An agribusiness project has been taking a holistic approach to agriculture, implementing climate smart practices in four districts in Malawi with great success.
Over 6,200 rural farmers in the districts of Nkhotakota, Salima, Machinga and Chikwawa have improved their livelihoods working with a project called ‘Creating Robust Opportunities for Crop Production and Sale’ (CROPS), which began in October 2018. The community-led project, funded by the Scottish Government will by 2023 have increased the household incomes of the rural farmers in the 4 districts by 10%.
Phillip Chidawati, Project Manager, Challenges Malawi commented:
“The project has been promoting sustainable farming systems and resilient agricultural practices to increase crop productivity and strengthen farmers’ capacity for adaptation to climate change shocks and progressively increase soil fertility. This has resulted in 60% increase in crop productivity and subsequent crop sales revenue for farmers involved in the project”.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations sets out the three aims of climate smart agriculture as a sustainable increase in productivity and income, adapting and building resilience to climate change, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions where possible.
From the outset, the CROPS Project’s focus has been on sustainable economic growth and sustainable agriculture. Following practices promoted by the project through Project Agriculture Extension Officers, the project farmers have seen the results on the ground for themselves.
In adapting and building resilience to climate change and the associated erratic weather, several measures have been adopted, including the efficient use of water through the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), along with intermittent irrigation. Crop diversification and rotation aid with soil health; planting drought tolerant crops such as cassava offer a buffer during extended dry periods; the use of cover crops improve soil health, and absorb carbon among other benefits. In addition, the practices of planting vetiver grass, contour band construction and the construction of dykes are employed to control soil erosion and the impacts of flooding.
Solofina Batumeyo, a female farmer from Machinga District said:
“I used to harvest 7 bags of rice only from my 0.1 Ha plot before the project, and generated very low income from the sales. But now, through the technologies taught by Agriculture Extension Officers, such as organic fertiliser and SRI, I now harvest 13 bags from the same plot and generate a sales revenue of over £520 which is improving our livelihoods as we have adequate money to buy food, pay for school fees and medical costs”.
There’s one particular practice encouraged by the project that stands out though – the use of bio-fertiliser as an alternative to chemical fertiliser. With chemical fertiliser prices having increased by 300% in the last 12 months, along with the increase in productivity, yield and soil health from the use of organic manure, farmers have seen for themselves how this climate smart practice makes a difference.