The usual Malawian diet lacks adequate nutrients due to inadequate knowledge, poor access, and limited availability of diverse foods from all food groups to meet nutritional requirements. This also applies to micronutrients. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals which are required in small amounts but are vital for physiological processes and act to protect the body from infection and disease. The Malawi micronutrient survey demonstrated that micronutrient malnutrition is a serious problem in all target groups in Malawi.
Integrated homestead farming is the growing of crops and rearing of small stock around the home for good nutrition. Integrated homestead farming is an approach that aims to improve household food security and reduce micronutrient deficiencies. Its goal is to enhance the production and consumption of diversified nutritious food while also generating income for households.
From 5-7 May 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) in conjunction with Food Agriculture Organization Malawi (FAOMW) held a stakeholder consultative meeting at Chikho Hotel in Kasungu. The aim of the meeting was to gather the input and recommendations of civil society organizations on the guidelines being developed for Integrated Homestead Farming. These are national guidelines and will be under the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
As Kusamala’s Climate Smart Agriculture Project Coordinator, I was selected to participate in this meeting. The significant part of Kusamala’s participation is the integration of design principles in the guidelines. The guidelines are capturing issues of diversity. To improve diet diversity, the guidelines are promoting the harmonic integration of different plants and small livestock in what before, was simply called backyard gardens.
In terms of livestock management it was recommended that the guidelines should reflect a rotational chicken housing system such as that used here at Kusamala as well as by the Brighter Future Initiative and others. This rotational system raises chickens in a fenced area where the chickens and plants work with each other to benefit one another in the end. On one hand, the plants that are grown in the fenced area are both food for the chickens and for people, where as on the other hand, the chickens deposit manure, eat pests in the ground and naturally loosen the soils as the peck and scratch the ground.
Integrating rather than segregating was a main theme of the meeting and is repeated throughout the guideline document. Additionally, an entire section of the document is focuses on integrated design. The guidelines intend to provide simple food-based approaches to resolving micronutrient deficiencies through successful establishment and management of integrated farming at household, institutional and community settings.
On the first day of the workshop, we visited some communities where a project on Integrated Homestead Farming is being piloted. Whilst there, we heard success stories of how homestead farming is impacting of people’s lives. We also had the opportunity to see how farmers are utilizing the outcomes of this project.
However, one sad story was that of Nkanakhothi Extension Planning Area (EPA). It was officially made an EPA six years ago in 2008. Currently, the EPA does not have a proper office for its extension workers. The office that is being used is a dilapidated building that is not conducive for the work extension workers are expected to do. There is one tree, a wind-damaged roof, no windows, no doors, and no furniture. This example is just one that I came across, but there are many others out there. The success of our agriculture planning lies in the hands of the front line staff and they clearly need more support and basic infrastructure in order to accomplish the important work that they are tasked with.