Malawi is a landlocked country with a population of 18 million people. About 90% of the population are smallholder subsistence farmers who own less than a hectare of land each in rural communities.Agriculture isthe most important sector of the Malawi economy. The sector includes crops, livestock and fisheries sub-sectors. It is dominated by the rain-fed smallholder farming system and is the major source of livelihoods for rural communities, contributing significantly to the household and national food security. It provides 64% of the total income of the rural population. Most farmers primarily rely on rain-fed agricultural systems, which are highly vulnerable to climate change. The negative impacts of climate change on agriculture have resulted in food insecurity at the local community level as well as at the national levels.
Many of the smallholder farmers in Malawi practice soil disturbing practices of ridging and burning of crop residues, which were advocatedby the agricultural extension system in the past (National Conservation Agriculture Task Force(NCATF), 2016). However, there is evidence that these practices over time result in reduced crop yields; lead to increased use of inorganic fertilisers to produce enough food; and ultimately are a major cause of current high levels of hunger and poverty in the rural resource-poor farming communities.
Climate change threatens agricultural productivity and poses challenges to the stability of agricultural sector in Malawi (Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development(MoAIWD), 2016). Therefore, it is important to invest in climate resilience in the farming systems and promote approaches such as climate smart agriculture(CSA)that are designed to reduce the impact of climate change on livelihoods of the resource-poor smallholder farmers.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Republic of Malawi(2017). Malawi climate smart agriculture training manual for frontline agricultural extension staff. Vuna Training Manual. Pretoria. South Africa. Vuna. Online: http://vuna-africa.com/