Successful Field Day

We had many farmers, researchers, Ministry of Agriculture officials and hospital staff attend our field day in mid-March. Dr. Kanyama-Phiri and Dr. Patson Nalivata visited, along with many farmers from Ntcheu, and some visitors from an IDRC-funded project in Tanzania. Visitors were able to visit a variety of crops in the field, including sorghum, cowpea and doubled-up legumes, several people gave speeches at the end of the day, and there was a meal shared after the field day.

Cookstoves for climate change

In June 2011 we organized a farmer exchange down to southern Malawi (Thyolo and Machinga) to learn more about what communities were doing with regards to climate change adaptation. We learned about how to make fuel efficient cooking stoves using local materials by building a kiln. The farmers who came on the exchange were very enthusiastic about this idea, since they linked the local deforestation with changes in micro climate. They got to work building a kiln and made twelve stoves. They intend to make over two hundred stoves and distribute it to farmers who are involved in the participatory research on climate change adaptation.

Fuel-efficient stoves from Bwabwa area
Fuel-efficient stoves from Bwabwa area

Presentation at the Ecological Society of America meetings

Rachel Bezner Kerr gave a presentation about some SFHC research findings on crop diversity and food security, at the annual meetings of the Ecological Society of America meetings in Austin Texas. The presentation was part of a session entitled “Revolutionary Ecology: Defining and Conducting Stewardship and Action as Ecologists and Global Citizens”. The presentation was based in part on a survey conducted by the SFHC team in collaboration with Dr. Sieglinde Snapp (Michigan State University) on crop diversity and soil health. There was lots of discussion and interest from the audience following the presentation.

Farmers & staff attend Zambia course

Twelve farmers and staff traveled to Zambia this past week to take a five day course on sustainable agriculture. They were hosted by Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, which has run various courses for farmers on sustainable agriculture for many years (see http://www.loyno.edu/~katc/aboutus.htm for more information about Kasisi). The experience was very fruitful and the farmers and staff will develop a training program for other Ekwendeni farmers based on what they learned. The training was funded through support from the International Development Research Centre, Canada.

Community promoters assessing yields

The community promoters are visiting the 200 farmers doing participatory experiments on climate change adaptation to measure yields and assess the experiments to date. Lizzie Shumba, the SFHC Coordinator, is hopeful that the experiments will yield good results this year, as the rains were reasonable. We’ll be reporting back to the website in the coming months as to our results.

Foreign Policy article highlights SFHC

Our work has been called a ‘third way’ for addressing hunger and food insecurity in the Global South, in a recent article by Raj Patel in Foreign Policy:

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/05/04/can_the_world_feed_10_billion_people?page=full

Dr. Patel visited SFHC in 2009 to learn more about what we are doing, and has kept in contact over the past two years, including a recent visit in March 2011 to Malawi where he interviewed Rachel Bezner Kerr.

SFHC story on Radio-Canada website

A story about SFHC’s work has been highlighted on ‘The Link’ a Radio-Canada website focused on the links between Africans and Canadians:

http://africa.rcinet.ca/2011/05/04/malawian-small-scale-farmers-improve-skills-with-help-from-researchers-in-canada-and-malawi/

Rachel Bezner Kerr and Paul Mkandawire were both interviewed for this story.

Article about SFHC on UN website

The nutritional results of SFHC have been the focus of a recent story on the website of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=92425

This story has received positive attention from other sources, including a blog about agricultural biodiversity – see http://agro.biodiver.se/2011/04/agricultural-diversity-improves-health/

Biodiversity article in PNAS includes SFHC work

A recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences highlights the critical role that agrobiodiversity plays in improving soil fertility, incomes and food security, while enhancing ecological sustainability and providing more stable yields. The study examines the ecological and economic role that a more diverse cropping system, using legumes, have in Malawi. Dr. Sieglinde Snapp, a crop ecologist who has collaborated with SFHC for many years, was the first author. The study included data from Ekwendeni, and Dr. Rachel Bezner Kerr, the SFHC Research Coordinator, was another co-author of the study, along with Dr. George Kanyama-Phiri, another SFHC collaborator who has recently been appointed by the President of Malawi as the head of the Green Revolution Development programme in Malawi. The article information is as follows:

Snapp, S. S., M.J. Blackie, R.A. Gilbert, R. Bezner Kerr, G.Y. Kanyama-Phiri. ‘Biodiversity can support a greener revolution in Africa’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1073/pnas.1007199107

A full abstract is available in the ‘Research Results’ section of the website.

BBC radio highlights SFHC

SFHC is highlighted on a recent radio programme on the BBC radio 4. Click on the following link to listen.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12061998

The broadcaster travelled to Malawi and highlighted the work of SFHC as a future alternative for Malawi. Lizzie Shumba (project coordinator) and Enoch Chione (community promoter and FRT member) are both interviewed.