Project Everest

Work Update

Experimental Farm Design & Implementation

Agricultural Assessment in Malawi has been making gains on the ground this past week with the initial design and implementation of the experimental farm on our plot of land at Sambuzi. Our initial focus on gaining a thorough and holistic understanding of agricultural practices in Malawi through farmer surveys, community consultation, and market analysis has meant we have moved forward in our project to design and implement the experimental farm.


The design of the experimental farm has not been easy or straightforward. While we have been able to look at Project Everest’s previous ventures in India and Fiji, the uniqueness of Malawian agriculture has meant we didn’t want to rush ahead without consolidating a unanimous opinion within the team. The design of the experimental farm is a result of consultation of knowledge, input from The Twins, and a wider understanding of best practice.


The plot of land at Sambuzi is 475m2 of sloping hill with an elevation of 8.8’ that runs from a walking track down to the river. The topography of the land has meant we have faced challenges in the design of our beds, irrigation, and drainage systems.


Stepping Terraces -


The decision to use stepping terraces for our beds came from the challenge the sloped plot posed to the successful implementation of an integrated farming system. The terraces, that are 1750mm wide (inclusive of 1200mm bed, 300mm walkway, and 250mm drainage), will allow us to implement a farming system that supports the intercropping of complementary crops for increased productivity and improvement of soil nutrients. The terraces will also allow for an integrated drainage and irrigation system that will capitalise on the natural contours of the land to evenly distribute water to beds during the dry season and facilitate the successful runoff of excess water in the wet season.


While the initial building of the stepping terraces has been hard work, we feel it will benefit the project in the long term as it provides optimal conditions for plant growth and implementation of an integrated farming system.


Push-Pull IPM -


Through farmer surveys and engagement with agricultural extension officers we have identified the need for improved pest management systems as many farmers in the greater Blantyre region rely heavily on expensive pesticides. An integrated pest management (IPM) system, that we have identified and will implement in our experimental farm, is the push-pull method. The push-pull method uses a push crop, that is planted within the beds that releases a chemical that deters pests from inhabiting the crops within the bed, and a pull crop, that will be planted on the periphery of the plot that will host pests. While farmers in Sambuzi haven't identified pests as a major problem, the implementation of this system aims to build resilience for farmers against the threat of pests that have been identified by the agricultural extension officers in the area.


 


Working alongside farmers and agricultural extension officers in Sambuzi during the implementation of our experimental farm has highlighted the importance of the work Project Everest is doing in Malawi, not just within agriculture but across all projects, and has encouraged us to work harder and smarter in these final weeks of project. Continued diligence and consultation within the community and further research are needed as we finalise the planting structure of the beds and complete the implementation of the experimental farm.

edited on Dec 11, 2017 by Campbell Chesworth

Edan Baker Dec 11, 2017

I'm not familiar with agricultural pest management at all but this push-pull management concept sounds pretty ingenious.

Do you think you could throw up a diagram of the terraced farms to help people visualise what the farms will look like?

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Campbell Chesworth Dec 12, 2017

Push-pull IPM is awesome and it's really exciting to see it implemented in Malawi and hopefully remove/reduce the reliance on expensive pesticides.

I've attached a diagram of how the beds will look (the top one is a birds-eye view and the bottom one is side profile) as well as a side profile drone photo of the beds we have established out at the farm already.

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Alex Piatek Jan 9, 2018

Love the push-pull system, and was wondering if this would work with what is believed to be the predominant pest in Malawi.
I found a great article summarises experiments and research about the push-pull system and the army worm in Africa.
The article also highlights awesome techniques and mindsets the team could adopt whilst experimenting on the demo plot or surveying the farmers.

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Amber Johnston Jun 30, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

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