Sunday, February 26, 2012

A tough season for Malawi growers

Pictured below, maize is ripped to shreds by wind, rain, and hail.

Malawi has experienced a worse rainy season this year. Rains started falling in the late days of December last year and were poorly distributed across the region. Most areas had continued dry spells up to the middle of January. Maize planted in December, dried up due to unconducive temperatures for the germinating maize. However, farmers didn’t give up; they replanted in January to at least harvest something at the end of the rainy season. Few weeks after replanting, rains started falling heavily, affecting some areas in the southern part of Malawi with floods. In other areas where maize was about to tassel, heavy rain drops tore maize leaves to pieces. This situation has left farmers expectation in akimbo. Rain-fed farming ends in March and its likely that those affected will face hunger.

These are some of the unexpected situations that have prompted AWP to help rural communities understand climate change and its underlying challenges. AWP is there to teach farmers how to build low cost irrigation pumps; AWP is promoting conservation farming which is among the proven sustainable strategy in mitigating climate change issues that have hit food security; and is also encouraging small scale farmers to partake in irrigation farming and grow supplementary crops that would help in increasing availability of diverse foods at the household level.

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Ways of Farming

Farmers in Malawi sometimes fall into a narrow view of what farming is. The typical view of farming might be something like: "dig, sow, weed, harvest".

That's a nice start but we re trying to encourage farmers to see a wide variety of activities as fitting into their farming practices. There's composting, budgeting and planing, marketing, seed storage, irrigation, pest control, among others. While farmers with the more basic understanding of farming still practice these other farm activities, the farmers don't consider them essential and tend to make them last-minute afterthoughts.

With some training we are encouraging farmers to see a big picture of what they do on their farms. Farmers are beginning to see the connections between their rain-fed crops and their irrigated gardens. They have taken an interest in seed selection and storage. And they have emphatically adopted composting and mulching.

One farmer leads the way by preparing compost far in advance:

Other farmers learn how to compact soil in preparation for a water tank:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Agriculture Extension Demo

Joining government extension officers, we travelled to a small village 10km from Mziza to demonstrate a pedal pump, promote winter cropping, and sensitize the community about trainings we will conduct with them at our demo garden. Farmers were full of questions, which we will pick up on in April when they join us at the demo.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rains, rains, come and stay...

We are in the midst of the rainy season (December-April), here in Malawi. For us in the irrigation business this means a lot of preparation and shop work. We are using this time to refine some old designs and get our pumps ready for March to April installations.

The sooner the better, I should say, because for farmers in Lilongwe district the rains have been a bit insufficient; maize yields will be low, preserved vegetables will not last. We have already started advising farmers to shore up their food supplies by planting tubers like sweet potato, potato, and cassava, in the dambo areas. Farmers have also been provided with okra, cow pea, pigeon pea, and butter bean seeds from the AWP seed collection.