Jimu Msukwa hails from John 1 Village in Group Village Headman Mwenechipwela, Traditional Authority Mwenemisuku in Chitipa District where he was born and raised. Jimu lost his father while he was very young and has been brought up by his mother only.
“I cannot remember when my father died because he died when I was very young”, says Jimu Msukwa. “I only went as far as grade 8 since my mother could not provide adequate support to me,” he lamented.
Jimu Msukwa was one of 8 carpentry professionals trained in the area with assistance from Integrated Rural Development Project under the Development Desk of the Diocese of Karonga. After graduating, he set up his own carpentry shop where he does his trade. He is the only reliable carpenter in an area of 4 villages.
“When I make my products, I raise an average of 30, 000.00 Malawi Kwacha per month”, says Msukwa.
He says that he has managed to buy three pigs and he has also assisted in buying iron sheets for his mother’s house.
“When I was enrolling for the carpentry skills, I thought it was a joke. But now I am enjoying the fruits of the project,”
“I am now able to help my mother and my relatives through the skills acquired from this project and I will live to remember. I really thank the project for transforming my life,” he said.
Integrated Rural Development Project, which is being implemented with support from Misereor Germany, has so far empowered 12 professionals in tailoring, 8 in carpentry and 7 in brick laying in three villages development areas of Kapoka, Chipwela and Samchipwela.
The training was held at Chipwela Trading Center, in Traditional Authority Mwenemisuku in Chitipa District. The training was provided on community based approach and was run for 6 consecutive months from mid-June to December, 2018.
Effects of climate change and environmental degradation have not spared the area of Traditional Authority Mwalweni which is under Saint Francis De Sales Parish of Karonga Diocese in Rumphi District.
The topography of the area makes it susceptible to soil erosion, especially when farmers do not follow proper soil and water conservation practices and or leave the land bare, due to deforestation and other practices. Most farmers in the area cultivate their crops in hilly areas which necessitates proper soil and water conservation technologies.
It is against this background that the Development Desk through Africa Australia Community Engagement Scheme Plus (AACES Plus – A+) organized a farmer field school field day at Kasonkhwe in TA Mwalweni in order to promote conservation agriculture in the community.
The field day among other things aimed at promoting the use of locally available resources to conserve soil and water.
The farmer field school which was mounted in August 2019 and managed by 30 farmers where 17 are females include plots showcasing different technologies where farmers through irrigation farming experiment use of locally available resources to conserve soil and water. Plots showcasing three core elements of conservation agriculture including minimal tillage operations, permanent vegetative residue for soil cover (mulching using thatching grass), and rotation of primary crops were mounted and showcased.
In addition, crop production plots such as tomato production, Irish potatoes, use of Tephrosia vogelii to control fall army worm, leafy vegetable production, and other water conservation technologies such as check dams, swales, and use of contour and box ridges were also showcased during the field day. This was done to encourage participating farmers shift from conventional tillage practices to conservation ones.
Farmers appreciated the technologies and commended their fellow farmers for significantly implementing the Farmer Field School approach and learning from their own experiences through hands on experiments from the different plots at the school.
The field day ended with processing where the government agriculture extension field staff took a leading facilitation role to explain the importance of conservation agriculture and Farmer Field School approach which include: enabling smallholder farmers to master the management skills required for sustainable production intensification; increasing ownership since Farmer Field Schools are constructed by smallholder farmers; increasing farmers’ access to extension services since they mostly have limited access to education, information, extension services, market access and financial capital.
The government extension staff also explained that No-tillage has beneficial effects on soil preservation. The retention of crop residues at the soil surface prevents water erosion by reducing the direct impact of raindrops and that conservation agriculture improves soil quality, optimizes crop yields and reduces input costs. It also improves water capture and use efficiency.
Small-scale farmers and land users often lack access to the agricultural services they require to enhance their knowledge and skills in order to manage increasingly difficult agro-ecosystems. Smallholder farmers and other rural land users manage increasingly difficult environments while also being subjected to changes driven by nature and outside pressures.
These land users are the country’s largest group of custodians of biodiversity and play a critical role in efficiently managing natural resources like water and soil, thus ensuring that future generations can also continue to use and benefit from these resources. It is, therefore, recommended that promotion of conservation agriculture through Farmer Field Schools be offered special attention.