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This article examines the Christian Service Committee (CSC) Agricultural Pilot Programme in Malawi, funded by Christian Aid (UK) and ICFID of Canada. It aims to address some of the constraints faced by the poorest farmers and to demonstrate to the government better ways of supporting the small-holder sector. Two key objectives were to demonstrate that the churches are effective channels for disseminating agricultural messages to farmers, in particular to poor women farmers, and to produce a simple but effective package of agricultural improvements which are appropriate and popular. Evaluation showed that working through church groups was an effective strategy with more women being reached than through the farmers’ club system. In general, such a package needs to be viewed with caution as it is potentially a top-down approach. Its success here is attributed to the fact that it meets the pressing needs of poorer farmers in Malawi, allows attainable targets to be achieved, and that the development workers have built up real expertise and are respected by farmers. Abstract supplied by kind permission of CABI.

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