Barriers to commercialise produce for smallholder farmers in Malawi : an interpretive structural modelling approach

Tuni, Andrea and Rentizelas, Athanasios and Chipula, Grivin (2022) Barriers to commercialise produce for smallholder farmers in Malawi : an interpretive structural modelling approach. Journal of Rural Studies, 93. pp. 1-17. ISSN 0743-0167 (

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Smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, relying on agriculture for subsistence and employment. The transition from subsistence towards commercial agriculture is a focus area to improve the living conditions of farmers in several African countries, including Malawi. However, a number of barriers still prevents the commercialisation of produce by smallholder farmers. This work aims to identify the key barriers faced by Malawian smallholder farmers to commercialise their produce and to identify their root causes in order to prioritise areas of improvement to facilitate market participation for smallholder farmers. Using Interpretive Structural Modelling (ISM), the opinions of experts in the field were captured to establish causal and hierarchical relationships among the thirteen identified barriers, which holistically address on-farm and off-farm elements across multiple disciplines, such as agriculture, entrepreneurship, supply chain management, micro- and macro-economy. A causal mapping method is applied for the first time in the context of smallholder farming. This work is novel in identifying in a structured manner and comprehensively analysing barriers to commercialisation of produce for smallholder farmers in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa, offering a causal hierarchical mapping of the relationships between barriers in Malawi. The findings show that 'Poor farmers' group organisation' and 'Lack of market knowledge and understanding' are the most significant barriers, having the highest driving power and aggravating the other barriers. The findings of this work can have a notable contribution to practice. Policy makers and other related actors can have more clarity on the key barriers that affect all others as well as on their impact pathway, thus being able to prioritise their efforts to effectively address them.


Tuni, Andrea ORCID logoORCID:, Rentizelas, Athanasios ORCID logoORCID: and Chipula, Grivin;