The National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) a local farmers organization, has formed partnerships with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) in the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining which is mandated to produce and disseminate weather and climate information in Malawi, and other stakeholders in order to improve smallholder farmer resilience to climate change through the "Scaling up Climate Resilient Solutions for smallholder farmers in Malawi project".
Increased access to weather information
This partnership aims at making weather information accessible for utilization by smallholder farmers. The initiative is an innovative method of sending weather information through mobile phone text message platform to all registered smallholder farmers in three districts namely; Mchinji, Ntchisi and South Mzimba.
Prior to the season, the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services shares the seasonal forecasts in English and Chichewa for NASFAM to send as text messages to over 40,000 smallholder farmers. This allows farmers to be aware of the outlook of the entire season for their respective district and make informed decisions as they get ready for the season.
Improved access to certified drought resistant seeds
NASFAM has gone a step further in improving farmer resilience by raising awareness of available maize varieties in the country through partnerships with local agro dealers. NASFAM and local agro dealers organize seed fairs/shows where different seed varieties are displayed allowing knowledge transfer plus core learning between agro dealers and farmers. Through these platforms, agro dealers learn and appreciate the needs and challenges of farmers while farmers get to know what is available of the market and how they can utilize such drought tolerant seeds to reduce the impact of climate change on their harvest.
Translating and utilization of weather forecast by farmers
Access to weather information and ability to choose the right seed for the season helps smallholder farmers decide which variety is suitable based on the seasonal rainfall outlook. If the seasonal forecast shows the district will have above normal rainfall, a farmer will have the liberty to buy and plant medium to late maturing maize crop. When the seasonal forecast shows below normal rainfall, then farmers can opt to plant Drought Tolerant (DT) maize seed.
From the beginning of the rainy season, farmers receive area specific text messages on weekly weather forecast. As a result, farmers make informed decisions as to when they can undertake activities such as planting, fertilizer application, and weeding among others.
Farmers now have less anxiety as they can sequence their cropping patterns with the weather forecast, thus minimizing the crop loss that is caused by dry spells or excessive rainfall.
The project has brought significant benefits. Before it started, farmers’ seed choice was based on what is available on the market. After the interventions, seed choice is now based on its suitability to the seasonal forecast.
CTA has partnered with local organizations in implementing tailored projects to combat climate change and its impact across six regions namely, Caribbean, West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and the Pacific with funding from the European Union. CTA directly reaches out to 700,000 farmers. In Malawi, the project commenced in November 2017 and will wind off in December 2019.