The Welfare Impact of Land Redistribution: Evidence from a Quasi-Experimental Initiative in Malawi

    1. Study Information


      This section discusses the 2015 article “The Welfare Impact of Land Redistribution: Evidence from a Quasi-Experimental Initiative in Malawi” by Mariapia Mendola and Franklin Simtowe.1

      The empirical analysis is based on a four-round household panel data set collected among 1194 households in 6 districts (Mulanje, Thyolo, Mangochi, Machinga, Balaka and Ntcheu) in Malawi between 2006 and 2009. The data set consists of 391 beneficiary households or the “treatment group” and some “indirectly treated” households, i.e. 190 households left behind in the vacated areas and 214 households in receiving areas. The latter groups of households are partially affected by the project through changes in land availability and the labor market as a consequence of the departure or arrival of new households. These groups are reviewed in the analysis of spillover effects of the program placement. Finally, the data set contains information on 397 households in similar areas of neighbouring districts of Chiradzulu and Balaka, which consists of a totally unaffected “control group.”

      The study looks at head of household only and disaggregates by sex of head of household.

    2. Questions posed
      • Did the land redistribution project significantly increase land holdings, agricultural output, and income of beneficiary households and improve households' food security and especially durable asset ownership?
      • Did female-headed households make similar gains?
    3. Description of intervention

      The Community Based Rural Land Development Project (CBRLDP) is a market-based land project, which was a community-based land reform carried out in six pilot districts in the southern part of Malawi set up by the Government of Malawi. More specifically, the project was set up to provide conditional cash transfers to poor families to relocate, purchase, develop, and cultivate larger plots of farm land. The CBRLDP initiative aims at easing land pressure and improving access to needy rural communities through voluntary land acquisition and redistribution. Its final objective is to increase the incomes of about 15,000 poor rural families through a market-based provision of land to the landless and land-poor beneficiary groups from the six Malawi districts.

    4. Context of findings

      The CBRLDP land initiative was implemented without any targeting of women. The project took place in southern Malawi where the primary inheritance system is matrilineal. In the study sample, 87.7 percent of the households follow the matrilineal rules, while 10.5 percent follow the patrilineal system (the remaining part follows other rules).

    5. Key findings

      On average, the results indicate a significant improvement in the well-being of beneficiary households, especially in terms of land size, agricultural output, crop-specific agricultural productivity, food security, asset holdings and agricultural income. In general, these impacts are higher in the short term and, while they remain significant, they slightly decrease over time.

      On average, in matrilineal households, results point to a smaller impact of the land project on female-headed beneficiary households, with the exception of asset accumulation and total income, to which women seem to devote more resources.

    6. Unanswered questions
      • What is the impact of the program on women in male-headed households, disaggregated by matrilineal and patrilineal inheritance systems?
    1. Mendola, M., & Simtowe, F. (2015). The Welfare Impact of Land Redistribution: Evidence from a Quasi-Experimental Initiative in Malawi. World Development, 72, 53–69.