How do informal farmland rental markets affect smallholders’ well‐being? Evidence from a matched tenant–landlord survey in Malawi uri icon

abstract

  • We estimate the efficiency and equity returns to farmland rental markets in Malawi using a matched tenant-landlord survey of smallholder farm households in four districts. Our sample allows us to more fully observe the landlord side of the rental market, which is almost always missing in previous studies. Our results suggest that land rental markets promote efficiency by facilitating a net transfer of land to more productive farmers. We also find that land rental markets promote equity as conventionally defined in the land markets literature, that is, by transferring land from land-rich households to land-poor households, and from labor-poor to labor-rich households. However, our study identifies some important challenges for land rental markets in this context. First, we find that tenants in our sample are wealthier than their landlord counterpart on average in all dimensions other than landholding. In addition, most landlords report the motive for renting out their land as either the need for immediate cash, or the lack of labor and/or capital to cultivate the plot that was rented out. These findings align with concerns about potential "stress renting" by poor landlords and suggest the value of defining equity along a broader set of dimensions other than simply equalizing the distribution of farmland and labor.

publication date

  • 2019
  • 2019