BY WATIPASO MZUNGU, A CONTRIBUTOR:
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that by 2050, the Earth will need to feed an additional 2 billion people on top of about 7billion it is currently struggling to feed.
The organisation adds that the planet will require a 70-percent increase in global food production, including a 100 percent increase in developing countries, including Malawi.
But the question is: how are we going to improve food production?
Malawi continues to register a steady increase in the number of adverse climatic hazards, with the most serious being dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, riverine floods and flush floods.
Some of these, especially droughts and floods, have increased in frequency, intensity and magnitude overthe last two decades, and have adversely impacted on food and water security, water quality, energy and the sustainable livelihoods of rural communities.
Additionally, limited land is increasingly being used for other purposes, agricultural productivity growth is decreasing and soils and forests are being depleted and degraded at the fastest rate ever.
The National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (Nasfam) Chief Executive Officer, Betty Chinyamunyamu, says 84 percent of Malawians are affected by drought, floods and emerging pests and diseases.
Chinyamunyamu observes that with an agro-based economy and a rapidly growing population estimated at 3.3 percent per annum, Malawi’s vulnerability continues to increase annually.
“This is because this proportion of the population is engaged directly in agricultural production. In some seasons, yields have been reduced and in severe cases, there has been total crop failure,” she said.
Chinyamunyamu was one of the agriculture and environmental expertswho presented papers at the National Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) Dialogue, which took place in Lilongwe last week.
The dialogue was jointly organised by Nasfam and Civil Society Agriculture Network(Cisanet), Care International Malawi and Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).
It pooled stakeholders from various local and international non-governmental organisations and environmentalists to bang heads on measures to take to scale up CSA and promote greater public and private investment to promote agriculture and food security, develop technology and increase the productivity of the sector.
The dialogue was aimed to identify priority CSA policies and technologies relevant for the country and also share best practices in scaling up CSA practices and technologies.
It also aimed at creating a platform where stakeholders to explore more on CSA policies and technologies used in the country in light of the nationally determined contributions and the Paris Climate Change Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Chinyamunyamu said there is a growing need to improve productivity in the agriculture sector in order to shore up the economy and produce surplus food so as to keep pace with the growing population.
In 2006, Malawi formulated the National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) by evaluating the impacts of adverse climatic conditions in eight important sectors of economic growth, and ranked the identified activities using multi-criteria analysis to arrive at a list of 15 urgent and immediate priorityneeds for adaptation.
NAPA was aimed at identifying a list of priority activities, formulating priority adaptation options, building capacity for adapting to longer-term climate change and variability, and raising public awareness on the urgency to adapt to the adverse effects of extreme weather events.
In 2016, government developed the National Climate Change Management Policy (NCCMP) and National Agricultural Policy (NAP).
NCCMP intends to create an enabling environment for development of a countrywide, coordinated and harmonised approach, which attends to the needs and concerns of all sectors of society, while ensuring continuedsustainable development.
It is intended to guide actions that reduce community and ecosystem vulnerability through adaptation and mitigation.
On the other hand, NAP identifies eight priority areas as being critical to sustainable agricultural production. They include sustainable agricultural production and productivity; sustainable irrigation development; mechanisation of agriculture; agricultural market development, agro-processing and value addition.
Others are food and nutrition; agricultural risk management; youth empowerment, women and vulnerable groups in agriculture, and institutional development, coordination and capacity building.
Cisanet national director, Pamela Kuwali, said CSA becomes handy in reducing the negative impacts of climate change on food supplies, livelihoods and economies, and increase the adaptive capacity of African farming communities to long-term climatic trends as well as to increasing variability inweather patterns.
Kuwali said it is encouraging that the number of smallholder farmers embracing the modern agricultural technologies and practices continues to grow.
“CSA has been embraced by so many players including smallholder farmers though levels of adoption and let alone up scaling remain low. There are many factors that are needed to catalyse CSA adoption, which include policies, institutional arrangements, stakeholder involvement and gender considerations, infrastructure, insurance schemes, as well as access to weather information and advisory services,” she said.
Kuwali added that most farmers have realised the need to diversify crop production and they are now growing high yielding and well adapting crop varieties, practicing integrated pest management such as early planting, correct plant spacing, closed season, crop rotation and livestock diversification.
“They also grow different types of crops and have increased legume production in response to growing market needs,” she adds.
Chief Director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Yanira Ntupanyama, said there is need to find ways to scale up initiatives such as CSA model villages.
Ntupanyama also recommended the upscaling of technologies being implemented by farmers through Lake Chilwa Basin under Chancellor College-based Leadership for Environment and Development, Southern and Eastern Africa (Lead- Sea), Sustainable Land Management, Improved Forestry Management for Sustainable Livelihood and COVAMS, among others.
“These technologies must be adopted as a way of supporting the priorities in the NAIP to fully transform agriculture in Malawi. Noting the compelling evidence that climate change poses to agricultural production, food and nutrition security in rural Malawi and, at the same time, the contribution that climate change agriculture can make to mitigate change, there is need to ensure that climate negotiations are structured around promoting climate smart agriculture and ensuring that climate financing is largely directed towards agriculture,” she said.
Ntupanyama added that although Malawi has been building a resilient agricultural sector that is able to respond to shocks like pests and diseases, persistent droughts and floods, there is need to enrich these efforts with climate smart agriculture.
She also stated that there is need to enhance development of structures that locally implement the Convention on Climate Change, which is our common framework for action like the National Adaptation Plan of Action, the National Agriculture Policy, the National Climate Change Policy and their investment plans, and line sectoral policies. These also facilitate climate adaptation and mitigation.
“As a nation, we continue to endeavor integrating what has been agreed at the global level within the frameworks of Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III, National Resilient Plan and Strategies, National Climate Change Policy, National Agriculture Policy to mention a few and their related investment plans,” she said.
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