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Soil Health Consortia (Malawi Consortium)

There are nearly 2.6 M smallholder farming households in Malawi involved in maize-based cropping systems most of which leave the soil prone to degradation. For example, most farmers harvest more nutrient than they add, leading to negative nutrient balances. Also, poor crop management practices, including use of unimproved or recycled hybrid varieties, low planting densities and poor fertilizer practices leave the soil bare for most parts of the rainy season, leading to erosion. Many farmers get low fertilizer use efficiency factors due to delays in fertilizer deliveries, poor weed management, or use of varieties prone to disease. This results in high cost of producing food and may slow national economic growth. Most of these causes to soil fertility decline can be solved through coordinated, collaborative and informative approaches to empower farmers’ capacity understand and to adopt available technologies that enhance both crop yields and soil fertility. As an example, groundnut can produce 1.4 to 6.7 t/ha of stover containing 52-154 kg ha-1 (Giller et al., 1999). Ngwira (2012) showed complimentary grain yield benefits of ≥ 1.0 t/ha for maize grown after groundnut over fertilized maize. Some new soybean genotypes can produce 2-4 t/ha of stover. The MSHC aims to inform all stakeholders along the soil health value chain on available and appropriate technologies on soil management. Through stakeholder mapping of on-going initiatives, the consortium will promote some of the technologies through various knowledge products including fliers, technical briefs, website, coordinated field days, radio and TV documentaries, and annual meetings. These efforts will be aimed at complementing the larger efforts of Malawi Government through the FISP and Green Belt Initiative and other ISFM research and extension efforts so as to improve crop productivity. Raising productivity of maize-based systems will improve livelihoods, and farmer capacity of smallholder farmers to invest in soil health. The formation and operationalization of a consortium is expected to increase productivity in the following ways:-

  • Directly enhancing the capacity of ISFM planners to formulate and promote context specific recommendation packages.
  • Directly improving the technical efficiency of fertilizer use in the FISP and other initiatives.
  • Upscale isolated but important best-fit practices for problem soils or special socio-economic domains.
  • Directly influencing policy decisions in composition, marketing and distribution of ISFM products at national and district levels.
  • Integrate gender and socio-economic backgrounds into best-fit ISFM innovations. 
  • Indirectly increase smallholder farmers’ yields and livelihoods through the efforts of consortium members.


Additional Resources:

Malaw inception workshop report






Dr. Vernon Kabambe
Bunda College of Agriculture
University of Malawi

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