Patrick Kuyokwa, Projects Coordinator at Temwa Malawi, wrote this article about the Nkhata Bay Natural Way Project in our 2017 Trees Journal. Paul Laird, ITF Programmes Manager, who has visited the project twice, adds some details on its achievements.
In Nkhata Bay North, past exploitation of natural resources by local communities, land degradation and erratic climatic conditions have affected crop production leading to food insecurity and vulnerability.
The Nkhata Bay Natural Way (NBNW) was developed in partnership with Temwa Malawi and Deki Ltd. The programme aimed to develop district wide sustainable natural resource management and improved livelihoods for the most disadvantaged households in Nkhata Bay North. NBNW worked in 111 villages in four traditional authorities. By strengthening local governance structures the project aimed to ensure long term sustainability through local planning, monitoring and review.
NBNW has achieved some excellent results for local communities. However, ITF’s involvement with the project together with the grant funding from the Big Lottery ended in September 2017 following fraudulent activity linked to project spending. Read ITF’s statement here.
Engaging communities across 111 villages
In its first two years, NBNW initiated many positive changes to the lives of local communities by enhancing forest conservation, tree planting, and sustainable farming. These activities were spearheaded by community forest governance structures, known as Village Natural Resource Management Committees or VNRMCs, traditional leaders, community extension volunteers and lead farmers.
VNRMCs organise and support communities in tree cultivation, reforestation and awareness campaigns. Tovwirane VNRMC was one of these groups, raising 5,600 seedlings and planting about 2,600 trees in their communal woodlot. The Village Chief, VH Selemani, and the Committee believe it is their responsibility to conserve and plant trees. “Unless we replant trees and conserve the existing forests, food insecurity will continue”, said Selemani.
NBNW worked with 36 VNRMCs each of which had its own tree nursery. Over the last two years of the project these groups raised more than 190,000 seedlings of 15 species including indigenous and agroforestry species. More than 169,000 trees had been planted by September 2017, and tree planting is still continuing. Most of the seedlings were planted in the communal woodlots of catchment areas. More than 67 hectares of communal woodlots were restored or enhanced by tree planting.
To address soil degradation and hunger in the area, NBNW introduced agroforestry to rural households – the integration of trees in agricultural systems. More than 50,000 trees were planted by farmers on their farms: a first step to introduce the practice of agroforestry to Nkhata Bay North. In an area where farmers traditionally practiced shifting agriculture, planting trees on farms marks an important change which can contribute to improved soil fertility, better crop yields and diverse tree products for household use.
Farmers were also encouraged to diversify crops and make their own compost to improve soil quality. About 60% of farmers involved reported increases in maize yields, the staple food in the region, thanks to these techniques.
Weston Mbizi is 68, and believes that agroforestry is the solution to food insecurity. His trees simultaneously help with pest management, fixing nutrients in the soil and environmental management. Weston’s yields have increased from 560 kg to 700 kg since last year. “I didn’t expect to harvest this much because most of my fields had been attacked by army worms. Surprisingly, I was safe because of the tephrosia trees I planted”, says Weston.
One of the most successful interventions of NBNW was to introduce vegetable gardening skills and provide seeds of a range of hybrid and local vegetables. A total of 80 lead farmers made demonstration gardens with vegetables such as tomatoes, mustard, onion, rape and local varieties. These gardens not only served to demonstrate good practices to 1,185 follower farmers, many of whom are setting up their own gardens, but are also a collective source of income.
Meanwhile NBNW established and trained 70 Village Saving and Loans Associations (VSLAs) in year 1. These groups gradually increased their savings and enabled their members to establish small scale businesses which have supported the growth of their household incomes.
NBNW results from July 2015 to June 2017
- Village Natural Resource Management Committees established: 36
- Lead farmers trained: 86
- Farmers trained in sustainable agriculture: 500 (321 women, 179 men)
- Total farmers involved (including follower farmers): 1,185
- Tree nurseries established: 36
- Tree seedlings raised: 191,841
- Trees planted: 169,035
- Trees planted on communal woodlots and in catchment areas: 118,577
- Hectares of communal woodlots restored or enhanced by tree planting: 67.1
- Trees planted by farmers on farms: 50,458
- Farmers beginning to adopt agroforestry: 286 (114 women, 172 men)
- Demonstration gardens established: 80
- Village Saving and Loans Associations trained: 70, of which 54 remain active.
Written by Patrick Kuyokwa and Paul Laird, February 2018