APPSA Grooms a Successful Lead Farmer to Promote Conservation Agriculture in Malawi
Patricia Dzimbiri (37) is one of the successful female lead farmers from Chinguluwe Area, in Salima District of Malawi who has been participating in farmer field trials for conservation agriculture and maize/legume inter-cropping for 3 consecutive years under the Agricultural Productivity Program for Southern Africa (APPSA) project which is being funded by the World Bank and coordinated by CCARDESA. A Lead farmer is an innovative and successful farmer within the local community who is committed to training fellow farmers on agriculture methods and technologies. He/she works in direct contact with research and extension agents to help champion the demonstration of a technology in his/her area. Conservation farming provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity to achieve food security in the face of challenges of poor soils, poor rain and poor yields. It is a set of soil management practices that minimize the disruption of the soil’s structure, composition and natural biodiversity.
In the 2016/2017 cropping season Patricia apportioned one acre of land to field demonstrations. On ½ acre plot she compared maize productivity under conservation agriculture (CA) and under conventional farming practices. She observed that the maize crop from CA plot grew faster and bigger than from the conventional maize plot. She further noted that the CA plot required very minimal hand weeding. Patricia pronounces in her own words “Munda woyala mapesi mumakhala tchile lochepa…timangozulira” meaning that the plot under CA had very few weeds which only require hand weeding because the growth of weeds is suppressed by the ground cover. She noted that moisture and nutrient retention for plot under CA was much higher than in the plot under conventional method. It was impressive to listen to Patricia’s simple scientific understanding and articulation of the trials and the treatments. Patricia harvested 225 kg of maize on CA plots compared to the 150 kilograms harvested from the conventional plot of the same size.
In the second set of demonstration on the other ½ acre plot she compared productivity of maize intercropped with cowpeas with pure maize stand, both under CA. She observed that the maize plot intercropped with cowpeas had a much greener crop stand as compared to the pure maize stand. She explained that cowpeas, being a legume has the ability to fix nutrients that are used by maize. She further explained that the canopy formed by the cowpeas maintained even additional moisture to the crops. She harvested 200 kg of maize on the maize-legume intercropped plot compared to 125 kg on pure maize stand.