Improving lives in rural communities in Malawi by promoting sustainable farming methods that combat soil erosion and increase crop yields.
The Halcrow Foundation is funding a project in Manyamula, Malawi, which helps farmers increase crop production through sustainable farming practices.
The project is run by a charity called Tiyeni, which was set up by people living in Malawi who have supported rural communities for many years. It promotes a deep bed method of farming which produces stronger crops, increases food security in rural villages and improves soil fertility for future generations. Tiyeni’s goal is to replace the need for hand-outs of money, food and fertiliser in rural districts by enabling farming communities to support themselves.
Combating soil erosion
Malawi relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture as the main source of food for humans and livestock. However as with other countries across sub-Saharan Africa, it’s facing increasingly unpredictable weather caused by climate change which results in more floods and droughts. Soil erosion, where the top layer of soil is washed away making it harder to grow crops, is a huge problem and a report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates 29 tons of soil per hectare of land are lost every year.
In addition, Malawi’s traditional ridge and furrow method of farming is widely regarded as being both labour intensive and environmentally destructive, causing the soil to compact or erode so water cannot penetrate and crops find it hard to take root.
With thousands of smallholder farmers becoming vulnerable and less resilient to food insecurity and poverty every year, agriculture production in Malawi is facing major challenges and there’s a growing need for farmers to change the way they cultivate their fields.
The Halcrow Foundation is funding the project by Tiyeni, which trains farmers who want to use the Tiyeni method, in deep bed farming. This involves digging down deeper into the hard, compacted soil beneath the top layer to improve drainage; making wider planting beds; raising footpaths to avoid compaction of beds; applying manure and using mulch and cover crops to cover the ground and protect the soil and plants from the weather. As well as training, Tiyeni also provides farmers with the seeds and tools for the job. Livestock, which produces manure to fertilise the soil, is distributed through Tiyeni’s ‘pass on pig’ scheme, where farmers receive an animal and pass its offspring on to other farmers in a continual chain.
Farmers who already use this method of farming have vastly improved their soil fertility and doubled their crop yields within the first year. The training, tools and equipment help people develop a livelihood, and because the project is implemented through groups it also strengthens the community. Established groups are shown to continue working together after training is finished, and help each other with farming tasks when a group member is ill or unable to manage alone. More crops also means more cash income, which families can spend on access to better education and health, and invest back into their farms.
Supporting vulnerable groups
The project also supports vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including youth farmers and women, by strengthening their access to and control over agriculture resources, opportunities, and decision-making processes at household and community levels.
With funding from the Halcrow Foundation, Tiyeni is helping the farmers in Manyamula to support themselves and each other. Soil fertility and crop productivity are also vastly improved, protecting the land and strengthening communities for generations to come.
Tiyeni formed in 2005. Its goal is to combat hunger and poverty throughout Malawi through soil and water conservation, and through using rural farming methods that enable optimum food production from the land. For more information visit www.tiyeni.org