Technical efficiency of smallholder farmers: a study of adopters and non-adopters of integrated aquaculture agriculture

Technical efficiency of smallholder farmers: a study of adopters and non-adopters of integrated aquaculture agriculture

Smallholder farming in Malawi

This paper investigates the technical efficiency of two samples of smallholder farmers in southern Malawi, one involving farmers adopting integrated aquaculture-agriculture (IAA) technology and the other involving non-adopters.

The study uses stochastic frontier production functions in which the technical inefficiency effects are assumed to be functions of the age and education of the farmers, availability of credit, extension services, recycling of materials, membership of a club/association, and number of plots.

For the cross-sectional data obtained in the 2003/2004 growing season, transcendental logarithmic  (translog) stochastic frontiers are found to be adequate representations of the data for IAA and non-IAA farmers. The empirical results reveal the following:

  • technical efficiency is low for non-IAA farmers, with a mean of 49%, explained primarily by the sex of the principal farmer
  • IAA farmers on the other hand achieve a mean efficiency level of 63%.


The results suggest that provision of education and extension services as well as increasing the recycling of materials, and number of plots, might be a cost-effective way of increasing production and productivity for IAA farmers. By contrast, technological change will have to be the driving force of future productivity growth for non-IAA farmers.

This concludes that non-IAA farmers can increase their productivity by adopting IAA technology, while IAA farmers can increase their productivity by concentrating on the significant sources of inefficiency, which the econometric analysis has identified.

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