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Wednesday, 12 September 2018 10:55

Localized climate information to benefit farmers

Written by  Chimwemwe Njoloma
Farmers among others advised to adapt to new farming technologies - File Photo Farmers among others advised to adapt to new farming technologies - File Photo

Lilongwe, September 11, 2018: Government of Malawi with support from UNDP has introduced a Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach, aimed at enabling farmers to make informed decisions based on observed and accurate weather and climate information for their area. 

The approach, pioneered by the University of Reading will provide farmers with localized, specific information which is easy to understand and interpret to make better farming decisions and help build their resilience to climate risks and ensure food security.

Being implemented under the Modernized Climate and Early warning Systems (M-Climes) which is funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), PICSA is currently training Trainer of trainers of agricultural staff in Dedza, Rumphi, Chikwawa and Ntcheu.

Through the PICSA approach, agricultural extension staff, development partners and other intermediaries will be trained to integrate climate services into their ongoing work with farming communities across the country.

M-Climes Knowledge Management Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Ted Nyekanyeka said experts have been drawn from Department of Agriculture Extension Services (DAES), National Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (NASFAM) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have been trained to train extension workers.

“Once trained, PICSA will help farmers make informed decisions based on seasonal forecasts. They will be able to decide on type of crops and varieties to grow as well as whether they need to do livestock farming and/or off farm livelihood options.

“We will continue extending the training to the rest of agricultural extension district officers and other non- governmental staff so that we reach to all farmers across the country,” said Nyekanyeka.

He said the project is being implemented in collaboration with the Department of Meteorological Services and other agencies.

He said it is expected that the trained extension workers will reach about 6000 farmers this year alone, adding that they will also reach 194,000 farmers and benefit 2million farmers in providing agricultural advisories through the extension system, ICT and radio.

He added that World Food Programme (WFP) piloted the program under the Global Framework for Climate (GFC) and they are just scaling up what they did.

Director of Agricultural Extension Services, Dr Jeromy Nkhoma advised the participants to use the skills to bridge the knowledge gap between climate information and farmers’ decision making in planning on farm and off farm activities.

He said it is a good development for the country to have people who will have knowledge on how to use local climate information from historical data to seasonal forecasts to reduce risks associated with climate variability.

“It is anticipated that the project will have a positive impact on agricultural productivity as it will increase productivity and farmers are expected to become more resilient to future climate change,” said Nkhoma.

He said the trainees and stakeholders are expected to use the knowledge and skills to train farmers how to use climate information to make better decisions in areas where they work.

One of the participants, who is Farm Extension Services Officer, Fannie Muwa said the training was an eye opener as it stressed the need for strengthening national and local capacity for climate services for agriculture.

She said it will help agriculture planners, policy makers, investors and food security specialists to respond more effectively to droughts, floods and other climate related risks.

“This will help us improve agricultural planning and food security management in the face of a variable and changing climate at both local and government levels and that by the end of the project period, farmers will have timely access to useful climate services,” she said.

PICSA has successfully been used in seven countries in Sub-Saharan Africa which among others include Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The approach is expected to benefit millions of farmers across countries.

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