The Halcrow Foundation is funding a project in Manyamula, Malawi, that trains smallholder farmers in sustainable farming practices which combat soil erosion, double their crop yields, increase their income and strengthen communities.
The project is run by Tiyeni, a UK charity based in Northern Malawi, which trains and supports farmers in the deep bed method of farming. This involves digging down deeper into the hard, compacted soil beneath the top layer to improve drainage, making wider planting beds, raising footpaths and applying manure, mulch and cover crops to protect the soil and plants from extreme weather.
As well as training, Tiyeni also provides farmers with the seeds and tools for the job, plus livestock to produce fertiliser for the soil.
Combating soil erosion
Malawi relies heavily on agriculture and, as with other countries across sub-Saharan Africa, is 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.
Malawi’s traditional ridge and furrow method of farming is widely regarded as being both labour intensive and environmentally destructive. However farmers from rural communities that have already switched to Tiyeni’s deep bed method have vastly improved their foil fertility and doubled crop yields within the first year.
Building stronger communities
Tiyeni’s training and tools enable more people develop a livelihood and, because the training is given through groups, it strengthens the community. More crops also mean more cash income, which families can spend on access to better education and health, and invest back into their farms.
Dalitso Nyirongo is an inspirational lead farmer from Matuli a, he has been deep bed farming for three years and is in the process of building a new home from income from surpluses thanks to consistently good yields. He has oxen and helps others in the community with tilling for free whenever he can.
“The technique has opened doors to success and I am managing to support my family, build a house, and save enough in the bank”.
The project also supports vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including youth farmers and women, by strengthening their control over agriculture resources, opportunities and decision-making processes at household and community levels.
“Tiyeni, with funding from the Halcrow Foundation, is helping farmers in Manyamula to support themselves and each other. Soil fertility and crop productivity are vastly improved, protecting the land and strengthening communities for generations to come.” David Kerr, Chairman, The Halcrow Foundation.
Tiyeni formed in 2005. Its goal is to combat hunger and poverty throughout Malawi through soil and water conservation, and implementing rural farming methods that enable optimum food production from the land. For more information visit www.tiyeni.org