Can you describe your farm and what crops and livestock you have?
My farm size is 10 hectares and I grow maize, beans, soya beans, peas, potatoes, cassava, vegetables and fruits. I also rear animals, such as cattle, pigs, turkeys, chickens and pigeons.
What are the climate-change difficulties you have to deal with on your farm?
One of the main problems is shortage of rain. But we also have to deal with poor soil fertility, floods and very hot conditions, which severely restrict the growth of forage for our animals.
Have you noticed a difference in climate over the years that you have been farming?
I have been farming for many years, but in the past four years I have noticed that the climate conditions have changed quite dramatically.
What steps have you taken to deal with these changes? What climate-smart practices have you introduced?
I have started using a whole range of climate-smart practices, which are having a good effect. I have constructed marker ridges on my land, which guide planting and help to make the best use of the small quantities of rain we receive. I have also planted vetiver grass to reduce runoff and erosion. Other climate-smart practices I've introduced include having a woodlot on my farm, pasture conservation and making silage. For my crop cultivation, I now ensure minimum soil disturbance by using planting pits and reduced tillage and maximise soil cover by using maize stalks or cover crops such as cowpeas. I have also planted fodder trees and am rotating and interplanting maize with 'fertiliser trees' and maize with Tephrosia, which is a nitrogen-fixing legume. These new farming technologies have enabled me to achieve stable maize yields in spite of the challenges of climate change, such as drought.
I understand you have introduced fodder banks. Please explain how they work
Fodder banks are beneficial to me and my family. These are plantings of high-quality fodder species. I use them to feed my livestock when forage is scarce, especially in dry seasons. They are cut and fed fresh or dried and mixed with maize bran, salt and calcium. They are a good source of protein for livestock and enable fast growth and increased milk yields, especially in cows.
What results have you had with fertiliser trees, and which species do you use?
Fertiliser trees are very effective in improving soil fertility. I plant them in the same field with my food crops – species such as Tephrosia and Gliricidia sepium, Faidherbia albida and pigeon peas. For Tephrosia and pigeon peas, I plant them each season, and during that season we remove the leaves three times and bury them in planting pits while still green. For Gliricidia, I trim the tree at a height of 30 cm three times each season and bury the leaves in planting basins or pits. By so doing, the leaves fix nitrogen in the soil. In the case of Faidherbia albida, the leaves drop naturally onto the ground during the rainy season, thereby decomposing and fixing nitrogen in the soil. I also grow trees like Acacia polycantha and Acacia galpinii, which have the same beneficial effect.
What about your fruit orchard – what problems have you faced and how have you solved them?
In my orchard, I grow oranges, tangerines, lemons, mangoes, guavas, apples, peaches, avocado, pineapples and bananas. To solve problems of pests and diseases, I apply pounded Tephrosia, which is an effective biological control for fruits. Another challenge we face here is the presence of termites, which damage the fruit trees, so I have got round that by planting onion or marigold in the orchard. There is also the problem of human theft, so I now keep dogs to guard the orchard.
I understand you have a biogas plant. How does it work and how does it help?
I obtained the technology to build a biogas plant from Mzuzu University. It works, but there are a few problems which are the result of some faults during construction. But even though it has these problems, it is useful to our farm and family as it has reduced the cost of firewood.
Do you think more farmers could adopt practices such as yours and offset climate change?
Yes, the practices that I use could definitely help other farmers. They are effective and not difficult to introduce. I am lucky enough to have a hard working and supportive husband, and in our family we always share our day-to-day undertakings equally. Gender equality is important to both of us.
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