Dryland Forestry

MEV-CAM and DSL-IP make progress in Malawi


The "Making Every Voice Count for Adaptive Management" (MEV-CAM) Initiative alters the way South-South knowledge management is approached by using local and indigenous knowledge to restore degraded drylands with more sustainable practices. By empowering communities and stakeholders to demonstrate their skills, express their challenges, and share successes, the most significant impact can be visualized from the process of change itself.

Over the last couple of months, MEV-CAM has made significant progress in Malawi. The country has been a significant actor in the MEV-CAM initiative since 2020, where community members in Ntcheu, one of the districts in Central Malawi and targeted site for the DSL-IP, documented a handful of challenges but also many achievements experienced in their landscape.  The community discussed practicing conservation agriculture techniques to improve land water availability and avoid soil erosion that results from undulating topography and gallop formation. Their soil and water conservation practices included the adoption of contour reaching and swales construction to aid in catchment management, and control runoff water as well as soil health.  While the community expressed the need to have more sustainable land management practices, they initiated a community forest management system to manage the illegal cutting of trees.  The conservation of forests allows community members to build beehives and eventually establish a market of honey production.

The MEV-CAM initiative facilitated another participatory video approach, but this time between the DSL-IP and Resilient Food Systems (RFS) landscapes to determine practices that can be transferred and scaled up.  In-country project coordinators and focal persons agreed to use the Theater for Development approach in order to extract the important practices and skills that can be expanded upon throughout the DSL-IP implementation.  Theater for Development is an approach that allows community members to act out scenarios that are of most importance for them.  In utilizing this technique, community members of the Lingoni Catchment, located in Machinga District illustrated how community forest management systems help avoid the illegal cutting of trees. According to the participatory video, the system has “restored 89 hectares of community forest area through natural regeneration, 150 hectares of agricultural land.” The community demonstrated the importance of trees, which allow members to maintain their own beehives that are used for honey production and selling.  Selling the honey also has opened the possibility to establishing a market, which is one of the areas of scaling up as part of the DSL-IP in Ntcheu – a cross-cutting theme.  More importantly, the community demonstrated how selling honey enabled them to purchase goats, with which they can sell milk and buy solar panels for sustainable energy production in their homes.  The community members continue to share knowledge about an energy saving method of cooking (Chitetezo Mbaula) in order to prevent forest fires – as Amina, one of the community members says, “the wood you use on open fire for one day can be used for two days when you use Chitetezo Mbaula".

The DSL-IP core theme in Malawi will be: Integrated Food and Energy Systems (IFES), which “aim[s] at addressing these issues by simultaneously producing food and energy, as a possible way to achieve the energy component of sustainable crop intensification through the ecosystem approach” and will focus on upscaling market opportunities, strengthening linkages between local producers and large processors through productor organizations, among many others.  Community members in both Ntcheu and Machinga Districts have already demonstrated some examples of the practices that can be linked to better markets, with emphasis on techniques for producing sustainable energy and crop production can be further expanded.  The MEV-CAM initiative will continue to work with the Project Management Unit, partners, and communities in Malawi to develop capacity building skills and mentor the colleagues as they monitor the change that develops as new practices are adopted.  Change occurs gradually and happens at different scales, and with MEV-CAM's knowledge process documentation approach, the impact that takes place at the community level is captured as this change evolves.

Check out more about the Malawi child project's progress in December's DSL-IP at a Glance newsletter.

(c)Patrick Mkwapatira