Written by: Putting Farmers First

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In the face of dwindling natural resources and an ever-increasing demand for food due to high populations, crop diversification remains key to achieving food security. “Crop diversification is integral to the attainment of food security and indeed the answer to much desired food security!” – Harold

Harold and Olivia with 3 of their children

Harold Lukasi, 46, is a shining example of positive outcomes stemming from crop diversification efforts. He comes from Chisendeza Village in Lilongwe District, Malawi. Harold is married to Violet and together they have 8 children -  3 boys and 5 girls. They have been in the farming business for years cultivating on their 5 acres of land. Their family size has been growing over the years but their allotment of land has remained the same. Over the past few years their harvest has not provided enough to last the whole year, forcing Harold to leave his home in search of seasonal casual labour to earn money to sustain his family.

“The coming of CPAR in our village has brought positive changes to my family’’ said Harold. “My turning point was when we were trained in crop diversification. Training in crop diversification could not come at a better time than when my family was facing a food deficit. This training was an eye opener to me’’ said Harold. “Through this training we learned the importance of growing different crops like cassava, sweet potato, vegetables and others throughout the year rather than just relying on rain fed maize production.  Previously, I used to mono-crop maize only. When maize failed in that particular year it meant starvation at my home.”

With the changing climate, rainfall patterns have become unpredictable and this is why it is important to grow a mix of crops.  Harold learned that some crops require little rain and are more drought resistant, such as cassava and sweet potato.

Harold admires his fully grown vegetable plants

“With the coming in of the CPAR Farmers Field School approach, I participate in my village’s Farmer Field School where I have also learned conservation-based methods of growing crops such as maize with little reliance on fertilizers. This has also helped me reduce my production costs because now I don’t use fertilizers, but use manure instead – both compost and animal manure. I also received some seeds for tephrosia vogelii which I also intercropped with my maize as a nitrogen fixing plant and I am also using the extracts from the tephrosia leaves in controlling pests like aphids, beetles in my vegetable production business.”

“Today my family is different. Although I have a large family of eight children, I have food enough to last me throughout the year because I grow different crops” said Harold. “I grow maize, groundnuts, cassava, sweet potato, cow peas, beans and other vegetables. After harvesting crops from my upland field I also embark on winter cropping. Here I grow different vegetables like mustard, rape, cabbage, tomato and others and as I am talking now you can see all these vegetables which I have already cultivated this season” said Harold, merrily demonstrating his bountiful crop stand. “I sell the surplus crops to earn some money for my family’s needs. I would like to advise my fellow farmers to grow different crops instead of maize alone to reap maximum dividends from farming. Crop diversification is integral to attainment of food security and indeed the answer to much desired food security!