Under the European Union funded KULIMA programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has since 2018 worked collaboratively with the Government of Malawi on farmer field school implementation to enhance agricultural extension and advisory services with the aim of improving agricultural production and productivity. 

 

Agriculture in Malawi is characterized by low production and productivity. Smallholder farmers face multiple challenges, including the negative impacts of climate change- flooding, prolonged dry spells and droughts, unreliable rainfall patterns, and the emergence of pests and diseases such as the fall armyworm and banana bunchy top disease. Agricultural advisory services therefore offer critical support for smallholder farmers in the face of such challenges.

 

Farmer field school (FFS) is recognized by Government, in the National Agricultural Extension Service strategy, as one of the strengths of the agricultural extension and advisory services subsectors. This year on 4th and 11th March 2022, sixty-two (62) agricultural extension workers and ninety-two (92) lead farmers graduated as farmer field school (FFS) master trainers (MT) and Community-Based Facilitators (CBF) respectively, from the FFS master trainers (MT) course, under the KULIMA Programme.

 

“Farmer field schools are essential in promoting agricultural technologies and good agricultural practices in the face of many challenges facing the agricultural sector in Malawi,” said the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dalitso Wirima Kambauwa. She added that the Ministry of Agriculture promotes the use of FFS to build capacity of farmers to achieve household food, income and nutrition security.

 Speaking of the contribution of KULIMA to Malawi’s vision of a highly productive and commercialized agriculture sector, FAO Representative, Zhijun Chen said:

 “The aspirations in Pillar 1 of the Malawi 2063 on agricultural productivity and commercialization are possible, only if we have a vibrant extension service, which is responsive to the unique and location specific needs of the farming communities.”

 The recent graduates are part of a broader plan that targets training of 600 FFS Master Trainers and 8 000 Community Based Facilitators will be trained who in turn will support at least 13 400 community outreach groups with over 400 000 productive farming families to improve their productivity, diversification and income generation.

 To date, 371 MTs and 366 CBFs have been trained.  Furthermore, 18-month long CBF courses are ongoing at 249 sites in communities in the ten districts where the project is being implemented which are Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba, Nkhatabay Nkhotakota, Salima, Kasungu, Chiradzulu, Thyolo and Mulanje. The CBF courses are being facilitated by graduates from the first, second and third cohort with an enrolment of 7 558 CBF lead farmers.

 FFS training courses are being conducted at Lisasadzi, Thuchila, and Mzuzu residential training centres in Kasungu, Mulanje, and Mzuzu districts.

 Attendance at the March graduation event included the Deputy Minister as guest of honour, the Head of Corporation of the EU Delegation in Malawi, Ivo Hoefkens, government officials, partners from the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, members of the press and FAO.