Malawi: Radio programs help fish farmers survive drought

| June 27, 2016

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Sixty-two-year-old Wabu Malinga has tried a number of farming businesses in an effort to feed his family, but their hunger has persisted. Seven years ago, he started fish farming. But he had difficulties managing the fish, and he had a hard time providing enough food and income for his family when he wasn’t harvesting fish.

Mr. Malinga lives in Kukada village, in southern Malawi’s Balaka district. He says that many households in his area experience hunger every year because of drought.

He explains: “We used to rely on rain-fed agriculture, and could not harvest enough because [my area] does not receive enough rains for us to produce enough food or income. At the same time, we needed to look for fish varieties that can cope with the changing climate.”

Mr. Malinga was running out of ideas to end his family’s hunger when he heard a radio program about farming and climate change last year. The program talked about integrating irrigated farming, winter cropping, and climate-smart farming practices—a combination designed to produce a harvest despite the effects of climate change.

Mr. Malinga and his family started implementing lessons from the radio program.

He says, “In fact, I am not an expert in agriculture or climate change. But a radio program on a local radio [station] called Zodiak Broadcasting Station opened my eyes to begin to see that we can still survive the dry spells that hit our district almost every year.”

Kennedy Mwafulirwa is the local extension worker. He has been encouraging farmers like Mr. Malinga to tune in to the radio program, which is called Ulimi ndi Nyengo (Farming and climate change).

Mr. Mwafulirwa says the program aims to reduce small-scale farmers’ vulnerability to climate-related risks by broadcasting weather information that is tailored to their needs. He says: “The radio is providing innovative farmer advisory and extension services, and its programming integrates other ICTs such as [a] mobile phone platform, through which farmers receive weather forecasts, alerts, and agriculture tips in relation to climate change.” The program provides other agricultural advisory services, by pushing SMS messages to farmers and through on-demand services such as Beep4weather.

This year, members of the Namikuyu listening club are following in Mr. Malinga’s footsteps.

Twenty-five-year-old Frodes Nandewe farms in Kukada village. Ms. Nandewe has two fish ponds, and grows sweet potatoes and cassava on her one-hectare field. She says: “My family is benefitting a lot from the radio program. I used to rely on Mr. Malinga’s radio, but I have now bought a phone that has a radio facility so that I can listen to the radio program and receive agriculture information through the phone.”

Mr. Malinga is happy that his family and other farmers in his village are benefitting from extension advice through the radio program. He says: “Farmers in our club use our family radio to listen to the programs, and so far we have been able to grow second crops as well as drought-resistant crops in response to the information received through radio and our mobile phones.”