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Transition to “more sustainable agriculture, food systems”: Catholic Charity in Malawi

Logo of Trócaire. Credit: Trócaire

There is need for a shift from traditional methods of farming to those that are “more sustainable” to guarantee food security, Malawi-based officials of the overseas development agency of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, Trócaire, have said. 

In a Thursday, November 4 report, the officials of Trócaire who highlight the organization's agroecological project in the Southern African nation say COVID-19, effects of climate change, and conflicts have exacerbated the need to urgently find new approaches to tackle the increasing food insecurity. 

“There is an urgent need for a global transition towards more sustainable and equitable agriculture and food systems,” Trócaire officials in Malawi say, and add, “We urgently need food systems that deliver on the right to adequate food for all, while building resilience to climate change and other challenges.”

They say the current food systems and policies around farming cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030 because they leave out a large number of the poorest populations behind.

“Small scale producers, women farmers, pastoralists, and landless agricultural workers in low-income countries are amongst those most severely impacted by food insecurity, biodiversity loss and climate change," Trócaire officials in Malawi are quoted as saying in the November 4 report. 

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“The world now faces the unprecedented challenge of pursuing human development and ensuring the right to adequate food for all on a planet where the population is estimated to increase to over 9 billion people by 2050," they say, and add, "This must be done in ways that don’t breach essential ecological and planetary boundaries, while tackling poverty and extreme inequality."

Officials of the Catholic charity appeal for the adoption of agroecology saying it is “a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to farming that offers an alternative to the current broken system.”

In the report, officials of the Catholic charity highlight their agroecological project in the Southern African nation of Malawi. 

Trócaire in the Southern African nation has partnered with the Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) in the Catholic Diocese of Zomba to help families set up gardens using an agroecology approach, the November 4 report indicates.

"Trócaire and CADECOM Zomba are helping families in Malawi to diversify their crops and move away from being heavily dependent on maize," Trócaire officials in Malawi say. 

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"Patricia and Overton, who have six young children, are growing tomatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins together. They are also growing other local vegetables such as Chinese cabbage, mustard vegetable and amaranthus," they further say. 

The Trócaire officials explain that growing different crops close together "is a common feature of the agroecology approach as it can help to conserve and enrich soil quality, and make maximum use of the available space." 

"These gardens in Zomba, often referred to as kitchen gardens, are working with nature in a way that’s designed for long term sustainability," they say, adding, "One of the key goals is to make sure the soil stays fertile which means avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides."

Trócaire officials in Malawi go on to describe the challenges the Southern African nation has faced over the years saying, "In the last few decades Malawian farmers have had to deal with an increase in extreme, intense rainfall and flooding and an increase in hot days and dry periods.”

“The vast majority of households in Malawi are headed by small farmers who depend on reliable rainfall and fertile soils to get by. Most small farmers have relied on maize as their main crop. It is a crop that is particularly vulnerable to crop failure in this new climate," they further say in the November 4 report.

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This story was first published by ACI Africa on 5 November 2021