Tackling the challenges of assessing socioeconomic impacts of farmland restoration: The case of Malawi
This research explores the potential of using the secondary household survey data to identify key socioeconomic indicators for tracking farmland restoration progress in Malawi since 2017. A two-year panel data for the periods between 2016–2017 and 2019–2020 was created for the analysis, building on data collected from Malawi’s Integrated Household Panel Survey (IHPS). An initial data analysis shows that estimated average Household Restoration Intensity Score (HRIS) increased from 2.05 in 2016 to 2.24 in 2019, indicating increased intensification of farmland restoration at the household level over time. The average Food Consumption Score (FCS) of all the households also significantly improved over time, rising from 43.19 in 2016 to 47.43 in 2019. A Difference-in-Difference (DiD) model was developed to quantitatively estimate the causal effects of the farmland restoration interventions on the socioeconomic improvement of rural households. Overall, the model shows some promising results. All four regressions generated statistically significant results regarding the positive impact of restoration interventions over time on four socioeconomic indicators, including food and non-food expenditure, crop sales, and FCS at the household level. However, the model results should be interpreted with care due to clear caveats on secondary household survey data. In response, this study recommended three concrete ways that surveys can be improved to collect data that is relevant for assessing the socioeconomic impacts of farmland restoration. This study also calls for urgent global actions to construct a robust restoration monitoring and evaluation system that will allow systemically monitoring and tracking socioeconomic improvements resulting from restoration interventions in a consistent manner over time.