Sustainable crop production through bench terraces construction

Farmers constructing bench terraces

31 October 2018:

Community outreach groups enable participants to carry out simulation sessions that expose them to the various hands-on aspects embedded in the Farmer Field School (FFS) methodology for subsequent application on their own farms.

One such group is Limbanazo FFS which was established by Master Trainer (MT) Lostina Banda as an agricultural behaviour change communication platform.

The FFS is located in Kachonga village, Kavuzi Extension Planning Area in Nkhatabay district, under the Mzuzu Agriculture Development Division (ADD).

Before the establishment of Limbanazo FFS, farmers were struggling to grow crops on steep slopes of the land, which led to a lot of run-off and loss of soil fertility. Crop diversification was non-existent as only maize was grown in the area season long. However, since the establishment of the FFS, crop diversification and soil conservation have been made possible through construction of bench terraces.

“The Master Trainer course at Mzuzu Residential Training Centre, under KULIMA Project, has opened my eyes wider as I have learnt new and simple technologies that I am sharing with members of this Farmer Field School.

Together, we have established the terraces and study plots on which we are now growing and studying various crops such as tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, carrots, green pepper, and onion. In this area it is indeed better to grow crops on terraces rather than ridges as the terrain is so steep.

We also save time as we don’t have to dig out ridges each time we plant, but simply apply manure and turn over the soil”, shares MT Lostina, who is the Agriculture Extension Development Officer (AEDO) in the area.

The name Limbanazo itself literally testifies to the struggles the group has gone through to get this far. As famers get more knowledge, change attitudes, and understand the whole system of field ecological interactions through observation, analysis and decision making, they are able to reduce the negative impact of pests and diseases.

Through the study plots on the terraces, farmers are learning improved management practices of various vegetables and pulses by conducting Agro-Eco-System Analysis (AESA).

“We now understand that the health of a plant is determined by its environment, which includes presence of factors such as pests, diseases, weeds, the sun, rain, and soil nutrients.

Quite interesting is the fact that we now know that there are insects which are beneficial to our crops in other words we call them friends and natural enemies which promote or affect survival of our crops”, says happily FFS member, Louis Ndao.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD), is implementing the KULIMA Project with funding from the European Union.

FFS members conducting AESA