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Abstract

At a time when attention was focused on Africa's poor agricultural performance, Malawi demonstrated a capacity not only to feed itself, but to produce a surplus for export. During the periods covered in this paper, its agricultural growth exceeded that of most African countries and compared favorably with 'success stories' on the continent. This research focuses on Malawi's recent performance, with particular attention on trends in the provision of essential agro-support services: credit; extension and farmer training; and input supply and marketing. Trends in these services are examined first at the national level and then at the district level. While overall trends indicate substantial progress, district level data reveal extensive unevenness. Moreover, at the farm level, census data on farmer training and technology utilization show fewer benefits to female operators and smaller farmers. Important elements of developmentally oriented infrastructure and services have been put in place and are functioning better than in most African countries. This is important in terms of longer-term agricultural development prospects. There is ample evidence, however, that Malawi's progress has not spread across different segments of the farm population or Agriculture Development Districts. Both the unevenness and overall progress have been heavily influenced by donor- support.

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