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Malawi farmers testify benefits from Virtual Irrigation Academy

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Ms Nyalugwe testifies benefits from VIA

Two years after the launch of the Virtual Irrigation Academy Project in Malawi, farmers are reporting exciting trends. In all the schemes, farmers note that the number of irrigation intervals have reduced from five times a month to once or twice a month, signifying a 50% water saving. This implies that water has been saved and made available to increase area under irrigation. The benefits are multiple as farmers tell in testimonies below:

Mrs Nyalugwe, Matabwa irrigation scheme, Chikwawa district

I am non-VIA farmer, so I do not have monitoring tools in my garden, but I have been following (mimicking) what my VIA neighbour does. As a result, I harvested 120kg of beans compared to 40kg before I started mimicking. The food I harvested is adequate to sustain the family until the next harvest, which was not the case before. Like the VIA farmers, I am now able to save time for income generating activities such as selling rice. I used money from the rice sales to buy iron sheets for roofing my house.

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Mrs Joyce Maluza (pictured below standing), Tadala irrigation scheme

I stopped irrigating every time I got access to water, which improved water and nutrient management. This led to high maize yields. From my 0.0225 ha plot, I harvested eight bags with 80 green cobs per bag, which earned MK 38,000 (US$ 51.7). I used the money to buy 350 kg of grain maize. This was a much better harvest compared to what I got the previous season (25kg of maize grain).

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Thenford Alumando (pictured below demonstrating how the Chameleon works)- Matabwa Irrigation scheme, Chikwawa district

Initially we scrambled for water because we thought that the soil had to be wet all the time. We could not tell that there was enough moisture in the soil to nourish the crop. This meant that we over watered the plants (three times a week), which kept us in the fields most of the time. It also led to leaching of fertilizer. Since the introduction of the Chameleon, I irrigate only four times in the whole cropping season of about 120 days. Before I started using the monitoring tools, I harvested 150kgs in a 0.03 ha plot. Now that I have been using the monitoring tools—just look at that (maize) crop over there—I expect to harvest 250kgs from it. If I sell all the 250kg at the government set price of MK 170 per kg, I will earn MK 42,500 (US$57.8). (Editor: The figures from Alumando’s testimony represent a potential yield of 8.3 tonnes per hectare compared to 5 tonnes before. It represents a 67 percent increase in income from 25,500 at the start of the project)

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John Lucius (pictured below with chameleon detector), Matabwa village in Chikwawa district

Before the monitoring tools were installed in my garden, I cultivated beans in an irrigated plot of 15x35 (0.05 hectares) and harvested 30kgs.  After using the chameleon and full stop technologies and following recommended agronomic practices, the yield from the same plot grew to 66kgs. (Editor: this represents a 120 percent increase in yield)

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Mary Minano (pictured below explaining how the Wetting Front detector works), Matabwa irrigation scheme, Ngeru village in Chikwawa district

There used to be lots of conflict and wrangles among members of the community over the sharing of irrigation water. Everybody wanted to have as much water in their gardens as they could because they had no idea just how much they needed. Since the introduction of the tools, there is an orderly way of doing things.

Written by Ben Moses Ilakut, ASARECA. Originated jointly with Moses Odeke and Malawi project leaders, Dr. Isaac Fandika, Geoffrey Mwepa and Jonathan Chikankheni during interactions with farmers at a monitoring mission in October 2017.

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Date Published: 
Tuesday, 30 January 2018