You are here

AEC 2012 - Rural Population Density Access to Arable Land and Small Farm Development Exploring Linkages in Malawi and Zambia


Land has been commonly considered an abundant resource in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, nationally representative farm surveys consistently paint a contrasting picture with the following empirical regularities: First, evidence shows that over the past 50 years there has been a gradual but steady decline in mean farm size as rural population growth has outstripped the growth in arable land. Second, half or more of Africa’s smallholder farms are below 1.5 hectares in size with limited or no potential for area expansion (Jayne et al. 2003). Most of this bottom 50% of farmers tend to produce very little agricultural surplus, and make very little use of productivity-enhancing inputs. Third, a high proportion of farmers perceive that it is not possible for them to acquire more land through customary land allocation procedures, even in areas where a significant portion of land appears to be unutilized (Stambuli 2002, Jayne et al. 2009).

Related Sections