|When the Agricultural Extension Officer from the Department of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES) in Salima resigned last year, Mr. George Mkhwamba began to coordinate all the N2Africa activities with his fellow Lead Farmers in the area. He did this at his own initiative and voluntarily. He leads Tipindule, a club of 24 farmers growing soyabean and on top of that he is visiting all the other Lead Farmers and their groups to ensure that everyone understands and uses the N2Africa technologies in their legume cultivation.|
George provides technical backstopping to other Lead Farmers whenever he is asked. He is often invited by his fellow farmers to help them with the N2Africa technologies that are being demonstrated in nearby sites.
In addition to the N2Africa’s legume technologies, George is also experimenting with techniques he has developed on his own. In addition to his N2Africa demonstration plot, together with his group members, George set up a plot to test different planting densities of soyabean. George’s fellow farmers have already observed more vigorous growth of soyabean planted using N2Africa recommended spacing, compared to their traditional method of planting the crop. George is also testing different organic fertilizers; comparing the use of manure with a compost of legume crops residues.
While Salima District was heavily affected by drought this season, George continued to encourage his club members to follow good crop management practices. He planted maize on a plot that had a soyabean demonstration during the 2010/11 season to observe if there is any difference with maize grown on the same land both last and this season. He said he wanted to see if the soyabean that was planted last season had left some nutrients in the soils. He checked the maize performance during its first few weeks after planting and before fertilizer application. Despite the dry spells, the maize planted on the former soyabean plot did well in its first weeks, indicating there are indeed residual benefits.
George has also mastered good Integrated Pest Management techniques, and serves as an excellent advisor to his fellow farmers, who in the past would just "wait for the extension agent" to come by to diagnose problems, enabling them to take timely measures before problems get out of control.
N2Africa-Malawi is indeed lucky to have George Mkhwamba as a Lead Farmer, and he is an inspiration to not just his fellow farmers but the Malawi team!
Gloria Kasongo and Anne Turner