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Preferences for legume attributes in maize-legume cropping systems in Malawi

Abstract

Adoption rates of leguminous crops remain low in sub-Saharan Africa despite their potential role in improving nutrition, soil health, and food security. In this study we explored Malawian farmers’ perceptions of various legume attributes and assessed how these perceptions affected allocation of land to legume crops using a logit link model. We found high regional variation in both consumption- and production-related preferences, but relatively consistent preferences across samples. While scientific understanding and farmer perceptions were aligned on some topics and for some legumes, there were discrepancies elsewhere, particularly in terms of soil fertility and nutrition. Understanding why these discrepancies exist and where there were potential biases are critical in explaining the extent of adoption. In many cases perceptions of legume attributes may be influenced by the cultural role of the crop in the household, particularly in terms of food security or market-orientation. The findings also suggest that researchers need to look beyond both the agronomic properties and farmers’ preferences to fully understand the extent of adoption. Socioeconomic factors, biases, and marketing concerns may also influence integration of legumes into maize-based cropping systems.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under grant OPP1076311 titled “Perennial Grains Crops for African Smallholder Farming Systems” and by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains program. The authors’ views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Agency for International Development or the United States Government.

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Correspondence to Kurt B. Waldman.

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Waldman, K.B., Ortega, D.L., Richardson, R.B. et al. Preferences for legume attributes in maize-legume cropping systems in Malawi. Food Sec. 8, 1087–1099 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0616-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-016-0616-4

Keywords

  • Legumes
  • Adoption
  • Crop attributes
  • Africa
  • Malawi
  • Logit link model