Malawi is a sub-Saharan African country at the forefront of the contemporary forest landscape restoration movement that places local smallholder farmers and resources users at the center of restoration actions. However, the manifestations of farmer-led bottom-up restoration efforts at individual and collective levels, and how they add up to landscape-scale restoration outcomes remain understudied. We analyze the nature of restoration efforts across interlocked forest and agricultural landscapes, estimate the extent of farmlands under restoration, and examine the contextual drivers and barriers of restoration. We use a mixed-methods approach combining a multivariate Tobit regression model and a Poisson model based on a 2019 household survey (N = 480 households), and qualitative insights from seven focus group discussions from Malawi's Dedza and Ntchisi Districts. The estimated mean total area of restored farmlands per household was 1.10 ( ± 0.76) and 1.07 ( ± 0.72) acres, representing, on average, about 54 % and 43 % of the total household landholdings in Dedza and Ntchisi, respectively. Results also indicate restoration diversification and intensification patterns whereby farmers generally combine two or more land-management practices based on complementarities in achieving specific livelihoods, food security, and ecological goals of restoration, and on compatibility regarding labor and other inputs demand. Land configuration mattered. Land plots that were spatially consolidated and tenure-secured were associated with higher restoration efforts. Also, women restoration efforts are limited by their inadequate access to productive inputs. Therefore, restoration policies should center on strategies that improve land-ownership security while minimizing fragmentation within landholdings and promote gender-responsive interventions. Drivers of collective resources restoration include strong local leadership; perceived tangible benefits for firewood, NTFPs, and timber resources; secure rights to collect firewood and free access to grazing areas; and perceived balanced among payoffs for energy needs, climate change adaptation, and ecological goals. These can inform restoration programs involving collective actions and their governance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law