Farmers under Salima Agriculture Development Division (ADD) have said despite bad results of this growing season’s dry spell, they have drawn positive lessons they will cherish in their entire farming lives.
The farmers said this year’s situation has given them a chance to appreciate how some crop varieties can withstand tough weather conditions and give the farmers better yields.
Farison Soko is one of the farmers with hands-on experience on performance of different types of maize varieties. He is also a member of Tigwirizane Farmers Club involved in maize field research in conjunction with Salima ADD, which covers Salima and Nkhotakota districts.
Soko and his fellow club members said they had 10 different maize varieties they grew under similar conditions. As the maize growing season is drawing to an end, he said the farmers have settled for their favourite maize variety.
He said: “The drought this season has enlightened us on how some varieties perform during dry spells and next growing season I know exactly what type of maize variety I am going to grow.
“Furthermore, we are not the only ones [enlightened by] the research because over 27 farmers outside the club have already said this research has helped them.”
The variety the farmers have fallen for has, among other characteristics, early maturity, thereby doing well when there are insufficient rains. The variety also has been able to withstand prolonged drought and waterlogging conditions.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development director of crops Godfrey Chingoma acknowledged that this year’s rains, apart from being disastrous, have also brought lessons which, if taken seriously, can lead to household food security.
He also said in recognition of the impending hunger, government is distributing cassava and sweet potato planting materials which farmers can start planting before the fields dry up.
Said Chingoma: “Apart from cassava and sweet potato planting materials, we are also distributing early maturing maize varieties, which we expect farmers to grow under irrigation and use residual moisture. However, we need to bear in mind that food is not only maize.”
This growing season has been characterised by heavy rains at the beginning, which led to floods washing away crops and water logging the soil, thereby making soil nutrients—both natural and applied fertilisers—to leach down the soil. Fifteen of the country’s 28 administrative districts were soaked in floods that washed away crops, livestock, people and damaged property.