Until the introduction of the fertiliser subsidy programme in the 2005/2006 growing season, food insecurity was for close to two consecutive decades a characteristic feature of a great bulk of Malawians both in urban and rural areas. The depth and magnitude of the food security crisis was such that even in climatically favourable cropping seasons, up to 70-80% of smallholder farmers hardly produced enough to last them for as little as four months after harvest. The 2002 food crisis however proved to be a turning point in the country’s fledging ability to feed itself. Up to 70% of the farming families representing 3.2 million of the population were without food and starving. This devastating food crisis occurred despite concerted efforts to keep the deteriorating food security situation in constant check. Dimba cultivation reportedly became a very important activity in the wake of the recurrent spells of droughts since the turn of the 1990s.
This study provides an in depth understanding of the nature of dambo as an agricultural asset; the determinants of dambo access and control; households’ status, and dambo access and dambo use in rural Malawi.