The KULIMA Programme held its fourth Programme Steering Committee (PSC) meeting on Wednesday 28th April 2021. The meeting, which was conducted virtually, was chaired by the Principal Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs. Erica Maganga. The objective of the meeting was to review progress in implementation for the period October 2020 to March 2021. In her remarks, the PS applauded the various milestones that have been achieved during the review period despite the COVID-19 pandemic. These included delivery of research supplies to Chitedze, Bvumbwe and Lunyangwa Agriculture Research Stations; delivery of equipment to the Pesticides Control Board at Bvumbwe; signing of the EUR12.5 million loan facility between European Investment Bank and Ecobank Malawi Limited; delivery of inputs to farmers as part of the COVID-19 response; distribution of clean banana suckers to farmers for the establishment of nurseries and orchards of which cumulatively the programme has distributed about 120,000 suckers; and continued formation of farmer field schools as part of efforts to strengthen extension service delivery of which to date 9,483 farmer field schools have been formed against a target of 13,400. She, however, called for enhanced coordination among different components of the programme in order to further improve programme implementation. The meeting was attended by PSC members and all implementing partners.
GIZ’s Green Innovation Centre Malawi Premieres a Documentary: “KULIMA-School Without Walls” on Friday, 7th May 2021 at 8:30 PM
By Emmanuel Tolani, GIAE
The driving force of Malawian agriculture are the smallholder farmers who, on average, manage farms of around one hectare. Climate change and declining soil fertility make it increasingly difficult for them to provide enough food for a fast-growing population. The Malawian government, with funding from the European Union (EU), initiated the KULIMA Programme to improve the situation of these farmers and ensure food security. The GIZ (a German development cooperation agency) programme Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector (GIAE), as part of the German cooperation funded by BMZ (German federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development), contributes to the KULIMA project through ensuring the availability and use of the expertise and relevant innovations and technologies from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). One of the measures under KULIMA programme is the establishment of Farmer Field Schools. KULIMA-School Without Walls is a captivating documentary about CGIARs’ contribution to the KULIMA programme. It portrays farmers, scientists and extension officers making these schools possible. It shows the concept behind the schools, demonstrates innovative farming practices and invites more farmers to join. Learn how improved agricultural technologies, meeting the needs of Malawian smallholder farmers, are identified, produced and disseminated through Farmer Field Schools by the CGIAR research centers and other implementing partners. The virtual premiere of this documentary has been scheduled on Friday, May 7, 2021 at 8:30 PM, Malawi time. The event will be covered live on Zodiak TV and Facebook pages of KULIMA Movie, Zodiak Online and European Union in Malawi.
ENHANCING COVID-19 PREVENTION FOR RURAL FARMING HOUSEHOLDS: GOVERNMENT OF MALAWI, FAO AND UNICEF PROVIDE HAND WASHING AND INFORMATION RESOURCES TO COMMUNITIES WITH EU SUPPORT
The Government of Malawi in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are currently working to enhance water, sanitation and hygiene practices for COVID-19 awareness and prevention among farming communities. They are facilitating this through provision of handwashing buckets, soaps and information materials to rural farming communities. The items are valued at $950,000 and are being funded by the European Union (EU).
“With the distribution of inputs such as buckets and soaps for handwashing coupled with additional information materials to enhance personal protection, it is expected that households adopt better preventive behaviour and can continue engaging with food production and nutrition activities,” said Luis Amaya Ortiz, Head of Project Coordination at FAO.
Following rapid development of the pandemic in December 2020, Malawi has since been overwhelmed by a second wave of COVID-19. An increase in confirmed cases and related deaths due to the pandemic led the government to reinstitute measures such as restrictions to movement, mass gatherings and a six-week school closure period.
In this context, availability of hand washing supplies and increased awareness of COVID-19 and its consequences to human health remain important for preventing spread of the disease and for promoting safe behaviours among communities not only in urban, but also in rural areas. These are also critical to reinforce behavioural change communication and continuity of activities being implemented under the EU-funded KULIMA and Afikepo programmes, which are aimed at improving agricultural productivity and ultimately, food and nutrition security.
