Malawi Watershed Improved Project trains agricultural advisors on sustainable land

Agricultural advisors from the Shire Valley Basin have undergone an extensive five-week training on, among others, sustainable soil and land as well as environmental conservation in order for them to impart same knowledge gained to farmers at their respective work stations.

Organised by Malawi Watershed Improved (MWASIP) project, the extension workers are expected to continuously engage with farmers in what is called Farmers Field School approach.

The training was held at Ministry of Agriculture’s Zomba Residential Training Centre and MWASIP project’s technical team leader Joseph Kanyangalazi said the project targets land restoration in the Shire Valley Basin of Mangochi, Machinga, Neno, Blantyre, Zomba and Ntcheu — whose land has been degraded through improper agricultural practices that lead to massive soil erosion.

Guest of honour at the closing ceremony, Gertrude Kambauwa

It is a six-year project that started from December 2020 with a funding of US$157 million donor funding with the Malawi government adding a further US$3 million to make a total of US$160 million.

The project is meant to improve farmers livelihoods of the districts in the Shire Valley Basin by improving farmers farming methods from just concentrating on crops and livestock but also impart farmers with knowledge on soil and environmental conservation.

The facilitators drilled the extension workers on sustainable land management; weather related issues, nutrition, gender, crops, agribusiness and how to incorporate them in Farmer Field School.

Kanyangalazi said the five-week training involved classroom process as well as practical field work of two weeks in which the participants went back to the respective stations to interact with farmers in order to develop action plans.

He said they were pleased of the active and enthusiastic participation by the extension workers and implored on them to go back and make a difference in farmers’ lives in their respective districts.

He was encouraged that the participants managed to develop their own action plans and urged them to apply them since the project’s technical team will continuously monitor their progress.

Guest of honour at the closing ceremony, director in the Department of Land Resources, Gertrude Kambauwa told the participants that her gracing the occasion was to impress on them that the Ministry is taking this project very seriously in order for farmers to manage the soil and environmental conservation.

She said there was a need for farmers to have the right knowledge soil erosion intervention which is leading to low soil fertility.

“Such intervention include tree reforestation, production of compost and animal manure rather than relying heavily on fertilizer as well as harvesting rain water — all these are encompassed in the Farmer Field School training,” she said.

Representing the participants, Catherine Kamwanya appreciated the training exposed them to a number of field visits, practical sessions and numerous exercises that will enhance their facilitation skills back in their respective working places.

“The knowledge and skills gained here will help improve our various catchments, empower our farmers to be innovative, improve farmers marketing skills and address land management issues,” she said.

“Through this training we have also come to know that our farmers are doers and have a role to play in the agriculture agenda and that the Farmer Field School has a role to expose farmers to various pieces of information such as land management, livestock, crops and many more.”

She added that they were implementing a number of Farmer Field Schools without putting much emphasis on sustainable land management issues, but “this training has been tailor made to address issues of land management which is key to agricultural production”.

She applauded MWASIP project and the facilitators, who were “very dedicated to work” and asked her fellow participants to show go back homer to successfully implement that they have learnt.

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