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Delegates to CSA meetingCISANET in collaboration with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and NASFAM recently held a one day policy dialogue meeting on climate smart agriculture.

The participants to the meeting discussed a case study report for the climate smart agriculture in Malawi done by FANRAPN in collaboration with the Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture. 

In Malawi 80 percent of workforce is employed in agriculture and the sector contributes about 35% of the country’s GDP and close to 90% of export earnings. Most farming is done by the resource poor rural farmers who rely on rainfall for agricultural production but dry spells and floods greatly impede agricultural production in Malawi.

In 2012, the Government of Malawi in recognition of the fact that Global Climate Change has serious implications on the food security of the country developed the National Climate Change Policy. The policy recognizes Malawi’s vulnerability to climate change; the need to promote sustainable agricultural intensification practices that increase productivity while maintaining environmental integrity and ecosystem services;  and the importance of mainstreaming gender by increasing awareness and education on linkages between population, sexual and reproductive health, gender and climate change.

In its report summary, FANRPAN notes that many technologies have been identified and introduced in Malawi but the uptake and use of these is slow.

“There are many barriers to the uptake of these, including: poverty, lack of materials and appropriate technical skills, retrogressive cultural briefs, high initial investment costs and lack of public awareness,” reads the report summary. Delegates to CSA

It observes that part of the challenge can be attributed to the fact that climate change financing in Malawi is still in its developmental stages.

During the recent policy dialogue in Lilongwe, stakeholders brainstormed various solutions to the problems which climate change has caused.

In his statement Director of Land Resource in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development John Mussa said climate change remains a challenge to food production in Malawi.John Mussa Director Land Resource

“The increase in population of people creates pressure on land and land degradation and this is reducing the productivity of various crops, climate change inclusive. More land is open for agriculture but not all land is suitable for agriculture.  Survey that was undertaken by the Ministry shows that Malawi will experience hunger this year again,” he said.

He further pointed out that to achieve sustainable agriculture development, there is needed to change in policies, practices and attitudes.

“We need to assess on how we are dealing with climate smart agriculture and also to analyze the gaps that are there and see how they can be addresses,” said Mussa.

CISANET National Director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula said climate change is disturbing food production as such urged stakeholders to brainstorming and implement solutions to the problem.

He also advised farmers to be innovative in their agricultural production by adopting climate-smart agriculture technologies.

Climate-smart agriculture is agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience, reduces greenhouse gases, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals. It promotes agricultural best practices, particularly integrated crop management, conservation agriculture, intercropping, improved seeds and fertiliser management practices, as well as supporting increased investment in agricultural research.

A researcher at FANRPAN, Falai Gwelo bemoaned uncoordinated and non standardised policies related to climate-smart agriculture in Southern Africa. “We should speak with one voice for the sake of the farmer.”

Meanwhile, participants to the policy dialogue meeting acknowledged several recommendations made by the report.

Some of the recommendations are as follows:  

  • The focus areas for climate change adaptation in Malawi have to address from the increased frequency of droughts and floods. For flood control, afforestation and reforestation activities need to be promoted to allow better catchment management that encourages more water to infiltrate the soil while reducing the surface runoff component.
  • The government of Malawi needs to promote the use of affordable and user-friendly alternative renewable energy technologies. For example the promotion of use of energy efficient stoves and to invest in alternative sources of energy to reduce deforestation given Malawi’s over dependence on wood fuels. Capital subsidies, tax breaks, and technical, financial and institutional support may assist in this regard.
  • To address problems of drought and dry-spells, water harvesting technologies need to be improved and promoted along-side soil and water conservation (on and off farm).
  • Strengthen and promote tree planting programmes throughout the country;
  • Enhance capacity building and training programmes for communities and professionals.
  • Provide funding for the proposed climate change projects, starting with the proposals in the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) and Second National Communication (SNC) of Malawi.
  • Drought tolerant crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum and livestock are being promoted. Drought tolerant varieties of maize are also being investigated. Advocacy campaigns to raise awareness of climate change are being intensified by government and civil society organizations.
  • Malawi has enormous potential to reduce total GHG emissions in the various sectors of the economy. However, in order to achieve the national developmental goals and objectives that the Government should involve all partners and practitioners, using participatory approaches under the current decentralization policy, in the use and implementation GHG mitigations options.
  • Strengthen the implementation modalities of the current policies and legal instruments that increase access to affordable, user-friendly RETs at both household and institutional levels