Understanding the Role of Research in the Evolution of Fertilizer Policies in Malawi

32 Pages Posted: 17 May 2013

See all articles by Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Regina Birner

University of Honhenheim

Date Written: April 2013


This study examines the role of research in agricultural policy making in Malawi at a time when the Africa Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development have been seeking to promote greater evidenced-based decision making in agriculture. Drawing on both theory and actual past experiences documented in the literature, results are intended to improve our understanding of the extent to which research has played any role in influencing policy change in Malawi. This is done in the context of the evolution of the country’s fertilizer subsidy policies. Results point to some general lessons. First, strengthening the Ministry of Agriculture’s capacity for policy analysis and becoming more proactive in the policy process proved critical in the earlier years of Malawi’s long history of fertilizer subsidies. Second, the government’s experience of bargaining with donors may have actually strengthened its own ability to position and assert its legitimacy in shaping policies. Third, while research may have played a historically marginal role, researchers have been able to influence policy choices whenever a window of opportunity arose for technical input — such as at times of crisis. However, researchers would also benefit from engaging more with the policy debates and policy making process. Finally, while the paper draws on existing theoretical frameworks to understand the role of research in the policy process more generally, a better framework still needs to be developed in describing the standard experiences and realities of the African agricultural policy landscape.

Keywords: Agricultural policy, Fertilizer, fertilizer policy, fertilizer subsidies, fertilizer subsidy, Policy process, Policy research, Africa, Africa south of Sahara, East Africa, Malawi

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Michael and Birner, Regina, Understanding the Role of Research in the Evolution of Fertilizer Policies in Malawi (April 2013). IFPRI Discussion Paper No. 01266, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2266116 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2266116

Michael Johnson (Contact Author)

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

Development Strategy and Governance Division
2033 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
United States
+1 202-862-5600 (Phone)
+1 202-467-4439 (Fax)

Regina Birner

University of Honhenheim ( email )

Otto-Sander-Straße 5
Stuttgart, 70599

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