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Unintended consequences of farm input subsidies: women’s contraceptive usage and knock-on effects on children

Mwale, Martin Limbikani (2022): Unintended consequences of farm input subsidies: women’s contraceptive usage and knock-on effects on children.

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Abstract

Sub-Saharan Africa’s countries adopted farm input subsidies, with a twin goal of bolstering food security and reducing poverty. Many scholars evaluate the subsidies against these intended impacts, while ignoring the potential unintended consequences. In this paper, I take advantage of a rare combination of information on both contraceptive usage and a subsidy program, from Malawi’s 2020 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), to investigate whether Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) affected women’s contraceptive usage. I find that women that lived in FISP households increased contraceptives usage. This is in line with the hypothesis that the women aimed to prevent pregnancy, and hence dedicate uninterrupted time to farming, complementing the FISP. More of women’s time in farming could imply less of their time in domestic chores. I therefore further investigated whether children, in the same households, increased participation in the domestic chores, to take up roles left by the farming women. I find that this is the case. These findings therefore suggest that past studies evaluating the subsidies, and failed to consider the unintended consequences on fertility choices and domestic child labour, may have over- or underestimated the benefits of the subsidies

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