Sustainability Science

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 641–656 | Cite as

Constraints to the adoption of fodder tree technology in Malawi

  • Gregory G. Toth
  • P. K. Ramachandran Nair
  • Colm P. Duffy
  • Steven C. Franzel
Special Feature: Original Article Sustainability Science for Meeting Africa’s Challenges
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Sustainability Science for Meeting Africa’s Challenges


The declining availability of grazing land and the increasing prices of commercial dairy feed threaten the sustainability of traditional smallholder livestock farmer (SLF) practices across sub-Saharan Africa. Fodder tree technology (FTT), an agroforestry approach that entails the cultivation of multipurpose fodder trees on farmlands, could help address such challenges. However, the adoption rate of FTT has been low, especially in Malawi, where dairy processing plants usually operate at 20% capacity and milk consumption is less than half the African average. This paper investigates the role of 20 possible determinants of FTT adoption. It uses binary logistic regression to analyze primary data collected through two extensive household surveys conducted during the Agroforestry Food Security Program (AFSP) in different regions of Malawi. This data is complemented with qualitative information extracted through in-depth interviews with SLF. The general lack of knowledge regarding FTT was identified as the largest constraint to adoption. It was further confounded by other factors such as the lack of market access, inconsistent emphasis of training organizations during extension efforts, gender disparities, poor land quality, and issues of land tenure. The “extension environment” created by the AFSP influenced the perceptions of SLF for some adoption determinants. In particular it reduced the influence of sociological and geographic factors such as relationships with lead farmers, and shifted financial focus from the cost and availability of inputs, to the means of capitalizing on outputs (such as market access). This improved FTT adoption by 53% overall. Some suggestions for future extension efforts on how to improve the perceptions of the expected utility of FTT include the careful evaluation of farmer-led extension models, assurance of seed supply, and the consideration of institutional/sociological factors in project design. Examples of such factors include divorce rates, conflicts between formal and customary laws/rules, and infrastructure.


Agroforestry Extension environment Farmer-led extension model Food security Smallholder livestock farmers 



Agroforestry Food Security Program


Binary logistic regression


Center for independent evaluations


Fodder tree technology


Smallholder livestock farmer


World agroforestry centre


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory G. Toth
    • 1
  • P. K. Ramachandran Nair
    • 1
  • Colm P. Duffy
    • 2
  • Steven C. Franzel
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Forest Resources and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Plant and Agri-Biosciences Research CentreNational University IrelandGalwayIreland
  3. 3.World Agroforestry CentreNairobiKenya

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