Although the Malawian economy is agro-based with more than 85% of the labor force employed in agriculture, there is still a lack, in both quantity and quality, of crop products. This is in part due to high infestation of pests and diseases like fall army worms as well as a lack of farm inputs like seeds and fertilizer. More than 80% of farmers are small holders living on less than a dollar a day. Despite government intervention in supplying farm inputs through the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP), which provides fertilizer and maize seeds together with leguminous seeds to vulnerable households, there is a need of multi-level intervention if farmers’ welfare is to be improved.
One of the ways I suggest is to promote organic farming with minimal and appropriate use of chemicals in an integrated farming system. Despite the fact that healthy, vigorous plants that grow quickly are better able to withstand pest damage, over-fertilizing crops can actually increase pest problems. Research has shown that increasing soluble nitrogen levels in plants can decrease their resistance to pests, resulting in higher pest density and crop damage. For example, increased rates of nitrogen fertilizer have been associated with large increase in number of aphids and mites
(eXtension, 2015). This means that if farmers can opt to use more organic manure than chemicals, crop resistant to the pest infestation can be improved since this soil contains natural enemies to insect pests, including insect predators, pathogenic fungi, and insect parasitic nematodes.
Promoting integrated farming systems among smallholder farmers can contribute to both pest management and increased yields. Farmers use farm field residue to make bedding for their animals and also use the manure from the kraals as a nutrition source for their farms. This can ensure that the pests, which could accumulate in the residue on the farm, have been dealt with hence promoting both high yield and pest management.
The main focus of my innovation will be on the use of green, compost manure and other community wastes to be used in manure production. I would like to facilitate this initiative by being at the forefront of collecting the community wastes and using already waste disposal points as manure production sites. The manure will be sold to farmers at a very low price so they can improve the fertility of their farms, which then can cope with the demands of climatic change.
Through the use of government extension and advisory services, the existing smallholder groups shall be used to organize training meetings and demonstrations to farmers. They will be shown how to produce this highly nutritious manure boosting their yield and promoting parasite control. This shall also help deal with the waste that litters the surrounding area hence ensuring a more hygienic environment. These solutions will promote crop safety in reduction of insect pest proliferation and an increase in farmers’ yields.
Firstly, I will locate both peri-urban and rural growth center waste disposal sites. After listing them, I will mobilize experts in manure production to work with me to advise nearby farmers on how to produce this nutritious manure. I will reach farmers at a further distance through already existing groups. They will be mobilized to start gathering waste and clearing around their farms to use in green manure production, with technical support from the staff that I will hire. Government extension and advisory services will help in making sure that those farmers with animals are using their kraals for manure production by providing them with technical support.
The benefit to smallholder farmers will be higher yields due to minimized insect parasite infestation and improved soil fertility. This should improve their living standards. The agro-processing companies will benefit since there will be a readily available market for the raw material. The communities will benefit from more hygienic surroundings since the waste and debris littering their surroundings are being turned into manure. The government will benefit as they will earn more forex from exports resulting from the improved yields. In addition to all of this, the project will minimize the impact of waste disposal on climate change while ensuring a productive and resilient environment for smallholder agriculture.
The main factor motivating my intervention is to eradicate the persistent problem of insect pest infestation among smallholder farmer, which contributes to their poverty. I’d like to see that farmers are better able to cope with the current market gap between producers and consumers. On a global scale, we should be promoting techniques that can overcome adverse climatic impacts and also make sure that there is adequate food for the current generation and generations to come.
The primary benefit for me is to gain a better knowledge of nutritious manure production that can be used for organic crop production that can help in combating climate change and can increase yields and revenues for smallholder farmers.
Emmanuel Kanjawala, Malawi