The KULIMA Better Extension Training Transforming Economic Returns (BETTER) project in Malawi, funded by the European Union, with Self Help Africa as the lead agency, has recently completed its five year lifespan.
The project’s main aim was promoting sustainable agricultural growth to increase incomes, employment, food and nutrition security for over 400,000 small holder farmers in Malawi, within the context of a changing climate.
KULIMA was designed to support smallholder farmers with access to improved crop varieties, efficient farming methods, and market linkages. The project also focuses on empowering women through training, knowledge sharing and resources to become successful farmers and entrepreneurs. Women made up 60% of the people reached through KULIMA BETTER.
One of the most important aspects of the KULIMA BETTER project was has been the establishment of Farmer Field Schools (FFS). These schools provide a platform for smallholder farmers to share knowledge and learn from each other. Farmers are trained in a range of topics, including crop management, post-harvest handling, and pesticide management. By sharing their experiences, farmers are able to learn from and improve their farming practices and, as a result, increase productivity.
KULIMA BETTER also promoted the planting of crops suited to the local environment as well as the use of climate-smart agriculture techniques such as water conservation, intercropping, agroforestry and pest and disease management. The use of natural pesticides to repel crop-damaging pests like the fall army-worm is one example of this which you can see in our video.
The making of mbeya manure from animal waste – which works as a cost-free and effective fertiliser – is another great climate-smart technique taught in Farmer Field Schools across Malawi. “Since Urea fertiliser is expensive and for us to make sure farming is profitable, we are providing lessons on how to make mbyeya manure using your own materials” saidstated Ellen Ngoma, master trainer.
Selecting crops and livestock suited to the climate and landscapes of each district was an important consideration. “Knowing the types of crops to grow that will suit our environment was the main challenge” explained Kwanja Nyirenda, a community based facilitator who helped organise poultry production with his local Farmer Field School – helping them to improve income and food security.
Meanwhile, members of Chimwemwe Farmer Field School harnessed the power of the sun by creating a solar dryer to preserve vegetables. “Preserved vegetables are very important because we need them when they become scarce” said Davie Kafwamba, a member of the field school. Farmers were also provided with seed for drought-tolerant crops that can withstand extended periods of hot, dry weather, helping adapt to the effects of climate change.
The project has increased climate-smart practices and the variety of crops by introducing sweet potato, groundnuts, soybeans and more. Mainstreaming of gender in the Farmer Field Schools has resulted in improved gender relations at household level – empowering women by increasing financial independence and sharing access to the household’s assets.
KULIMA BETTER recognises that food security, income generation, and gender equality are all interconnected, and that addressing these issues separately will not lead to effective sustainable development. By taking a multi-faceted approach, the project has been able to achieve significant impact in the communities where it has been implemented.