10 May 2019

Malawi: Technology That Offers Farming Solutions

Kasungu — Of late Malawi has faced major agricultural problems emanating from climate change and soil degradation.

The problems have made farmers not to produce enough for both consumption and sale.

To curb the problems, there are many technologies and innovations being developed and tested throughout the country.

In Kasungu District, some farmers have adopted the agricultural technologies to increase production for enhanced food, nutrition and income security.

At Chipokolo I Village in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Kaomba, Lucia Chiphankhwani has found solace in climate smart agriculture.

A comparison of Chiphankhwani's maize field to that of her neighbours reveals significant differences.

"We adopted Conservation Agriculture (CA) and pit planting techniques which helped in retaining moisture during dry spells and droughts," Chiphankhwani says.

CA involves tilling the land and using crop and other plant residues to cover the soil while in pit planting, holes are dug and filled with organic manure to prevent water runoff and increase infiltration.

Chiphankhwani's field now produces higher yield than other neighbouring fields of the same size.

"With appropriate technology, it is possible to produce more on a small piece of land and achieve food security," she says.

In the same village, Beteniko Katambala grows soya.

He planted soya on two different fields, one with inoculants and another without.

The results are also visibly different as the crop is healthier where he planted with inoculants than on one without.

"Soya is a crop that gives us money; if we use a small land to produce more, it means we will also make more money," Katambala says.

Another agricultural technique some farmers in Kasungu have adopted is crop diversification.

Mostly, farmers had been relying on maize and grew it wherever they could find a piece of land regardless of suitability.

Climate change has come with unreliable rains and when there is too little or too much rainfall, the result is catastrophic. Farmers usually do not yield much.

This is where crop diversification becomes handy.

To this effect, for Joseph Kapulula, also from Chipokolo Village, it was wise to diversify to cassava farming.

Kapulula believes that cassava is resilient to climate change effects.

"It usually does well in very difficult climatic conditions. Above all, one gains more in food and income," he says.

Some seven kilometers away from Chipokolo Village, there are Chizu and Dambulesi villages where agricultural technologies have been applied in animal husbandry.

For animal husbandry, diseases are always a threat and the quest to multiply livestock is defeated if they are abound.

As a preventive measure, livestock are supposed to be kept in a safe environment, fed well and the farmer has to make proper selection of mates for reproduction.

An improved goat khola (kraal) has proved to be a saviour in as far as keeping goats safe is concerned.

Memory Mdyapansi of Chizu testifies the importance of having an improved khola which is raised above ground and has more space for ventilation.

"I used to keep goats in a khola which was built from the ground and with minimal ventilation.

"The result was muddy floor and too much heat which eventually killed the goats," she says.

With advice from agriculture frontline staff, Mdyapansi adopted the raised khola which meant enough ventilation and dry floor as goats' dung drops to the ground where it can be easily collected.

"I now make more money and supplement my family's nutrition with goat meat," she says.

At Dambulesi Village, Patricia Monjeza leads Takondwa Dairy Club where they crossbred Malawi Zebu cows and hybrid bulls. The initiative has now led to a pass-on programme.

Out of the 48 members, 33 have each received a cow, with 19 cows expected to give birth to calves which will later be given to the remaining members.

Meanwhile, the club is already counting benefits of the right khola, right feed and right bull to mate cow initiative.

"The cows give us manure which we apply in our crop fields and milk for household consumption and sale," Monjeza says.

Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development with its partners is promoting the agricultural technologies with the aim of increasing production as it is now encouraging farmers to take farming as a business.

Through Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAP), the ministry wants smallholder farmers and local communities to benefit from improved agricultural techniques.

Most farmers who have adopted them have benefitted a lot from them. However, it appears a lot more are still clinging to old ways of farming.

Senior Chief Kaomba lauds the new technologies and wants all farmers in his area to adopt them.

"There are many new technologies available for farmers and I will make sure that my people adopt these innovations," Kaomba says.

To popularise new farming techniques, Kasungu Agriculture Development Division (ADD) recently organised field days where new farmers were taught the importance of the modern technologies.

Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development's Controller of Agriculture Services Alexander Bulirani advised farmers during one of the field days to embrace the technologies and take agriculture as a business.

"If farmers don't adopt these technologies, they will continue producing less and eventually make less money.

"With these new technologies in place, it's high time every farmer took farming as a business and aimed at maximising production," Bulirani said.

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