Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

FANRPAN Participates in the Malawi Postharvest Stakeholder Forum
Chikwawa District, Malawi
2 June 2016

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with African and European partners, has been implementing the Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Southern Africa to Better Manage Climate-Related Risks to Crop Production and Post- Harvest Handling project with financial support from the European Union since December 2012. The project will end on the 31st of July 2016. The partners are the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Natural Resources Institute, United Kingdom (NRI), Soil Fertility Consortium for Southern Africa (SOFECSA), Wageningen University and Research Centre, Netherlands (WUR), the University of Pretoria (UP) and the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). The overall objective of the action is to contribute to improved and sustained household and national food and nutrition security in southern Africa through better management of climatic risks by smallholder farmers.

On the 2nd of June 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)-Malawi office and Chitedze Agricultural Research Station under the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) convened a Postharvest Management stakeholder's forum in Chikwawa district in Malawi. The objectives of the forum were:

  1. To share the results of grain storage learning trials on storage facilities and grain protectants which have been running for two seasons in Chikwawa and Thyolo districts in Malawi, with farmers, extension staff and other stakeholders.
  2. To provide a platform for smallholder farmers and extension staff to share their experiences and views of the different grain storage treatments they have tested for two seasons.
  3. To get insights on climate risks experienced in the past two seasons and the place of postharvest management.

The event was attended by more than 100 participants including, government, researchers, NGOs, extension services and the private sector. Farmers constituted close to 75% of the participants.

Out of the 25 districts that had floods in Malawi in year 2015, Chikwawa is one of the two that were most affected. The district is in a valley of mountains/hills. Shire the largest river in Malawi and an outlet of Lake Malawi cuts through the district. The area is prone to floods, however, the 2015 occurrences have been perceived to be the worst. Farmers have to move uphill every time they experience floods and move back when the water levels have subsided. They lose most of their crops and livestock when floods strike.

Chikwawa district has also been a victim of the El Nino, with effects being long dry spells in year 2016. Ironically some farmers prefer floods as compared to dry spell since they engage in a lot of irrigation activities.

Permanently moving the farmers uphill is complicated due to land ownership rights and chieftaincy dynamics.

Education or literacy levels are also low especially among women.

During the event, farmers showcased PHM technologies that were tried during the lifespan of the project. These included airtight grain storage systems, such as metal silos and triple plastic bags. Farmers, especially women seemed to be taking the lead in terms of showcasing and explaining to participants how the technologies work including their advantages and disadvantages. The stories from the farmers were backed up by scientific evidence generated from experiments. When compared to pesticides and indigenous practices, the metal silos and triple plastic bags proved to be more effective PHM technologies.

Of interest is that metal silos might not be conducive for areas that have high temperatures: in one of the experiments, maize was found to be changing colour (cooking) inside a metal silo due to high temperatures.

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