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Agricultural development student shares conservation agriculture skills with over 2,300 farmers in Malawi

Chrissy Moyo, from the Chikwawa district of Malawi, has successfully trained over 100 lead farmers in her community, including 48% female lead farmers, following her scholarship funded by global agricultural development charity, the Marshal Papworth Fund, which is managed by the East of England Agricultural Society. These lead farmers have subsequently gone on to train over 2,300 farmers in conservation agriculture, integrated pest management and post-harvest handling to help improve food security and fulfil the Marshal Papworth vision of ‘growing out of hunger’. The training has had a huge impact, helping farmers to improve yield and manage their land sustainably.

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Chrissy Moyo meets with lead farmers in the Chikwawa district
Chrissy Moyo meets with lead farmers in the Chikwawa district

One of the Malawian farmers to adopt the lessons gained on Chrissy’s Marshal Papworth scholarship is Mary, 38, from Mpokonyola village in Chikwawa district. Mary has been able to increase her maize yield from 300kg/acre to 3T/acre, enough to feed her family up to the next harvesting season and beyond. Chrissy said: “Using the conservation agriculture approach, Mary applied compost manure fertilizer to her field. Before the simple intervention she used to cultivate 0.5 acres of land and would only harvest three bags of maize (150kg, or 300kg/acre), which would last for three months, and then her household would be food insecure.” Using Chrissy’s approach, Mary has cultivated less land (0.2 acres) for winter cropping, but it has helped her to realise a yield of 12 bags (600kg, or 3T/acre) of maize for her family. She plans to increase her land under cultivation to 0.6 acres in the next season and begin selling any surplus produce.

Chrissy said: “Thanks to the Marshal Papworth Fund’s short course scholarship, the skills that I am able to share give small-scale farmers an opportunity to achieve better livelihoods in the face of all these challenges. It consists of very simple methods of farming that include reduced disturbance of the soil during land preparation, no burning of crop residues after harvest, crop rotation, and reliance whenever possible on organic sources like compost and livestock manure for crop nutrients instead of chemical fertilizer.”

She continued: “In recent years, threats posed by climate change and environmental degradation coupled with prolonged dry spells has left a lot of families in Malawi prone to food insecurity resulting from crop failure. Relying on traditional methods of cultivation, a lot of smallholder farmers in the Chikwawa district were previously prone to poverty.”

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Mary at home with some of her maize yield.
Mary at home with some of her maize yield

Marshal Papworth Fund chairman, Tom Arthey, said: “It is really great to see that our alumni are putting to use their time spent on our agricultural scholarships at UK universities and colleges to demonstrably improve the lives of their communities, especially to those who have been food insecure and reliant on support for several years, like Mary and her family. Because of their work, many households have improved their food security, with enough food produced to not only see them through the year, but also in many cases, moving to a situation of having a surplus to sell, which brings added income into the household and all of the benefits to education, health and sanitation with it.”

The Marshal Papworth Fund has now welcomed 215 agricultural development students, working across developing countries to overcome issues including food insecurity, poverty and climate change in a sustainable way. Whilst in the UK, the students attend a number of visits to farms and other agricultural enterprises, that allow them to see, first-hand, the techniques and management practices UK farmers use to build sustainable and profitable businesses. For both our Masters and 10 week short-course students, these practical learnings enable them to go back to their home countries with both policy design and practical implementation ideas that can benefit the farmers in their own communities, as shown by the work that Chrissy is doing.    

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