The objective of this paper is to review the experience with smallholder cotton production in the Lower Shire Valley (LSV) of Malawi and to attempt to draw from it some pointers for strengthening the strategy for smallholder agriculture in the area. The main empirical analysis is based on an extensive survey (SOLV) performed some time ago, in 1972/73 (Colman and Garbett, 1974, 1976). Despite the lapse of time since its completion, more recent data suggest that there is a good deal of material of conetemporary relevance which can be extracted from the original study. In addition, subsequent experience with rural development in countries other than Malawi enables fresh insights to be brought to the problems of smallholder agriculture in the LSV.


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