Skip to content

Climate Smart Practices in Malawi

Climate smart techniques are already being practiced in Malawi, though countrywide figures are difficult to come by, the main techniques promoted to sustainably increase agriculture production are agroforestry and conservation agriculture (Grist, 2014). Agroforestry has been in use in Malawi for a number of decades, and it is estimated that there are 500,000 farmers practicing agroforestry, using Faidherbia, trees (Garrity et al., 2010). Conservation agriculture practices, such as min tillage, are being practiced in Malawi, and the Malawian government, in it's Agriculture Sector Wide Approach, has identified conservation agriculture as priority, given its high productivity, adaptation, and mitigation potential (Asfaw et al., 2014).

Only 15 to 18 per cent of land suitable for irrigation is currently being irrigated in Malawi (ibid). Irrigation is more common among larger commercial farms, with 84 per cent of farmers relying on rain-fed agriculture only, meaning that the potential for irrigation in Malawi is particularly high (Kaczan et al., 2013). The Malawian government has recognised the potential for irrigation and has introduced the Green Belt Initiative (GBI), which it hopes will be Malawi’s answer to increased drought and dry periods (Wiyo & Mtethiwa, 2013). The initiative will be implemented on a national scale anywhere that exists vast arable land and perennial water sources that can be utilised for irrigation (ibid). The GBI is targeting one million ha of land, compared with the modest 90,000 ha of currently irrigated land (ibid).

Farmers in Malawi also diversify cropping by cultivating crops that confer drought resistance, such as sweet potato and cassava (Mwase et al., 2013). However, the Farm Input Subsidies Programme (FISP) has had a negative impact in terms of diversification of crops due to an expansion in acreage of maize (FISP supplies smallholders with subsidised maize and fertiliser) (ibid). Maize production incentives have meant that legumes, cassava, and sweet potato are now being cultivated on 21 per cent less land (ibid).

The Malawian livestock sector is not very large, but reduction of grazing land has meant that the practice of “Zero Grazing” (ZG) is already taking place in parts of Malawi (Banda et al., 2012). ZG is a viable practice for smallholder farmers as it emphasizes a reduction in farmers’ herds while improving the overall milk yield, thus reducing the overall carbon footprint of dairy production (Osumba & Rioux, 2015).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *