By: Vincent Nhlema
Climate change continues to heap misery on human life each passing year. Floods, dry spells, intermittent rainfall, heatwaves and famine, among others, have become so rampant in recent years. More action is needed to address the root cause at community, national and global level.
Greenhouse gases continue to contaminate the atmosphere each passing day, leading to global warming. The effects however, are mainly felt by smallholder farmers who solely depend on water and land to feed their households.
With the unpredictable rains, smallholder farmers’ households are at pains each year with uncertainty over how the year will turn out with regard to climatic conditions. They are not sure whether they will have sufficient and reliable rains for their crops. In a country where only a handful have access to weather information, most smallholder farmers approach the season with faith. They approach the agriculture season hoping that the heavens will work in their favour even when it is certain that the season will be characterised by dry spells due to climate change.
It has become more difficult and sometimes impossible for smallholder farmers to plan. All they can do is wait for fate to take its course, hoping governments and aid organisations will come to their rescue if the farming season doesn’t turnout in their favour.
It is such undesired status that make organisations like the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM), find ways of relieving smallholder farmers from the pain and misery inflicted by climate change.
With support from its partners, the Irish Aid and the Norwegian Embassy, NASFAM is geared to see rural communities become more resilient to climate change effects through promotion of climate smart agriculture (CSA) adoption at village level.
“With this approach, we identify a village that is willing to adopt CSA practices such as agricultural diversification in both crop and livestock production, use of sustainable land and water management practices, and use of energy saving technologies,” said Dr Betty Chinyamunyamu, NASFAM Chief Executive Officer.
As to what birthed the idea, Chinyamunyamu said, “We have come to understand that in a community, if efforts to address climate change are done by one person among the many, such efforts are usually undone by others who do not see the value of such actions. Where the whole community or village is involved, the story is different. When a community shares the goal, everyone plays their part in ensuring that community efforts are jealously guarded. There is sense of ownership and they share the benefits. I feel this is one of the best approaches to addressing climate change effects at community level”.
Beatrice Makwenda, Head of Policy and Communication, NASFAM, says the organisation has made strides in selling the idea to communities and some have already adopted the concept.
She said “Within a period of two years, NASFAM has managed to establish some model villages in Lilongwe, Mzimba, Dowa, and Zomba. The success of such initiatives solely depends on the reception by the community. They must first appreciate the problem climate change has brought to their community and must be willing to adjust the way they do things for them to experience change.”
Ownership is a key component is ensuring success of this approach. It requires active involvement of chiefs and other community leaders throughout. Community leaders are required to provide some land where group activities can be undertaken which may include demonstration sites, and forestry sites among others.
“Chiefs are key in the entire process as they must lead in instituting by-laws that would guide operations of community members with regard to forest management, livestock management, and water resource management among others, to ensure that everyone operates within the agreed laws for the village to achieve their set goal in mitigating climate change effects.
“For example, under this initiative, we encourage communities to engage in small-scale irrigation/winter farming in areas where they have water resources such as rivers or streams; we also promote farmer managed natural trees regeneration, as well as afforestation for both fruit and non-fruit trees; as well as livestock production and other area specific interventions. For this to work properly, the community must put in place some by-laws that will safeguard these initiatives while at the same time not affecting the community’s livelihood negatively,” added Makwenda.
NASFAM intends to upscale the initiative to other districts under a five year campaign dubbed “Dziko Lathu Nthaka Yathu” (loosely translated as “Our Land, Our Soils) which was launched in 2016 with the aim of bringing everyone on board in developing and implementing sustainable climate change adaptation measures.