Climate Change Adaptation and National Extension Approaches in Malawi: A Stakeholder Assessment
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Climate Change Adaptation and National Extension Approaches in Malawi: A Stakeholder Assessment


Climate change poses significant challenges to Malawi’s ability to grow maize, its staple food crop, due its heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture and traditional farming practices that largely do not utilize agricultural inputs. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices can help to support sustainable food production given changing climate conditions.

The Government of Malawi’s (GoM) new pluralistic extension policy calls for the delivery of specialized services to farmers by governmental extension providers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and private industry. These extension services are intended to support farmers to overcome barriers to increasing production and adapting to changing climatic conditions, yet these multiple actors often provide conflicting messages to farmers. The GoM has emphasized the need to improve coordination among extension providers to reduce inefficiency, redundancy, and confusion.

The purpose of this research study was to evaluate the challenges and successes in communicating climate change adaptation information to maize farmers in Malawi to inform the development of content and delivery of information by extension providers. The study included the following objectives:

• Identify the development of content and methods used by extension providers to educate maize farmers about climate adaptation practices in Malawi.• Evaluate institutional constraints of Malawi’s extension system in providing effective information for maize farmers to adapt to climate change. • I conducted a literature review and nineteen in-depth interviews with individuals who provide agricultural extension services to maize farmers in Malawi.

My findings indicate that there are select organizations that develop messages and are considered experts on climate change adaptation. Government departments were referenced as content developers by the greatest number of participants. In terms of knowledge transfer, eighty-five organizations were mentioned in the dissemination of information throughout Malawi’s extension network. Several high-level government departments, Malawi NGOs, international NGOs, and farmer groups were identified as crucial to the transfer of information within the extension network.

My findings also suggest that Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), trainings, and written materials are the main advisory methods used to educate farmers about CSA practices. ICT platforms often complement one another by providing increased access to information for farmers who cannot afford technology, are illiterate, or require additional information to address agricultural issues. My findings revealed that organizations address climate change by recommending strategies to farmers including being climate informed, good agriculture practices, water conservation, soil management, improved seeds, crop diversification, agroforestry, and reducing diseases and pests.

This study indicates that there is a need for improved integration of organizations from lower governance levels in order to diversify the types of providers operating in Malawi’s core extension network. The increased diversification of organizations within the core network will enhance collaboration and improve the transfer of knowledge among extension providers in Malawi. This study also reaffirms the importance of communicating clear and consistent messages to farmers to address climate change impacts in Malawi.

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