KULIMA and Afikepo are being implemented through outreach platforms of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and care groups, where activities involve extensive group interactions. Measures have been implemented to reduce numbers in routine meetings and field activities following government protocols as well as emphasizing physical distancing and use of masks. Rebecca Phiri, a community based facilitator for Alinafe FFS in Kasungu district, confirms however that lack of handwashing facilities for group activities has been a challenge.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our groups used to meet regularly, but since the coming of this disease and the knowledge we gained about the disease, things changed. Being able to protect ourselves was difficult especially once away from home. The idea of getting together in groups without protective equipment has been frightening,” she said confirming that the buckets and soaps will make a difference.
For farmers such as Rebecca, the rain-fed season is the time when agricultural and field learning activities are intensified. Fear of risks associated with physical meetings without adequate protection pose a setback to farmer learning within her farmer field school.
Maria Kambulo a care promoter in Nkhotakota district says that she was in same predicament and that having dedicated handwashing material will help with reducing risk of transmission during meetings. She voluntarily supports two care groups, each with ten cluster leaders who themselves voluntarily support eight to ten households with nutrition and related issues.
“The posters and leaflets, in our own language, will help us to continue raising awareness of the pandemic to households, just as the leaflets will be useful for awareness of community members who may not have heard about it yet,” she said.
The provisions include 52,951 handwashing buckets to care group volunteers and 1,000 units for farmer field schools, 799,820 bars of soap for hand washing and 52,000 posters and 470,000 leaflets. Overall, the initiative aims to improve awareness of COVID-19 and contribute to prevention of transmission for 578,455 households in the 14 districts of Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba, Nkhatabay, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Salima, Chiradzulu, Thyolo, Mulanje, Phalombe, Zomba, Neno and Blantyre rural.
This distribution is part of the ongoing efforts that project partners have carried out since July 2020 under the National COVID-19 Response Plan launched by the Government. Previous efforts include awareness drives using road shows, community radio stations, and orientation sessions about the pandemic.
According to the Public Health Institute of Malawi, the first cases of COVID-19 in Malawi were initially confirmed in April 2020. To date, Malawi has conducted 209,096 tests for COVID-19, and has had recorded 32,894 confirmed cases and 1,088 deaths. The country received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, 360,000 doses, on 5 March 2020.
The Ministry of Agriculture through the Department of Crops Development (DCD) is this week conducting monitoring and surveillance of migratory pests on rainfed crops in KULIMA implementing districts. Fall armyworm and African Armyworm are the migratory pests that pose a significant threat on national food security. The districts being visited include Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba North, Salima, Mulanje, Thyolo and Chiradzulu. The picture below shows one the teams interacting with farmers from Bwengu EPA in Mzimba North.
Tikondane farmer field school (FFS) members of Mtipasonjo village, group Mbalame, T/A Kadewere in Chiradzulu District, are singing joyful songs after one year of joining farmer field school. The members joined farmer field school in October 2019. The members wanted to address the problem of dryness in their field during winter season and fall army worm damages. During the 2019/2020 season the group did studies focusing on fall armyworm management. In the just ended winter season, the group applied lessons from the study of using neem on fall armyworm. Over the years, most of the members have been experiencing dryness in fields during winter such that, whenever they have irrigated the moisture was not staying for long hours during the day. This caused them to spend much of their time watering the crops for almost each and every day and others twice a day.
The members with the help of community-based facilitator designed two plots one with residue cover and the other with no cover. These plots were in 10m by 20m in size and they planted maize on a spacing of 75cm ridges, 25cm between planting stations and one plant per planting station. This practice of planting one plant per station was not their way of planting maize but they also learnt from the KULIMA BETTER project. The group meet once every week to collect data on the studies using agro-ecosystem analysis (AESA) tool that also helps them to make good decisions.
“We always come early in the morning once every week to collect field data. Basically, we will measure how the crop is growing and monitor pest and diseases.
The FFS have now completed the study and according to the data they were collecting they can see that the covering field can conserve moisture as they have seen witnessed themselves. After gaining the knowledge the school invited non-members from the surrounding villages to share with them what they have learnt but the only thing that limited the numbers was corvid 19 which made the school to only invite few people from each village. “Am very happy for what my people are learning from this project and I am pleading with ActionAid to spread the FFS in the whole area, myself I love to join in one of these schools” said GVH Mbalame
The FFS has now harvested the field, from the covered plot they got 149kg and 119kg on un mulched plot. The FFS have agreed that each member should have covered field to practice what they have learnt and see if this is indeed working on conserving the moisture.
