Lead farmers from Traditional Authority Chapananga in Chikwawa have commended the participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach, saying it has enhanced food security in the area.
This was revealed during a field visit by government officials and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to appreciate the project’s progress, which is funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) through UNDP.
One of the beneficiaries, 71-year-old Atanazio Chasukwa, said the approach has saved the area from severe food shortage they have been experiencing in the past.
He said most community members in the area were now food secure because they have adopted the use of information on proper farming methods made available through the PICSA platform.
“We used to farm without following proper methods due to lack of information. I started farming in 1958, but I never realised high yields due to poor farming methods.
“I started yielding bumper harvests in 2018 after PICSA was introduced to us. The approach has taught us to plant hybrid seeds that withstand climate change effects,”said Chasukwa.
Margaret Andiseni, who is also a beneficiary, said PICSA has enlightened them on which crops to cultivate with regards to the early weather warnings it provides.
“The PICSA platform informs us of the upcoming weather conditions, enabling us to make proper decisions and cultivate crops which do well in accordance to the forecasted weather.
“We now cultivate drought-tolerant crops if dry spells are anticipated and yield bumper harvests at the end of the season,” she said.
According to DAES Deputy Director, Anderson Chikomola, government decided to implement PICSA to facilitate the making of informed decisions among smallholder farmers about farming.
Through the same method, lead farmers receive messages advising them on which local crop or livestock to opt for with regards to the early weather warnings.
“DAES developed Esoko platform some years ago to disseminate agricultural advisories to farmers.
“PICSA uses the same platform to send accurate specific location climate and weather alerts to lead farmers.
“After receiving this information, the lead farmers then disseminate it to other smallholder farmers so that they too benefit from it. In essence, PICSA uses participatory tools in aiding farmers’ decision making,” said Chikomola.
He said government is implementing PICSA through ‘Scaling up the Use of Modernised Climate Information and Early Warning Systems (M-CLIMES)’. World Food Program is supporting implementation of the approach.
In his remarks, UNDP knowledge Management, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for M-CLIMES, Ted Nyekanyeka said they are working with farmers from 14 food-insecure districts.
He said the districts were mapped from initial vulnerability assessment done by the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
“Our focus is to ensure that farmers understand more about climate information and early weather systems,” he said.
“We are also supporting the functioning of Esoko platform and the development of messages by expanding on other Information Technology options that are easy to reach by farmers,” he said.
He said the project has so far trained over 20,000 lead farmers who have assisted in disseminating information to about 200, 000 smallholder farmers in all the 14 districts.
PICSA is in Phalombe, Chiradzulu, Zomba, Ntcheu, Dowa, Nkhata Bay, Karonga, Mzimba, Rumphi, Dedza, Salima, Nkhotakota and Karonga.