WSU Works to Lessen Poverty, Hunger in Africa

In 2014, WSU economics students and faculty used money from two grants to travel to Malawi, Africa, where they recorded preliminary data on agricultural practices and surveyed farmers on their willingness to engage in subsidized programs that promote conservation.

“The Malawi project is focused on creating incentives to promote adoption and compliance of conservation agriculture,” said WSU assistant economics professor Gregory Parkhurst, who led the research. “In the Malawi region, the poverty level is above 70 percent, and the education level of most farmers is about fourth grade. Farmers engage in conventional practices that strip the soil of vital nutrients, which cause a reduction in the quality and amount of topsoil. This reduces yield, which increases poverty.”

The process of conservation agriculture involves returning the stalks of plants back to the soil after harvest, rotating crops on the fields and using better mechanical practices in planting and harvesting. This increases vital nutrients in the topsoil, makes the soil denser and reduces erosion.

WSU students and professors gathered and interpreted the surveys. The data helped economists recommend subsidy amounts that would motivate farmers to adopt conservation agriculture for the long run. The findings were presented in Washington, D.C.

1,800: The number of Malawian farmers who were surveyed as part of the conservation agriculture study