Prolonged drought and inadequate rainfall expose vulnerable communities to economic shocks that usually threaten their livelihoods. Unfortunately, most farmers in rural areas do not have access to reliable and accurate information on weather and smart agricultural technologies and drought resistant crops. Using the Farmer Field School (FFS) model, farmers in the area of Group Village Head (GVH) William Ngwenya of Mzimba district are identifying modern ways of farming to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Headson Mwanza is a member of Mwawiwithu Farmer Field School (FFS) in Kamwanza Village under GVH William Ngwenya under Inkosi Mmbelwa. The FFS group which has 13 men, and 17 women was formed under KULIMA BETTER project implemented by Plan International through funding from European Union.  The objective of the project is to improve household resilience to climate related shocks. In its initial phase of implementation, the project conducted a participatory vulnerability capacity assessment in the area and identified drought as one of the main hazards affecting farmer’s productivity.

“We used to have uncertainties as to when the rains are going to start and how the rainy season will go” explains Headson, a member of Mwawiwithu FFS. “This affected our production as we gambled a lot with our farming resulting in crop loss which affected our food security and livelihoods as a whole,” he says.

As a way of addressing this challenge, the project procured and installed rain gauges in all the extension planning areas to capture accurate data on rainfall in real time. The project in collaboration with the climate change and meteorology services trained data collectors in recording and reporting of the rainfall data. This information is then consolidated at district level and shared with community radios for dissemination.

With the collaboration that the project has with local community radios, the collected data is aggregated and disseminated through the radios.

“I make sure to tune in to Mzimba Community Radio because I listen to the weather updates every day and make informed decisions on activities that I can do on my field”

The FFS consists of groups of farmers who get together to study a particular topic. The topics vary from conservation agriculture, organic agriculture, animal and soil husbandry to income generating activities such as handicrafts.  FFS provides opportunities for learning by doing. They teach basic agricultural and management skills that make farmers experts in their own farms. The farmers are also trained in different smart agriculture technologies such as pit planting, application of manure, one-one method of planting and use of different drought resistance crops.

“Coupled with the trainings on climate smart agriculture, I am able to make informed decisions on which crop to grow in that season and what technologies to use because I have an idea of how the season is going to be”, adding that this has helped him to reduce uncertainties that he faced in his farming in the past years.

Diversifying to the drought resistance crops, Headson, 46, who after learning from the FFS decided to plant sweet potatoes. Boasting about his success in the previous seasons, he shares how he has been able to sell the produce and use the money to service his maize mill.

“I did not have to go to South Africa like a lot of men do in this community in search of green pastures. All I had to do was to listen to what our CBF was teaching us. So last season apart from using pit planting to grow maize, I also focused on sweet potatoes where I managed to make over MWK100, 000.00 from the sales alone” says Headson joyfully.

Headson also taught his children farming and gave them a piece of land to plant their own sweet potatoes. They managed to also make over MWK100,000.00. Headson and his family are now living a healthy and progressive lifestyle despite frequent inadequate rainfall.