By Fostina Mkandawire
An agriculture-oriented organisation has embarked on a project in the country to equip smallholder farmers with environmentally friendly agricultural practices.
Speaking in Lilongwe during an Annual General Meeting, Chairperson for Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM), Peter Nthenda explained how ecologically friendly agricultural practices collate with farmers’ self sufficiency.
Nthenda said the country can draw lessons from past experiences such as changes in climate, environmental degradation and high cost of agricultural products.
He said such factors are reason enough for farmers to start adopting Agro-ecological friendly farm practices to restore the environment’s natural fertility and vegetation cover.
He explained that for a long time, conventional agricultural practices have been encouraged resulting in loss of soil fertility and reduction of crop production.
Nthenda said PELUM’s goal was to ensure the farmer is self-reliant and that makes use of available resources in agricultural production.
“We want to ensure that farmers adopt agro-ecological farm practices that improve the environment; in so doing we will be improving the lives of marginalised communities,” he said.
He said the purpose is to achieve their plans through advocating for environmentally friendly agricultural practices and encouraging networking among farmers from all the districts in the country.
PELUM is an umbrella organization and that it has member organizations that assist in implementing its plans and agenda, according to Nthenda.
“All the member organizations that are under PELUM are encouraged to implement our plans in the districts where they are operating so that farmers in those districts also benefit from the ecological friendly practices,” he said.
Some of the activities PELUM advocates for include use of compost manure instead of inorganic fertilizer, intercropping instead of single cropping and use of seeds which are found locally instead of buying them.
Nthenda said they have been encouraging farmer-led documentation of reproduction of local food plants that are able to withstand harsh weather environment.
PELUM was established in 2017, some of the organisations under PELUM include CADECOM, CARD, TROCAIRE Malawi, Act alliance and other small holder farmers’ associations. All these organisations implement agro-ecological agricultural practices.
One of the beneficiary groups under PELUM, Coalition of Women Farmers Secretary, Felia Sikubweza said they have adopted agro-ecological agricultural practices such as planting locally found seeds, growing different crops and use of compost manure.
She said the practices have increased their crop production and that they have discovered that local seeds are resilient from environmental shocks.
“We plant cotton and maize in one field and sometimes intercrop ground nuts and maize, this has improved our lives because when one plant fails another can have a chance of surviving,” she said.-MANA