To help the growing number of Malawians effected by droughts, floods and emerging pests and diseases, a climate-resilience project is scaling out tailored weather technologies and advisory services to smallholders.
Weather-based index insurance, drought tolerant seeds and ICT-enabled weather information services are some of the approaches and technologies that are being promoted and scaled up through a climate-resilience project in Malawi. With the support of CTA, the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM) has been implementing the Scaling-Up Climate-Resilient Solutions (CRS) project since 2017, and has so far reached 65,000 farmers, most of them women.
Across the five project districts of Mchinji, Mzimba, Nkhota Kota, Ntchisi and Zomba, CRS developed a prototype weather-based insurance index to demonstrate the benefits of weather-based insurance to smallholders. “It has the potential to build the resilience of smallholder farmers by providing a pay-out in bad years to help farmers survive and protect their assets. And through the promotion of drought resistant seeds, we ensure seed availability to smallholder farmers at affordable prices, and sustain seed demand among them,” says Wycliffe Kumwenda, head of NASFAM’s farm services unit.
Also helping to increase the climate resilience of the farmers are tailored weather forecasts and agricultural advisory services relating to specific crops and locations, which are sent to farmers through their mobile phones. Once digitally registered with the project, the farmers can use the information received to sequence their cropping activities, for example, planting when the rains are anticipated.
The availability of drought-tolerant maize at farmer level in Malawi is low, with most agro-dealers operating in urban areasfar from smallholder villages. To address this issue, NASFAM has intensified seed fairs at the village level, which have also demonstrated the demand for seed varieties to local agro-dealers and seed companies. Since 2017, over 4,100 smallholder farmers have attended the seed fairs which are held each year.
Farmers are also receiving training in conservation agriculture techniques, which is helping to enhance their productivity. “I started practising conservation agriculture in 2013 when I saw a drop in my soil fertility. The use of holes dug in the ground and mulching helped me improve my yields. I used to harvest 15 bags (50 kg) of maize from my plot; now I have 40 bags,” says Mtonga, who also grows drought tolerant groundnuts and pigeon peas on her 8 ha plot.