Responding to drought in Malawi
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CTA. 2003. Responding to drought in Malawi. Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/04. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57314
A senior agricultural officer describes the steps being taken by the extension services in Malawi to enable farmers overcome the challenge of drought
Cue: In recent years, poor rains have seriously damaged food production in much of southern and Central Africa, and the country of Malawi is no exception. But is there anything that small-scale farmers in these areas can do to reduce the impact of drought, or will they be forced to depend on imported food? Nelson Mataka, a senior Malawian agricultural officer who works with farmers living close to the capital, Lilongwe, believes that maintaining food production requires diversification. Farmers must increase the variety, both of the food and fodder crops they grow, and also of the water harvesting and irrigation technologies they use. He explained to Excello Zidana some of the ideas that he and his colleagues are promoting in response to drought. IN: ?One of the things we? OUT: ?shortage of grasses.? DUR?N 3?39? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Nelson Mataka ending with some advice for livestock farmers on how to diversify their range of animal feeds when faced with poor rains. Transcript Mataka One of the things we are advising our farmers is to adopt conservation measures which will assist them to harvest as much water as possible and be able to keep it in the soil, in order to recharge soil moisture. Among the measures also, we are advising our farmers to diversify their production. There are within the crops a number of them that are drought tolerant. We are talking about crops like cassava, sweet potatoes, those crops stand up to stress when there is a dry spell, so instead of relying on crops like maize only, which are hit most times when there are dry spells, we are promoting the planting of these crops. Zidana Before you go further, you talked about rainfall harvesting. Can you elaborate on that one? Mataka These are the technologies that will enable farmers to capture rainfall water, and then be able to store it. They could store it in reservoirs, they could store it in constructed tanks, they could even store it within the soil, and therefore be able to contain it, for the use of either domestic or we could use it for crop production. Zidana The principle of irrigation is now spread in Malawi. Is it part of the intervention to make farmers keep on producing more ? Mataka For sure Mr. Zidana, irrigation is one of the technologies that we are actually advocating, and we are promoting it intensively in order to mitigate this problem of drought, which is occurring very frequently nowadays. At the moment the Ministry is promoting the use of treadle pumps. We are also encouraging or promoting the use of water impounding, where rivers could be dammed, and then the water that has been collected could be used for irrigation, through the construction of canals which are meant to divert water from the reservoirs to the fields, and then farmers can use it. Zidana What about livestock feeds? Because shortage of rainfall definitely will result in having insufficient grass growing. What things are you telling farmers to be doing, so that at least livestock should be getting sufficient feeds? Mataka This problem is a chain reaction. You are right, if we don?t have rains it means we also have problems with our livestock sector. What we are encouraging our farmers is to deliberately plant exotic grasses, like Rhodes grass. They can feed the animals whilst fresh, they can also cut the grass and dry it and make hay from it. They could also make silage from Rhodes grass. Apart from Rhodes grass we are also encouraging the farmers to plant Napier, this is elephant grass. We are also encouraging them to make use of the by-products of crops like maize, by keeping maize bran; they could use it as a supplemental feed for the animals. Also we are encouraging them to collect all the crop residues, most especially maize stalks, as well as groundnut straw. Let them store them in very good places, dry places, and they could be able to use those in cases where there are shortage of grasses. End of track.