Sustainable farming helping families to cope with climate change in Malawi
15 Jan 2020
Patricia and Overton started working on constructing their garden outside their home in July 2019. Already, they have seen major progress and are reaping the rewards.
Viillagers in Zomba, Malawi welcome visitors to see Patricia and Overton's kitchen garden, part of an Agro Ecology project. Photo: Karen McHugh/Trócaire.
They are one of many families in the area who’ve been given support and advice by CADECOM Zomba. Overton told us, ‘there are many other families with good gardens but you are seeing ours because we are close to the road!’
Overton explains how they have created their kitchen garden. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.
Agroecology a vital tool in a changing climate
Trócaire partner CADECOM Zomba have helped the beneficiaries in this project to set their gardens up using an agro ecology approach. The techniques of agroecology are a vital tool for farmers adapting to a climate that has radically changed.
Trócaire has been working on the project as part of the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM). The CCPM is administered by SCIAF and being implemented by Trócaire, in partnership with eight local partners.
Overton and Patricia with their children Chisomo, Victoria, Rebecca Unboni, Zisiya. Photo: Karen McHugh.
In the last few decades Malawian farmers have had to deal with an increase in extreme, intense rainfall and flooding and an increase in hot days and dry periods. The vast majority of households in Malawi are headed by small farmers who depend on reliable rainfall and fertile soils to get by. Most small farmers have relied on maize as their main crop. It is a crop that is particularly vulnerable to crop failure in this new climate.
Patricia pours neem, a natural pesticide in her family's kitchen garden. Photo: Alan Whelan/Trócaire.
From one to many crops
Trócaire’s partner CADECOM Zomba are helping families to diversify their crops and move away from being heavily dependent on maize. Patricia and Overton are growing tomatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins together. They are also growing other local vegetables; chinese cabbage, mustard vegetable and amarathus.
Growing a number of different crops close together is a common feature of the agro-ecology approach. It can help to conserve and enrich soil quality, and make maximum use of the available space. The garden is enclosed to protect if from livestock.
To get the maximum value from their land, CADECOM Zomba have taught participants in the project how to make juices from vegetables like sweet potato.
These gardens in Zomba, often referred to as kitchen gardens, are working with nature in a way that’s designed for long term sustainability. One of the key goals is to make sure the soil stays fertile which means avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides Patricia showed us how they use a natural pest killer made with neem leaves in their garden.
Garden in a bag
Overton showed us how they have also started sack gardening using stones and manure. This ‘vertical gardening’ is a great way to grow drought resistant crops in a way that conserves water and makes maximum use of limited space.
Overton says ‘we spend about two hours a day working on the garden but it is worth it.’