Promoting residue incorporation

Farmer promoters have been out in the field all week, doing teaching and demonstrating of legume crop residue burial in the new participating villages. The promoters visited all 20 villages, and did teaching on nitrogen fixation, the role of legume residue in improving the soil, and the importance of early incorporation. Some of their training built on a workshop on legumes and nitrogen fixation they had with Mary Parr, a collaborating graduate student, earlier this year. In some of the villages they visited, farmers had already incorporated the residue, which was exciting to observe.

New student studying recipe days

Emmanuel Chilanga, a Masters student of geography at Western University, is coming to Ekwendeni this May to study the impacts of our participatory nutrition program, particularly recipe days, on household gender roles and child care practices. Emmanuel is a Malawian student funded through the McKnight Foundation’s Collaborative Crop Research Program, and his supervisor is Dr. Rachel Bezner Kerr. Emmanuel has been examined the literature on the division of labour and decision-making more broadly, and wants to apply theories of why people change household roles to the Ekwendeni context. He is looking forward to working closely with the SFHC team to understand how the participatory nutrition education program works, and what families learn when they participate in recipe days.

Project highlighted on CBC program

Dr. Raj Patel is a renowned scholar, writer and activist on food issues, and has published a well-known book “Stuffed and Starved” about global food inequalities. In a recent hour long program on the Canadian Broadcasting Radio radio program ‘Ideas’,(http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2012/04/20/feeding-ten-billion-1/) Dr. Patel discussed global food problems and possible solutions. Starting at the 32 minute mark, Dr. Patel discusses the recent history of agriculture in Malawi, and our work of SFHC is highlighted at the 40 minute mark as being a potential and exciting solution to food insecurity in the Global South.

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.