11-Year Rainfall and Maize Yield Variation (2003-2013) in Four Northern Districts of Malawi

Naohiro Matsui


Rainfall in the maize cropping season (Oct-Apr) in the four northern districts of Malawi was examined in terms of seasonal fluctuation and spatial distribution, and data spanning 11 years were analyzed. Rainfall fluctuations in the 11-year period differed considerably among the four districts and the Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) showed high coefficients of variance (CVs) (16.9-93.7). The equation with the three-month rainfall (October, February, and April), i.e., Maize yield (kg/ha) in SH = 2.29 + 0.0042 × Oct rainfall – 0.0009 × Feb rainfall + 0.00045 × Apr rainfall (r2 = 0.41), better explained maize yield in the 2013/14 season than the equation with total rainfall in the cropping season. Rainfall accounted for more than 41% of the total variation in maize yields of smallholder farmers (SHs). Rainfall in April was the most critical factor influencing maize and other crop yields. After the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) was implemented in 2005/06, maize yield became more dependent on rainfall. CV was higher in maize than in groundnut and sweet potato, indicating that maize is susceptible to rainfall fluctuations, and groundnut and sweet potato should be incorporated in farming as a countermeasure against unpredictable rainfall.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v8n5p95

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