As a key source of income, the majority of Malawi’s population who live in rural areas, rely on smallholder rain-fed agriculture, which is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Henry Msiska is a 49-year-old Lead Farmer from Mziliwanda village in Nchenachena in the northern district of Rumphi. To Msiska, delayed onset of rains is undoubtedly the biggest challenge in his agri-business.
“I remember some years back, the rainy season used to start in November and last in April or May. But nowadays, the rain would start in December and end even before March,” observes Msiska.
Due to this unpredictability of the present-day rainfall patterns his crops have been subject to new pests and diseases, a development that has drastically been reducing his farm yields. Despite growing more climate-resilient crops, it has still been very difficult for him to put more focus on them (crops) due to the changes in the climatic conditions. Msiska is not alone in this predicament as this phenomenon affects thousands of other farmers across Malawi.
However, with the use of tailored-weather information and advisories, that he and other community members are expected to be receiving through mobile phones, print and radio channels, under the M-CLIMES Project, such challenges are expected to be a thing of the past.
The M-CLIMES Project, which is being implemented with funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) aims at increasing the farmers’ adaptive capacity and their decision-making through timely provision of climate-related risks information.
With support from the UNDP, Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) is implementing the Project which is targeting 14 of the country’s food-insecure districts, in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS), Department of Fisheries (DoF), Department of Water Resources (DWR), Department of Agriculture Extension Services (DAES) and National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM).
178,000 targeted farmers in 14 districts are expected to be reached directly by the Project, and 16,000 Lead Farmers under NASFAM that benefited from the Frontline SMS and 3‐2‐1 Service.
In collaboration with local information and communication technology service providers – Essoko and Airtel – local farmers will be supported, not only to access climate information, but also crop specific advisories. This is expected to enhance existing platforms used to disseminate agricultural advisories to the farmers.
As one of the activities under the M-CLIMES Project, NASFAM took lead in a profiling exercise of Lead Farmers in Rumphi District, to collect information on the types of technologies the Lead Farmers promote, type of crops they grow and livestock they keep as well as their level of understanding on climate change issues. Lead Farmers are the farmers who have volunteered to deliver the required climate advisories to the other farmers, known as Contact Farmers.
The information collected in the profiling exercise will be analyzed and used to develop climate/weather-related content to be provided to the farmers. During the interaction with the Lead Farmers, it was acknowledged that the late onset of the rainy season adversely affects their farming. They expressed how farmers are in desperate need of reliable information on climate and farming practice to make the best decisions against the ever-changing weather patterns.
It was also noted that issues of mobility to reach out to their Contact Farmers is one of the main challenges faced by the farmers.
However, despite such challenges, Eldec Msonda (26) one of the Lead Farmers, explained how they all feel proud to help improve the livelihood of their Contact Farmers, by promoting more effective technologies and advising them on various agricultural skills.
“Some families used to be hit by serious food shortage, due to climate change. However, through diversification of crops from our advice, they no longer experience severe food shortage,” said Msonda.