Reaping from BETTER Agriculture


By Fletcher Simwaka:

KAMNYAMATA—The project is taking root

The fresh and green maize crop on an August afternoon gives a 42-year-old Walipa Phiri a breath of hope in farming. Without the help of her husband, who died six years ago, Phiri is now confident of taking care of her six children through farming.

“I can’t wait for the harvesting period,” she says, beaming with a smile. “The crop is promising better yields than in the previous seasons and I am sure I will have enough maize for my family and be able to sell the surplus to renovate my house”


Phiri, of Chipolopolo Village, Traditional Authority Fuka Mapili, in Nkhatabay District proudly says her family is no longer regarded as one of the hunger-stricken households.

However, the good tidings in maize farming, have not come by chance for her. She attributes the change in fortune in her maize farming to the knowledge and practices she gained from Chikulunkhulimbikira Farmer Field School (FFS) under the KULIMA-BETTER project taking place in Nkhatabay District.

KULIMA-BETTER, an acronym for Kutukula Ulimi m’Malawi and Better Extension Training Transforming Economic Returns, is a European Union-funded project implemented by ActionAid Malawi in Nkhatabay and Chiradzulu districts.


The five-year project is implemented in a consortium of five non-governmental organisations led by Self Help Africa. Seeking to attain resilience; food, nutrition and income security for smallholder farmers, the project is being implemented using the FFS, a unique approach of bringing the agriculture extension services closer to smallholder farmers.

When Tukombo FFS was established in April 2018, Walipa Phiri was among the first to join. Almost a year later, Phiri can’t be more grateful to the project.

“Being a smallholder farmer, the project came at the right time for me. Throughout my farming life, I have had challenges in realizing better yields. For instance, despite practicing winter maize farming every season, the harvest hasn’t been as expected,” she says.

“I would only manage to harvest six 50 kilograms bags of maize from this half a hector piece of land. This means I had to rely on other activities such as piece work to make ends meet for my family.”

However, Phiri says the coming in of KULIMA-BETTER project has opened her eyes to good and high yielding agriculture practices on her farm. She says through the project, she planted one maize seed per planting station using the 25cm by 75cm measurement, which was departure from her past practices of planting four to five seeds per planting station.

“I learnt that the one-seed-per-planting station leads to a healthy crop as there is no competition for nutrients. This results in better harvests,” she narrates.

Apart from maize, Phiri is also growing vegetables such as tomatoes, Chinese cabbage and lettuce using the same practices. She says the vegetables are enabling her family to have a nutritious diet and sell the surplus to increase their household income.

Timothy Banda, the project’s master trainer at Nkhatabay District Agriculture Development Office, says Phiri’s story mirrors so many others under the project in the district. He says KULIMA-BETTER project is already empowering the smallholder farmers to maximize production in the field.

He says regular project activities such as open field days and capacity building trainings are proving vital in imparting necessary extension services among the target smallholder farmers.

So far, the project is working with 330 FFS in Nkhatabay, reaching out to a target of 18 000 beneficiaries.

ActionAid Malawi KULIMA BETTER project coordinator, Greshan Kamnyamata, says it is inspiring to note that the project is quickly taking root in the district. He reckons that the challenge the daunting challenge now is to ensure that the gains the project is producing spread beyond the target beneficiaries.

“Having built the project’s foundation through establishment and training of farmer field schools, community-based facilitators and master trainers, it is pleasing to note that every stakeholder is now playing their rightful role to ensure that the project delivers on its mandate,” says Kamnyamata.

Kamnyamata says that as a project, they will continue working closely with the office of the DADOs in both Nkhatabay and Chiradzulu to ensure sustainability and upscaling of the project’s interventions.

Indeed, one hopes that, as the project progresses, there will be more women like Walipa Phiri, advancing their family’s well-being through farming.

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