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Abstract

Can rapid increases in agricultural productivity lead to improved nutritional outcomes for children in developing countries? In the 2005-06 growing season, the Malawi government introduced the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP), a high-profile and large-scale agricultural inputs subsidy targeting small farmers. This paper links new data on sub-district subsidy allocation across Traditional Authorities -- an administrative level beneath districts and above the village in Malawi -- to more than 20,000 observations of anthropometric outcomes for children born in rural Malawi between 1995 and 2010. We use the considerable spatial variation in TA-level per household fertilizer voucher allocation and the differences across birth cohorts introduced by the timing of FISP to study the effect of the program on child anthropometrics. We find a small, positive effect of Malawi’s farm subsidy program on child anthropometric outcomes in Malawi's Central region -- the region with the the historically highest stunting and underweight rates. Our estimates suggest that the Malawi fertilizer subsidy has increased child height-for-age z-scores in the Central Region by approximately 0.04 standard deviations, a two percent increase, on average. We investigate mechanisms of the effect and discuss its potential significance.

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