Powell Mponela

Research themes
  • Land use and food security
  • Ecosystem services
  • Sustainable use of natural resources
  • Land, water, food and energy
Research countries
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Malawi
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
Professional experience

Research Assistant, Soils Research Area, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) (2010-2016)


MSc Social Forestry, BSc Forestry


Land condition surveillance,Agricultural technology adoption,Crop production and yield gap analysis,Soil fertility and plant nutrition,Forest mensuration

Funding institutions



Thesis title

Options for sustainable intensification in Maize Mixed Farming Systems: Explorative ex-ante assessment using Multi-Agent System Simulation

Thesis abstract

Sustaining agricultural productivity in socio-ecologically sensitive landscapes of Malawi calls for concerted efforts by land managers to conserve and replenish soil fertility. Several approaches have been rolled out including sustainable land management, conservation agriculture, agroforestry, climate smart agriculture, integrated soil fertility improvement, cereal-legume integration and inorganic fertilizers including subsidies – which apparently have similar technological sets. Still, over 80% of arable land in smallholder farms are unsuitable to support primary productivity and nutrient depletion continues to constrain food and nutrition security of rural communities.

From the backdrop of continuous cultivation without adequate inputs, the fertilizer and manure application are considered as novel strategies to replenish nutrients for most of the farmers in the study communities. We found that inorganic fertilizers were used by 90%, legumes by 72% and organic manures by 57%. The quantities of nutrient inputs and areas under covered are zero for significant fraction of the study community and continuously distributed over the positive values. Empirical evidence from the double hurdle model shows that none of the household and farm factors consistently influence the two decisions (adopt and intensify) for all the three technologies. On the basis that all factors are dynamically changing with different magnitudes and confidence intervals, sustainable intensification could be achieved by harnessing the positive effects while concurrently reducing the negative influences.

Secondly, we realise that whilst declining trends of soil fertility is a major threat to food production for the rural smallholder farmers in Africa, the knowledge of the status and gaps at the scale of a managed plot is limited. We use the randomForest regression model to predicted soil conditions with measured soil attributes collected from 219 locations within 10 x 10 km sentinel site in rural Malawi in 2013 and 2018 and the Sentinel2 imagery and Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (STRM) terrain attributes as predictors. Findings suggest that there are pronounced spatial variations with most soils deficient in soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen but have low to adequate phosphorus and potassium. Hence, organic input sources should be integrated in the currently inorganic fertilizer dominated soil management to minimise soil degradation risk and ensure agricultural sustainability.

Finally, the Multi Agent Simulation (MAS) being developed will be used to simulate trends in productivity, nutrient balance and economic benefit given the current SLM technologies and elucidate the pathways for policy recommendations. The MAS platform is being developed following the Land Use Dynamics Simulator (LUDAS) modules developed by Le in 2005.

Doctoral research funded by

BMZ via DAAD, Foundation Fiat panis, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

Cooperation partners

Dr. Lulseged Tamene (CIAT), Department of Agricultural Research Services, Republic of Malawi

Supervisors of
doctoral work

Prof. Dr. Christian Borgemeister (ZEF), Prof. Dr. Sieglinde Snapp, (Michigan State University), Dr. Quang Bao Le (ICARDA)

Advisor at ZEF

Dr. Grace Villamor


Tamene L., G.W. Sileshi, G. Ndengu, P. Mponela, J. Kihara, A. Sila and J. Tondoh.  2019.  Soil structural degradation, and nutrient limitations across land use categories and climate zones in Southern Africa.  Land Degradation & Development, . Further Information


Mango, N., C. Makate, L. Tamene, P. Mponela, G. Ndengu.  2018.  Adoption of Small-Scale Irrigation Farming as aClimate-Smart Agriculture Practice and Its Influenceon Household Income in the Chinyanja Triangle,Southern Africa.  LAND, 7(49) : 19 . (Open Access)  Further Information
Mponela, P., G.T. Kassie, L. Tamene.  2018.  Simultaneous adoption of integrated soil fertility management technologies in the Chinyanja Triangle, Southern Africa.  Natural Resources Forum, 3(42) : 172-184 .


Mango N., C. Makate, L. Tamene, P. Mponela and G. Ndengu.  2017.  Awareness and adoption of land, soil and water conservation practices in the Chinyanja Triangle, Southern Africa.  International Soil and Water Conservation Research, 2(5) : 122-129 . (Open Access)  Further Information


Mponela P., L Tamene, G Ndengu, R Magreta, J Kihara, N Mango.  2016.  Determinants of integrated soil fertility management technologies adoption by smallholder farmers in the Chinyanja Triangle of Southern Africa.  Land Use Policy, 59 : 38-48 . Further Information
Tamene L., P Mponela, GW Sileshi, J Chen, JE Tondoh.  2016.  Spatial variation in tree density and estimated aboveground carbon stocks in Southern Africa.  Forests, 7(3) : 1-19 . (Open Access)  Further Information


L Tamene, P Mponela, G Ndengu, J Kihara.  2015.  Assessment of maize yield gap and major determinant factors between smallholder farmers in the Dedza district of Malawi.  Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, : 1-18 . Further Information


P Mponela, CBL Jumbe, WF Mwase.  2011.  Determinants and extent of land allocation for Jatropha curcas L. cultivation among smallholder farmers in Malawi.  biomass and bioenergy, 35(7) : 2499-2505 . Further Information


P Mponela, WF Mwase, CBL Jumbe, M Ntholo.  2010.  Plant species diversity on marginal and degraded areas for Jatropha curcas L. cultivation in Malawi.  African Journal of Agricultural Research, 5(12) : 1497-1503 . Further Information


J Haarstad, CBL Jumbe, S Chinangwa, P Mponela, A Dalfelt, A Disch.  2009.  Environmental and Socio-Economic: Baseline Study–Malawi. 


Powell Mponela, Lusayo Mwabumba.  2008.  Performance of 8-year-old provenances cum families of Uapaca kirkina Muell. Arg (Wild loquat) at Nauko, Machinga, Malawi.  In: Makungwa, S.M., Chakeredza, S., Saka, A., Mwase, W. Saka, V., G.F. Salanje, A. D. Yaye (eds) (eds.): Mainstreaming Climate Change into Agricultural and Natural Resources Management Education: Tools, Experiences and Challenges. Reviewed Papers presented at ANAFE symposium on Tertiary Agricultural Education, July 2008, Lilongwe, Malawi. African Network for Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education .  275-202.  Further Information

Additionals, Curriculum Vitae
and Downloads

Powell Mponela

Junior Researcher


ZEF C: Department of Ecology and Natural Resources Management