The low fertility exacerbated by soil degradation has affected many farmers in Malawi. Farmers work hard by doing all they can to have a bumper yield but end up being frustrated. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Namanya of Traditional Authority Ntchema, Group Village Headman Masauli in Chiradzulu District were also among many farmers who never made ends meet due to low production. “For the past many years, I and my wife had been harvesting less than 5 fifty kilogram bags of maize from our half acres piece of land despite applying the required efforts” explained a frustrated 26 year old Namanya.
When KULIMA BETTER was introduced in Chiradzulu district, Namanya joined Tiyese FFS in 2018. During that year’s growing season, Tiyese FFS did a study to compare maize variety performance by comparing Mapasa (DK8033), Mkango (SC627) and Kanyani (SC 403) maize varieties. During their studies, they found out that Mkango maize variety when planted one per planting station performed better than the others e three.
Namanyas realised that they were not producing much due to poor farming practices of planting 4 seeds per planting station which according to him, increased food competition among plants as he learnt from Tiyese FFS studies. “In the past years, I was planting 4 and at some planting stations 5 which I was thinking it would increase harvest from my half acres land. Little did I know that I was shooting myself on the foot” groaned Namanya, a father of 4.
Namanya made a decision to plant one plant per planting station at the spacing of 25cm between plants and 75cm between ridges. They both agreed to practice the technology on a quarter acres of their half acres land. Namanya and his wife replicated the procedure he learnt from Tiyese FFS during 2018/2019 growing season.
“This year, using the same piece of land and farm inputs we had been using, we are expected harvest not less than twelve 50 kilogram bags of maize comparing to 5 harvested in previous year. On a quarter acres land, we planted one plant per planting station, we expect to harvest twice as much than on another quarter where we planted 4 per station. This has been possible because there was reduced competition of food among plants on the side we planted one plant per station” added smilingly the joyful Namanya.
“This year we are planning to cover the whole piece of land with the new planting technology so that we harvest more and part of it will be sold for us to roof our house with iron sheets” revealed a 25 year old optimistic mother of 4 .
For a long time, winter production had been a challenge for Edward Tchuwa, a farmer and Community Based Facilitator for Tigwirizane Farmer Field School in Mwitha section under Mjinge EPA in Mzimba district. This is despite the availability of vast land with adequate residue moisture which can sustain production of crops. “Since I started winter production, I never regarded it to be my source of food and income due to very low yields I had been experiencing in the past,” recalls Edward. He has recently realized that the poor yields were because of the poor production practices where he believed that the wetlands have adequate soil fertility from the grass residues that are buried during land preparation hence no need for additional fertilization.
During the 2019 winter season, the group conducted a study on soil fertility management where it compared impact of different methods of manure application on vegetable production. The first treatment involved applying compost manure on the planting station against applying manure on the whole bed. “The results showed that application of compost manure on the planting station provided good nutrition to the crop hence a healthy crop and better yield,’ he says. Tchuwa and group decided to adapt this method to maize production and the results were encouraging. He says the members have also learnt that compost manure if well prepared gives the crop adequate nutrients hence reduce cost of production. With their sandy soils, the farmers also noted that compost manure improved water holding capacity which is important for crop production.
Following the study results, Tchuwa and 9 other farmers have adopted the practice for their household production. For 2020 winter season, he has planted vegetables, maize and tomato. From the vegetable production, he has already managed to realize MWK 35,000.00 which he has set aside to buy fertilizer for the summer growing season. His maize crop looks very healthy and is expected to mature in the coming month. “I will sell green cobs and expecting to realize over MWK100,000.00,” he confides about his plans. The tomato is still very far but I also know that they will do better with this method. Tchuwa is not resting. He has added 3 more plots of maize expected to mature at different times.
Looking forward he visions a better future for his household. “With what I have already experienced so far, I am geared to produce more,” concluding that “I am confident that my household will never experience food insecurity anymore because I have discovered a big secret to crop production.”. He also continues to reach out to other farmers who have been amazed by what he has achieved and shares with them his secret.
