Director of Agricultural Extension Services in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Dr. Jerome Nkhoma, asked private sector players in the agricultural sector consider implementing interventions aimed at achieving sustainable growth.
Speaking on Monday during a farmer field school for extension workers in Zomba, Nkhoma emphasized that the government has developed standards, information and technologies designed to enable the players in the agricultural sector to reach out to more farmers.
He said there is a need, therefore, that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should fully engage it when implementing their programs.
“We encourage NGOs to enter into agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture so that we can deliver quality services to the communities,” said Nkhoma.
He said through the farmer field schools, the government is training extension workers on how to implement different technologies in the agricultural Sector.
Currently, the government is training extension workers under the Malawi Resilience and Disaster Risk Management Project (MRDRMP), which was designed to address both drought and flood emergencies.
Technical team member of the MRDRMP, Enock Whayo, described the three-year project as a successor of the Malawi Drought Resilience and Recovery project and the Malawi Flood Emergency programme.
Recently, the Government of Malawi received an additional funding amounting to US$80, 000, 000 for MDRRP and the project was restructured to Malawi Resilience and Disaster Risk Management Project (MRDRMP) in 2020.
MRDRMP activities are designed to address both drought and flood emergencies. The first component of the project is aimed at “improving food security and sustainable livelihoods” and one of the sub-components within this component is climate smart irrigation with a total budget of US$14,000,000.
The objective of this component is to strengthen the resilience of rural agricultural communities through rehabilitation and reconstruction of irrigation schemes, enhancement of agricultural production and catchment rehabilitation.
It aims at strategically completing rehabilitation and construction of selected irrigation schemes for drought-prone areas in line with National Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework (2015) and the National Irrigation Policy (2016).
At least, seven irrigation schemes covering 690 hectares are targeted for construction and rehabilitation in this project, with 6, 000 farmers set to benefit.
These irrigation schemes are located in Dedza, Balaka, Machinga, Thyolo, Blantyre and Nsanje districts.
The irrigation infrastructure will be used as an enabler to scale up commercial agricultural production of high-value crops, horticulture production, value chains and market linkages. One way of enhancing productivity and market access will be through increased extension and training services.
Farmer Field School is one of the extension approaches to be used to close existing knowledge and skills gaps on Sustainable Land Management (SLM), Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) and silviculture practices among the farming community and district extension staff in the project areas.
Nkhoma said the training was therefore organized to train extension workers from the project areas to equip them with knowledge and skills of facilitating Farmer Field Schools within the targeted areas.
“Farmer Field School is a group-based adult learning approach that teaches farmers how to experiment and solve problems independently. The approach focusses on learning of experienced farmers usually in the same locality or village who learn with hands on especially when the subject matter is related to their experiences.
“The approach is a ‘school without walls’ for improving decision making capacity of farmers and stimulating innovativeness for agricultural sustainability and can be done on both crops and livestock,” he explained.
Experts say Farmer Field School is crucial in improving farmers’ agro-ecological knowledge and their capacity to make decisions, improving adoption of knowledge intensive technologies and practices, capacity building and farmer empowerment; promotes lead farmer concept which enhances farmer to farmer extension; enhances farmer-led research and further promotes collective problem identification, analysis and solving.