The National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), with support from the Norwegian Embassy and the Irish AID, has been promoting conservation agriculture (CA) for more than 12 years among smallholder farmers as a way of helping them realise more from their fields with minimal inputs in this era of climate change. Some CA practices also safeguard smallholder farmers from crop failure in the event of dry spells as has been the case in the 2017/18 growing season.
Griffins and Esther Soko, smallholder farmers from Balaka, are all smiles this year as pit planting coupled with ground cover methods of CA have helped them overcome the impact of dry spells that hit the country, more particularly some parts of Balaka district.
The couple, which comes from Phalula Extension Planning Area (EPA), and operating under the NASFAM umbrella, through Balaka Cotton Association, has been practicing CA on their one acre field since 2012 when they first learnt about the methods.
Said Griffins: “Before, we used to spend our time in other peoples gardens providing labour because we could not harvest enough from our field. We lived a pathetic life wondering from one field to another, in search of food.
“But the moment we were introduced to conservation agriculture, we tried it and noted a huge change in production.
Griffins says his family has been using the CA practices for more than six years now.
“As you know, this area is prone to droughts and we found these (CA) methods to be an ideal solution to the problem. Ground cover helps to conserve moisture by reducing the evaporation as the sun does not directly hit the soil, it also reduces weed germination and improves soil fertility over time. Pits on the other hand, which have been of great importance this year, help trap sufficient water giving the crop enough moisture during the dry periods,” added Griffins.
Esther says she is not worried about food this year because their crop has survived the dry spells that characterised the country.