Greetings dear friends. First, allow me to apologize for not being able to write as frequently as I had promised, the reason is that school had really taken its toll on me and my time. Now that the exams are over, I finally have some breathing space, enough of it that I am on my way back to Malawi as I write this post.

The main purpose for my going back home is to collect data for my MS thesis (research project). Of course there is the added advantage of meeting and spending some time with friends and family. After being away for 9 months (I know that is not a lot to some people but it is to me!), there is nothing more refreshing than reuniting with some old, familiar faces. It’s a huge reward for all the hard work over the past year. I understand, though, how privileged I am to get this opportunity to visit Malawi after such a short time away. I know of so many people who long to visit Malawi again having been away for so long but they just can not afford an air ticket. And the current economic environment does not make it any easier to do so.

As I am traveling back to Malawi to collect data, I am still not so very sure what direction I want my research to take. I am hoping that it will be clear by the time I am ready to go out and interview farmers or whoever has the necessary information. One thing that I am certain of though is that I intend to study the impacts of the government input subsidy program on farmland decisions e.g. in terms of how much land to allocate to various enterprises. The Ministry of Agriculture is very much interested in the answer to this question too so there is some value added to studying it. A lot of research has been done on the impacts of the subsidy program on food security and incomes but so far, nothing has been done at the plot level to determine its impact on farmland decisions. It could be possible that farmers are diverting the subsidized fertilizer to other farm enterprises, and I want to find out the driving forces behind those decisions. One thing I know is that the Malawian smallholder farmers are a clever lot, they are able to make rational decisions even without having perfect information.

So for the next three months, I will be loitering around some of the rural communities back home hoping to learn some things that would help shape agricultural policy. I should be back at Purdue in early August to finish my degree program. I am so excited about going back home, as much as I am elated at the research questions that I hope to find answers on. While in Malawi, I will attempt to share with visitors to this blog some of my field experiences. May you all stay blessed.