Food Security

, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp 1299–1320 | Cite as

Gendered food security in rural Malawi: why is women’s food security status lower?

  • Menale KassieEmail author
  • Jesper Stage
  • Hailemariam Teklewold
  • Olaf Erenstein
Original Paper


Gendered food security gaps between female- and male-headed households (FHHs and MHHs) can be decomposed into two sets of components: those explained by observable differences in levels of resource use, and those due to unobserved differences affecting the returns to the resources used. Employing exogenous switching ordered probit and binary probit regression models, this paper examines the gendered food security gap and its causes in rural Malawi. We conducted a counterfactual analysis and found that the food security of FHHs would improve significantly if they had the same levels of resource use as MHHs. However, even if FHHs had the same levels of resource use as MHHs, the gendered food security gap would not be closed because of the differences in the returns to those resources. Such differences in returns to resources explain 40 % (45 %) of the observed gendered chronic (transitory) food insecurity gap and 54 % (19 %) of the food break-even (surplus) gap. Further analysis suggests that the intensity with which sustainable agricultural practices have been adopted has a greater impact on the food security of FHHs than on MHHs.


Food security Gender gap Switching regression Malawi 



This study was supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Australian International Food Security Research Centre (AIFSRC) through the Adoption Pathways Project and the Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) Programme led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). We would also like to acknowledge the CGIAR Research Program on Maize for its financial support for the collection of national maize survey data. Jesper Stage acknowledges support from the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation, as well as from the Swedish Research Council Formas through its Commons Programme. We would like to thank Chalmers Mulwa and Geoffrey Muricho for cleaning and organising the data. The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the donors or the authors’ institution. The usual disclaimers apply.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Menale Kassie
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jesper Stage
    • 2
  • Hailemariam Teklewold
    • 3
  • Olaf Erenstein
    • 4
  1. 1.International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)NairobiKenya
  2. 2.Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social SciencesLuleå University of TechnologyLuleåSweden
  3. 3.Environmental Economics Policy Forum in Ethiopia (EEPFE)Addis AbabaEthiopia
  4. 4.International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)El BatanMexico

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