When Climate Changes, Smaller Things Matter

They have tried bigger initiatives, but they have stumbled on the way and dropped their ideas. Most of them have consequently normalized poverty. Not that they do not have access or ownership over farmland, but because their practices are not in tandem with climatic variations.

The challenge

Climatic variation such as occurrence of drought have high level of impact on the yield of rainfed crops.

As a mitigating factor against climate change, one sustainable remedy to such challenges is the Micro-Investments (MI). One such programme that promotes MI is organization promoting MI is TRANSFORM.

The Programme is using the incubator model to promote micro-investments in the form of drip irrigation kits.

Linett Chimimba Chatsika, Project Officer for TRANSFORM at Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) says MI is a game changer as it responds to market needs.

Chimimba said, “We believe that if farmers learn how to respond to market needs, they will succeed. From the start, we approached the smallholder farmer as a business entity and asked what could be done to improve their financial performance. Simply put, we looked for what the farmer should do to have excess cash.”

Chimimba justified the MI approach as a series of subsequent micro-investment decisions that become an upgrade path that allows the farmers to gradually increase the return on their work capacity and acreage.

Micro-Investments: Climate Smart Economic Empowerment

Going by Tom Izzo’s words, ‘Do the little things right to reach the big goals’ one would be justified to use the micro-investment model, that promotes diversity, to turn smallholder farming into lucrative business.

Through micro-investments, TRANSFORM Programme is enhancing smallholder farmers adaptation to climate change. Micro – drip irrigation technologies allow multiple harvests per year and allows efficient water use.

Micro-investors (farmers) are encouraged to use improved high yielding and pest resistant varieties. In addition, farmers in all incubators are encouraged to protect the environment through planting bamboos and other agro-forestry trees.

Currently, NCA through its partners in TRANSFORM, Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) and Assemblies of God Care (AG Care) have at least 492 incubators scattered across the districts of Mchinji, Kasungu, Rumphi and Mzimba South with a total of 5904 participating farmers. So far about 314 incubators have re-invested in their farming business by buying additional micro-investment drip kits since December 2020.

Through incubators new farmers can test the profitability of their business ideas. Incubators help beginning farmers solve barriers, including access to land, capital, and opportunities to learn and develop skills in farm business planning.

According to Chimimba, most farmers have replicated the micro-investment concept by investing in additional drip kits as a group or individuals while they also accommodate new farmers.

Pendeka Becomes Part of the Solution

One smallholder farmer who has seen benefits of the Micro Investments model is Davison Pendeka of Sauzande Village in Dowa District. Pendeka, the father of four children had previously struggled with life as a tobacco tenant.

Pendeka is now making a fortune for his family from inherited drip kits that belonged to a disbanded incubator of 12 farmers.

“I will never grow tobacco again. It is labour intensive, and it just increased my suffering. Above all it destroyed the environment. Drip Irrigation has replaced the dying tobacco industry,” said he.

For Pendeka, his community is his main market base. He said his first attempt to work on his own earned him at least K400,000 then K270,000. Every two months he now gets a cheque of more than K150,000 from a community boarding school where he supplies tomatoes and vegetables.

“I can now pride of having multiple harvests a year. I’ve used part of the proceeds to buy goats and a pig to rare and support my children in school. I am working towards increasing my drip kits to grow more tomatoes and realise more profits,” he claimed.

Pendeka works with his family to ensure they have enough human capital in his incubator.
The TRANSFORM Programme is funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy and coordinated by a consortium comprising the Development Fund of Norway, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and the Norwegian Church Aid; all working together with several local implementing partners.

The goal of the programme is to contribute to a sustainable agricultural transformation that will result in significant growth of the agricultural sector, increased income for farm households, improved food, and nutrition security.

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