Malawi: Schools of Farmers against climate change

Enelesi and Maria John have learned manage an intercropped field of maize, okra and tomatoes. The Phalombe Farm Field School in Malawi is where they learn practices increasing resilience to climate change impacts. Local farmer communities work togeter at the farm field school and trainers like Beatrice Kapone demonstrate how solar irrigation for land management works.


Phalombe is in one of four districts (Phalonbe, Zomba, Neno and Blantyre) where the EU-funded initiative Global Climate Change Alliance Plus supports community resilience practices like redirecting water to the fields, as done at the Tikondan Farm Field School.


Enelesi and Maria John weeding in an intercropped field of maize, okra and tomatoes. The practice increases the resilience againts climate change impacts. Phalombe Farm Field School in Malawi. GCCA+ 2018

Malawi is one of the most vulnerable countries in sub-Saharan Africa to the impacts of climate change. Floods, dry spells, heavy storms and hailstorms are the main climate related hazards, according to a 2014 FAO report  - in a country with half of its population living below the poverty line.


Farm Field Schools are a complementary and reinforcing approach to traditional agricultural advisory services, helping especially small-hold farmers become more resilient to climate change. Farmers learn how to analyse the problems they face and make appropriate decisions on how to adapt their practices according to local data and contexts.


A typical school comprises 20 to 30 farmers and the approach focuses on local knowledge, understanding the local agro-ecosystem and taking existing capacities into account. As the communities and villages in Malawi vary across the country, their vulnerability and susceptibility to the impacts of climate change are experienced in different ways. This calls for holistic and transformative to farmer education, aiming to empower vulnerable communities to manage and use natural resources in a sustainable way and encourage diversification.


The economy of Malawi is largely dependent on its natural resources. Climate-sensitive and rain-fed agriculture is the pillar of Malawi's agro-based economy. It accounts for 30 to 40% of the GDP and employs 85% of the country's workforce. Moreover, 90% of the population practice subsistence agriculture.



GCCA+ in Malawi


The Neno programme, which regards Farm Field Schools as an extension to its community outreach approach, started in2015 and is part of a Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) action which is jointly implemented by FAO, Natural Resource Institute, and Human Dynamics. The project is organised in partnership with Total Land Care (TLC), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) and the Malawi Government. Community resilience practices are taught in four districts: Zomba, Neno, Phalombe and Blantyre.


Having started with just four pilot projects in 2008, GCCA+ is a main climate initiative for vulnerable countries, funded by the European Union, that supports 70 support intervetions of national, regional or global scope in more than 60 countries (of which 37 Least Developed Countries and 36  Small Island Developing States). By 2020, the GCCA+ total investments will raise to EUR 750 million, making it one of the largest climate initiatives in the world.