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CTA. 1994. Tackling malnutrition. Spore 53. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49489
Malnutrition, especially protein deficiency among children, continues to affect many rural areas in Malawi. Poverty, exacerbated by declining soil fertility, erosion and drought, has lead to many poor households being unable to meet their...
Malnutrition, especially protein deficiency among children, continues to affect many rural areas in Malawi. Poverty, exacerbated by declining soil fertility, erosion and drought, has lead to many poor households being unable to meet their subsistence requirements. Government programmes promoted hybrid maize, which requires expensive seed and fertilizers to achieve high yields. Credit schemes were established to provide these inputs, yet failure to repay loans lead to reprisals and resulted in farmers avoiding such schemes. Through its pastoral network the Christian Service Committee of the Churches in Malawi (CSC) recognized these problems and established its Pilot Agricultural Programme. Ten Agricultural Development Workers, each covering around 50 congregations, were deployed in eight districts under the supervision of an Agricultural Advisor. The objective was to show that churches can be an effective channel for disseminating agricultural messages - particularly to women. To achieve this, it was necessary to demonstrate, and have accepted, appropriate agricultural practices that are suited to the needs of the community. Soya beans are a palatable, readily accepted, protein source and a particularly valuable food for young children. However, they are not widely grown since the need to inoculate seed with rhizobium before planting requires a high labour input. To overcome this, a local variety known as 'Magoye' was used, which is self-inoculating using rhizobia found naturally in the soil. Yields reaching 1,000 kg/ha under smallholder conditions indicate that soya beans can match the energy production of maize grown under similar conditions, while producing a valuable protein supplement and maintaining soil fertility. To improve soil fertility and reduce the risk of erosion, the indigenous Msangu tree (Faidherbia albida) and vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) were introduced. The Msangu tree is unusual in that it drops its leaves at the start of the rains, providing a rich mulch and nutrients to the top soil. As a legume, it is capable of fixing nitrogen and its deep tap root mean that it can recycle nutrients leached below the reach of crops. The use of vetiver grass planted along the contour has also proved an effective means of reducing soil erosion. Farmers are now establishing their own Msangu nurseries and the demand for vetiver grass has exceeded supply. Charles Gondwe PO Box 51294 Limbe MALAWI
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