Generational dynamics of agricultural intensification in Malawi: challenges for the youth and elderly smallholder farmers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In the next 24 years, the Malawian population is expected to double, a development that will inevitably affect access to land and land holding sizes. As access to land is already limited, securing food for the growing population will require policy shifts including the promotion of agricultural intensification. Malawi’s economy depends on the agricultural sector, and this paper addresses the generational perspective of agricultural intensification, with specific focus on youth and elderly in smallholder production systems. Despite wide recognition that an overwhelmingly large share of the Malawian population is young, our research finds that the younger generation have less access to land than the older generations. The elderly are limited in farming due to the physical labour required for agriculture, yet they withhold their pieces of land. Our research shows that maize yields have remained low between 2008 and 2017, and that the elderly have had the lowest yields. The potential for sustainable agricultural intensification therefore remains low until access to land and financial support for the youth receive special attention in all relevant circles including policy discourses. The paper situates the findings from this study within the broader scholarship on generational changes and perceptions in relation to access to resources for production.


External organisations
  • University of Malawi
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Human Geography


  • agricultural intensification, smallholder farmers, opportunity space, access to land, youth, elderly, Malawi
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020 Mar 27
Publication categoryResearch