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International researchers in Malawi to understand how weather, climate change impact agricultural production

A five-member team of weather and climate change researchers from France, Italy, Poland, Kenya and Tanzania has arrived in Malawi to understand how change in climate is affecting agricultural production and productivity among smallholder farmers.

On Tuesday, the team met and interacted with selected farmers from Zomba to get first-hand information on how climate change has affected the agriculture sector.

The study is part of an African-European project, which is being implemented in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) and other research institutions in Europe such as TMA and TARI.

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Speaking on behalf of the researchers, Sam Whittlesey, said the ultimate goal of the study is to create climate predictions, which are useful for farmers.

“Our discussions with farmers are mainly aimed at understanding more about their agricultural practices, their farming knowledge, and their experience. This will help us improve the weather and climate information they will receive in the future,” said Whittlesey, who is also an analyst at LGI Sustainable Innovation.

NASFAM Farm Services Coordinator Francis Masankha disclosed that in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services (DCCMS), the association has been disseminating weather information to farmers and other stakeholders.

This initiative, said Masankha, is helping farmers to plan well thereby mitigating the impact of climate change on their agricultural production and productivity.

“NASFAM realises that accurate weather information and forecasts enable farmers to make informed decisions, take advantage of favourable climate condition, and adapt to change,” he narrated, adding that farmers rely on historical weather patterns for decision-making, but increasing unpredictability in weather systems has increased the risk for farmers.

He stated that the most important decisions made by smallholders are based on seasonal forecasts.

Farmers that participated in the focus group discussion commended NASFAM for the shorter real-time meteorological information and daily forecasts, which they said help them to determine timing of various activities such as sowing, weeding, spraying and harvesting.

In her closing remarks, another researcher Dr. Dragana Bojovic expressed the team’s commitment to working with smallholder farmers in Malawi to find lasting solutions to devastating effects of climate change.

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