diversity over a three-year period. Significantly, there were greater improvements in food security for female-headed households, who are considered at greater risk of food insecurity and higher vulnerability to anticipated impacts of climate change. Farmers who chatted with their spouses about their agricultural practices were also more likely to be food secure. We also found evidence for improved social cohesion and cooperation at the community level, which will help to build more resilient communities to address these threats in the long term. Within the field of agriculture and food systems, we demonstrate that agroecological and participatory approaches can significantly improve food security over a relatively short term even under conditions of high food insecurity.