Soils, Food and Healthy Communities

Soils, Food and Healthy Communities

In 2010, SFHC initiated a new project on participatory research on climate change adaptation to improve food security, in collaboration with the Ekwendeni Hospital AIDS Programme, Bunda College of Agriculture and the University of Western Ontario. This project will involve participatory experiments by 400 farmers, 200 in the Ekwendeni region and 200 in Kasungu District (central Malawi), alongside studies on climate change perceptions, policy research and farmer exchanges. The research is being funded by the International Development Research Centre. This section of the webpage will report on our ongoing research and activities associated with this project.

Objectives: The general objective is to examine how farmer participatory research can inform adaptation strategies and policy responses to emerging climate change, HIV/AIDS and rising food vulnerabilities in Malawi. There are four specific objectives within this broader objective, each with specific methods:

  1. Document the ways in which farmers and communities in northern and central Malawi are experiencing and perceiving climate change and how these perceptions / experiences vary by age, gender, HIV status, food security status and household structure.
  2. Conduct participatory action research with farmers (including people of different ages, gender, food security status and HIV status) to assess different adaptation strategies for addressing climate change, health and food security views.
  3. Assess whether farmer-to-farmer exchanges and community institutions are an effective way to foster adaptive responses to climate change, with sensitivity to inequalities linked to gender, HIV and age.
  4. Identify ways that governmental organizations in Malawi are conceptualizing and responding to climate change and advocate relevant, gender and HIV-sensitive farmer knowledge and research for policy based on our findings.

Abstract: This research project will examine the combined problems of climate change, HIV/AIDS and gender inequalities that affect food security for smallholder farmers in mid-altitude semi-humid ecosystems in central and northern Malawi. The research team has successfully applied smallholder farmer participatory research to address the linkages between nutrition, food security and sustainable land management. A similar approach will be taken to examine the linkages and potential solutions for climate change, HIV/AIDS and food security, with a focus on gender and age inequalities. Using a combination of surveys, interviews, farmer experiments and policy workshops, the research will assess whether farmer-based knowledge and learning can inform policies linked to climate change, as well as identify potential adaptations at the household and community level. The project will involve undergraduate, graduate and postdoctorate students in all research activities. Smallholder farmers’ current knowledge and perceptions of climate change will be initially documented using in-depth interviews, a survey and field observations, followed by educational activities participatory action research trials to address climate change by farmer research teams in two regions of Malawi. Farmers of different ages, genders, food security levels and HIV status will carry out participatory experiments, and their specific needs and concerns in relation to climate change and food security will be explored. The efficacy of farmer exchanges for facilitating adaptation to climate change will also be assessed. Policy workshops will engage government representatives in a dialogue with farmer groups to try to influence the direction of climate change policy with farmer knowledge.