Crop Diversification and Irrigation can help smallholder farmers build resilience to climate change effects

Eliza Banda Sorting her Soya produce

Eliza Banda, 28, is a smallholder farmer from Mathambo Village, T/A Mabulabo, Mzimba. Together with her husband, she looks after a family of six.

 As a smallholder farmer, she has had challenges in making ends meet for a good number of years. She has been farming since 2008 but made very little progress due to lack of support and necessary skills, but now she has a different story.

 Eliza lives along a perennial stream, which has now been developed into a scheme called Katope. She however did not think of making use of such water to generate additional income for her family, except for washing of clothes.

It was until 2010, when she decided to use the water for irrigation purposes, joining other, improved livelihood seeking, smallholder farmers.

Since she made that decision, the months of April to December are no longer idle and unproductive months. She is actively engaged in production of various crops. She now harvests 3 times a year as opposed to once.

“During the off season, I produce tomato, Irish Potatoes and other vegetables at least twice, between April and December. Ever since I started this practice, things have greatly improved. I am now able to save some money for other investments.

“For example, I managed to buy a pig, which now has two piglets; I have bought two bulls and a cart, to ease transportation; and I have also managed to mould 20,000 bricks which I will use to construct a bigger house,” said Eliza.

Eliza's Pigs

The National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), with support from the Irish Aid, is helping smallholder farmers build resilience against climate change by providing adaptation skills and solutions that will enable them remain productive in the wake of climate change.

Promoting irrigation farming is one of the many interventions NASFAM utilises to ensure smallholder farmers do not only rely on rain-fed agriculture for their farming business.

In addition to promoting irrigation, NASFAM also promotes crop diversification. With crop diversification, it enables smallholder farmers safeguard themselves from unpredictable rainfall patterns that sometimes lead to crop failure, as well as unstable prices and market failure for some crops. Diversification allows farmers widen their income sources.

Eliza has also benefited from crop diversification.

“Before NASFAM introduced me to soya bean in some three years ago, I never knew that soya can be an alternative crop for generating additional income for my family. Since then, I have been producing soya each year. In the first season (2015/16) I realized about Mk150, 000 from the crop.

“Income from soya sales has become capital for maize production, I buy fertilizer with it. This has helped my family become more food secure,” said Eliza.

With four children under her care, Eliza is certain that if the income base she has now from her farming business continues, her children will not fail to attain a good education due to lack of financial resources.

“I have four children. I would like to see them get as far as they can with their education. I am certain that if I continue to produce three times in a year, with a good price, I will be able to support their dreams,” added Eliza.

Eliza’s story is an example of how NASFAM works with smallholder farmers, through proper programming, helping them sustainably improve their livelihoods by building their capacity and providing a platform that enables them utilise locally available resources and opportunities to lift themselves out of the poverty cycle.

Editor’s NOTE:

NASFAM, with funding from Irish Aid, is implementing a programme aimed at: Enhancing smallholder productivity and returns through climate-smart agriculture practices in Malawi with an overall objective of improving sustainable crop production, productivity and marketing through adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices. The main focus is on sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes, increasing farmers’ resilience to adverse weather conditions brought by climate change and mitigating some of the causes of climate change in Mzimba, Kasungu, Zomba, Balaka and Lilongwe districts.