SFHC members attend policy workshop

Lizzie Shumba and Rachel Bezner Kerr attended a policy workshop on soil fertility management and seed systems in Lilongwe, Malawi August 31-Sept. 1 2009. The workshop was organized by Bunda College of Agriculture and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to discuss how legumes can be better linked to other efforts to address food security. Several interesting policy ideas were discussed and will be presented to government representatives. Lizzie and Rachel raised the work of SFHC as one way that government can support farmers in trying to address food security and soil fertility.

Participatory Workshop a Success

Lizzie Shumba presents yield data at participatory workshop

A participatory workshop was held in May 2009 with 60 farmer representatives as well as staff and representatives from the Ekwendeni Hospital AIDS Program. The workshop involved assessing challenges and achievements of the project over the last 3 years, and thinking about strategies for the next few years. Rachel Bezner Kerr and Lizzie Shumba presented some highlights from research findings from the past three years. Farmers were keen to have these results published in chiTumbuka so that they could present them to the communities. The workshop was considered very helpful for planning for steps ahead.

Workshop participants examine each others\' successes and challenges written on sticky notes.

Harvest Looking Healthy

Zacharia Nkhonya, Boyd Zimba, Rodgers Msachi and the members of the FRT have been pegging areas to collect yield data in 2009, and they have observed very healthy looking maize, and excellent legume fields. They think that the harvest this year should be very high, and look forward to collecting data in June-July.

National Geographic Article highlights SFHC

A new article in the magazine National Geographic highlights the SFHC project as an agroecological alternative to the dominant model of agriculture of fertilizers, hybrid seeds and pesticides being promoted for Africa. The author, Joel Bourne, visited the project in November 2008, and interviewed Rachel on the phone following his trip. To read the article visit: http://s.ngm.com/print/2009/06/cheap-food/bourne-text

Lizzie back to school

Lizzie Shumba, the Project Coordinator, has returned to the Natural Resources College in September, after having a break from her studies. Lizzie has been on ‘study leave’ since February 2008. She spent her ‘break’ helping write reports and carry out seed collection and assessment. We wish her the best in her studies this coming semester!

Project involvement improves child growth

Analysis by the SFHC team and collaborating researchers of anthropometric data collected over 8 years indicates that project involvement has a positive, significant effect on child weight-for-age, which is an indicator of child nutritional status. A report on these exciting findings will be submitted for publication in a scientific journal. See our ‘research results’ for a summary of the findings.

Seed quality high

The Farmer Research Team and SFHC staff have been busy grading groundnut and soya bean seed this past month. Over 3000 kg of soya bean seed wascollected from participating farmers, and the quality of this legume seed is high. This seed will be redistributed to new participating farmers in the coming rainy season. No pigeonpea seed was collected, which was attributed to a break in the rainfall and high weevil incidence this past year.

Lots of Seed Finds its Way to Seed Bank

The Farmer Research Team members have started collecting the seed from farmers. New participating SFHC farmers were given a seed ‘loan’ which they have to pay back at harvest. This year’s groundnut harvest is not as good as last year, due to short rains, but soya bean harvest has been good. Farmers are enthusiastically bringing their seed loans to the Community Legume Seed Bank, which is run by the FRT. This seed will be distributed to participating farmers around October 2008.

Farmer Pamphlets Coming Soon!

A farmer pamphlet committee was formed in February 2008, including 6 farmers from the Farmer Research Team and our new SFHC Young Professional Intern Laura Swift. The pamphlets, designed, written and drawn by the committee, will tell stories of what the farmers feel that they have learned from the SFHC project. Themes will focus on legume production, recipes and gender household relations. The pamphlets will be published locally and shared with other farmers using participatory farmer exchanges.

A draft pamphlet has been developed and is posted below:

Field & Recipe Days a Big Success!

In April, SFHC staff organized two Field Days and one Recipe Day in order to promote awareness, share knowledge and celebrate the successes of the project. The Field Days, which were hosted by farmers in the Emazinyeni and Ekwaiweni areas, attracted hundreds of people, including participating and interested farmers from surrounding areas, and representatives from the Malawian Broadcasting Corporation, Bunda College of Agriculture and the Ministry of Agriculture. Selected farmers showed off their fields, explaining the cropping methods that they use and answering questions from the audience. After the demonstrations, enthusiastic community members performed skits, songs, and dances.Once the entertainment had finished, everyone enjoyed a meal of nsima (the local staple food, made from maize), chicken, and cabbage, while reflecting on what they had learned throughout the day.
The Recipe Day was hosted by farmers in the Encongolweni area. The Nutrition Research Team (NRT) worked hard to organize the day, and many interested farmers from the surrounding areas attended.Using the different legumes from the project, NRT members demonstrated how to prepare various nutritious recipes, including soy meatballs, soy milk, and ground peanut balls. Canadian PhD student, Lauren Classen, also demonstrated a recipe using green soy beans, causing much excitement, as farmers had never known how to use green soy beans! They eagerly accepted the new, nutritious recipe. After the demonstrations, everyone shared a meal and tasted the new recipes, and then enjoyed some traditional drumming and dancing. All three days were very successful, and SFHC staff is looking forward to the upcoming Recipe Days in May!

Nyless Mahone, a SFHC Community Promoter and participating farmer, explains the recipes to field day participants (Photo Credit: Laura Swift)

Vella Chipofya shows off his fields at Emazinyeni Field Day. (Photo Credit: Lauren Classen)