Perceived challenges in business development of smallholder dairy farmers in three Malawian regions
Dairy farmers face various challenges in developing their businesses. The current literature identifies several constraints towards a more efficient dairy sector that relate mostly to on-farm management practices. The available studies analyze constraints mostly from the objective viewpoint of the researcher, whereas very little is known about what farmers themselves perceive to be challenging. To better understand the farmers’ perspective and what they perceive to be challenging, and how these challenges differ across regions, this paper builds on a survey of 529 dairy farmers in Malawi. In the survey, respondents were asked in an open question to name their three main challenges. Based on the responses, a three-level coding scheme was elaborated. Data were then coded by two researchers to ensure reliability of coding. Codes were then used to calculate relative frequencies for the different challenges and to perform chi-square tests to check for regional differences in frequencies. Results suggest that farmers perceive low milk price and milk yield, animal health, availability of feedstock, and the costs for drugs as the main challenges. The analysis also revealed that the challenges vary strongly between the three main regions in the country – Blantyre (south), Lilongwe (central), and Mzuzu (north). The perceived challenges reflect the different production systems in the regions. In Blantyre, dairy farming is low in intensity, and farmers thus perceive inputs, in particular the availability of fodder, as well as outputs, in particular milk yields more frequently as a challenge than farmers in Lilongwe and Mzuzu. In contrast, dairy farming in Lilongwe is the most intense. Accordingly, farmers in Lilongwe perceive costs, in particular for inputs such as mash and concentrates as major constraints. Farmers in Mzuzu, which is a rather remote region, consider a lack of assistance, in particular concerning extension services significantly more challenging than the farmers in the other two regions do. Considering these insights, development work and extensions services may be able to increase outcomes in the dairy sector by targeting the regional challenges.
Keywords: Challenges, dairy production, smallholders, Malawi, qualitative study, regions
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