Plan International is implementing the Kulima BETTER project in collaboration with Self Help Africa with financial support from the European Union. The project aims at increasing resilience, food, nutrition and income security among the smallholder farmers.
By Pauline Mbukwa
Old habits die hard the saying goes but as for Evelesi Mwale,42 from Kamkwinya village T/A Kaomba in Kasungu she has said bye to her traditional way of planting three seeds per planting station to one maize seed per planting station.
“I first learnt about one-to-one maize planting system also known as Sasakawa through Tayamba Farmer field school. I joined the school in 2019 where I also learnt how to make Mbeya manure which helps in improving soil fertility.”
In the last farming season of 2019/2020 Mwale harvested 27 bags on a 0.4 hectares land, and this season she is expecting to harvest double of what she harvested last season.
“Mbeya manure has really worked wonders on my field. As you can see the leaves are very green and health and I have been inspecting for pest and diseases but only a few crops are infested with Fall armyworm.
Mwale applies the sand to the maize funnel to kill the fall armyworms, she says this method does not cost her anything and is effective in killing the pest.
“When I harvest my maize, I will save some for food and will sell some bags so that I can pay school fees for my children. I will not stop making Mbeya manure even after the project ends because I have seen the benefits,” says Mwale.
The Agriculture Extension Development Officer for the area, Boswell Lumwira says Mwale is a role model in her village.
“She is one of the dedicated and committed members of at Tayamba FFS. People are to learning about the benefits of Mbeya manure through her field,’’ concludes Lumwira.
EU, FAO AND GOVERNMENT JOIN HANDS IN DISTRIBUTING 3,600 METRIC TONS OF FERTILIZER TO 45,000 HOUSEHOLDS UNDER THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY RESPONSE INITIATIVE
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malawi have contributed to disruption of food systems, agri-value chains, extension service provision and an overall slowdown in economic activities, posing a strain on farmers’ ability to invest in or afford farm inputs which they sorely need for agricultural production.
With financial support from the European Union (EU) through its on-going programmes and contingency funds, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has distributed 3,600 metric tons of fertilizer, comprising NPK and Urea, to 45,000 farming households in 14 districts across Malawi, in order to support productive farming activities in the 2020/2021 rain-fed season.
Speaking of the importance of supporting farmers with inputs, FAO Representative, Zhijun Chen said:
“COVID-19 presents a complex environment where operating safely has meant reduced contact among farmer groups affecting the extension services, disruptions to marketing activities, making farm inputs difficult to access and slowing down overall economic activities. This has led to loss of income for farmers with whom FAO is working. These inputs are aimed at cushioning farming households to reduce the risk of hunger and malnutrition resulting from low food productivity and production.”
The fertilizer procurement and distribution has been made possible through funding of USD 3 400 000, provided under the KULIMA Programme contingency fund and a further USD 890 000, through reprogramming of ongoing EU-funded projects KULIMA and ‘Strengthening Community Resilience to Climate Change in Blantyre, Zomba, Neno and Phalombe districts’.
The two projects support improved productivity and strengthened resilience to shocks resulting from climate change, respectively. They are being implemented in the districts of Chiradzulu, Thyolo, Mulanje, Phalombe, Zomba, Blantyre, Neno, in the south, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Salima, in the centre, and Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba, and Nkhatabay in the North. The fertilizer distribution has therefore been to farmers that the projects are supporting in these districts.
One of the recipients of the fertilizer, Evelyn Savala, of Weremu village, Traditional Authority Ndalama in Thyolo district confirms that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her regular economic activities and that the fertilizer received will fill a gap to help secure food and nutrition for her household.
“I of course managed to source fertilizer on my own, but it is not enough to cover what I need for the size of my field. Money has been hard to find, our businesses have not gone well this year because of this disease, with what FAO has given with EU support I am thankful because I am confident that my household will have adequate food and we will not go hungry,” she says.
The support is part of FAO’s COVID 19 emergency response initiative, which is a part of the wider Government of Malawi national emergency response plan of 2020 (Agriculture Cluster).
The distribution of fertilizers which took place between December 2020 and January 2021, has also been supported by Government of Malawi Ministry of Agriculture, relevant district councils, the Auditor General’s office, who provided logistical support, making available to FAO, 11 trucks to ensure that the input delivery was seamless.