Earth Institute Research Projects

Environment & Socioeconomic Outcomes of the New African Green Revolution

Lead PI: Hope Michelson

Unit Affiliation: Agriculture & Food Security Center

January 2013 - December 2015
Africa ; Malawi
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: This project combines data and techniques from social and natural sciences to study land cover and land-use change. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world but has rapidly increased food security through implementation of the Farm Inputs Subsidy Program (FISP) starting in 2005/06. To date, very little research has analyzed variability of land cover and land use change (LCLUC) with changes in yields within the country. Lead by two New Investigators, Galford and Michelson, this project will analyze LCLUC, crop yields and their underlying drivers and correlates since FISP’s implementation. Some of these correlates may have fixed effects, such as the role of slope in determining crop yields. Others may vary over time, including population density, soil fertility levels, area devoted to crops or proxy indicators such as distance to roads. Malawi, with the support of the World Bank and technical assistance of the IFPRI, conducted national household surveys in 1998/99, 2004/05 and 2010/11 a time period that aligns coincidentally and conveniently with the implementation of FISP as well as MODIS observations from 2000-present. This work pushes MODIS to the edge, demonstrating how a coarse sensor can be used to study small-scale farm production and LCLUC with validation using high-resolution imagery. Smallholder farms supply roughly 80% of Malawi s staple food crop, maize, over a relatively short growing season (~5 months). Here, we combine remotely sensed data, GIS data and household survey data to determine the contributions of these correlates and FISP to LCLUC, crop yields and poverty outcomes. This is a novel approach that will advance the fields of remote sensing, LCLUC and economic analysis of food security and poverty.


University of Vermont


National Aeronautics & Space Administration




Cheryl Palm


Woods Hole Research Center, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)




poverty smallholder farmers land cover land use geographic information system (gis) smallholders crop yields remote sensing food security


Stewardship of the planet