Malawi: Focus-Africa Researchers Advise Farmers to Devise Varied Climate Adaptation Options

A team of researchers from FOCUS-Africa has advised smallholder farmers to work closely with their agriculture extension workers in devising varied climate adaptation options to mitigate extreme weather-related damage to their crops.

The advice comes in light of the forecast weather experts under the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS) have predicted that Malawi will experience El Nino this growing season.

FOCUS-Africa is an international organization devoted to the development of sustainable tailored climate services in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, especially in areas of energy, food security, water and infrastructure sectors.

A team of five researchers from the organization and its partners from France and Spain is in Malawi to appreciate how the local smallholder farmers are coping with the effects of Tropical Cyclone Freddy.

On Monday, the team held a focus group discussion with farmers from Zomba where the farmers shared their experiences.

Speaking after the discussion, Sustainable Innovation Analyst at LGI, Sam Whittlesey, said he was extremely impressed with the level of preparedness among the farmers to avert the damage to their crops in the oncoming growing season.

He stated that the main objective of their mission to Malawi is to empower local people in Malawi to have necessary information they need so that they can adapt.

“When we ask them to prepare for the coming season, which we are expecting to be more dry, they have many adaptation techniques. They are already thinking about how they will prepare their soils to deal with lack of moisture, what crops are the most drought-tolerant and they really had a lot to learn from each other entity. So, I am really impressed with that,” said Whittlesey.

He added, “It really has to come from the people here, educating themselves and taking care of their farming so that they can farm in the best way despite the difficult circumstances and then I think also coming from United States and other developed countries they need to reduce immersions as quickly as possible, so that places like Malawi should not continue to suffer from the effects of climate change.”

In a separate interview, Dr. Dragana Bojovic from Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC) said she was happy that local farmers are undertaking various initiatives to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Bojovic said she was particularly impressed with the open and candid discussion the mission had with the farmers, extension workers as well as officials from DCCMS.

“I was very happy to be here again and to find people in Malawi and, of course, the farmers were very open and easy to connect with and to speak to so I enjoyed the discussion, we learn a lot on how farmers couple up with the recent events such as Cyclone Freddy and what it impacted and what are the plans for the coming season based on the forecasts and what they are expecting, for example how to prepare their soils to conserve water on it so that their vegetables can stay longer, as well as how they can change crops for the coming season.

“We were here to learn from farmers, to understand what are the challenges they are facing due to climate change and how they are addressing. And we want to see how this forecast we have prepared could improve their decisions and to help them in making timely decisions, but it was very interesting to see the farmers looking very eager to follow the forecasts and also respecting their previous experience and I think this is a good combination that can improve their adaptation capacity,” she said.

A researcher from Barcelona, Sara Octenjak, said the project is working on providing seasonal climate information for agriculture.

Octenjak said it is against this background that they are working with DCCMS to make seasonal climate predictions better for farmers to make sure that they are accurate, timely and effectively delivered.

“So, we came here to talk to the farmers and see how they understand the forecast and what is it that they can do to adapt to it.

“So, in terms of agricultural activities to understand better what are their adaptation options. This is why in this discussion, we focused on the forecasts for the season because it was predicted that it will be drier than normal.

“So, we wanted to explore how they will adapt to it, to make sure that the forecast is really useful to their farming activities as well as food security,” she narrated.

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