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Can agroforestry make a difference as an exit strategy for the starter pack scheme in Malawi?

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The magnitude of soil nutrient depletion and food insecurity in Malawi is enormous. In a situation where the productive land is diminishing in size, fertilizers are becoming unaffordable, soil fertility is fast depleting and off-farm income opportunities are limited, farmers must be provided with viable soil fertility management options in order to feed their families and ensure a prosperous livelihood. A critical mass of innovation and mobilization of on-farm and dissemination of agroforestry work, in recent times, has started to pay substantial dividends in southern Malawi. The science and developmental aspects of ICRAFs work in Malawi are beginning to align themselves to show direct benefits for a substantial number of farmers in the pilot project areas. Over 9,000 farmers in the project areas are experimenting with, adapting and adopting agroforestry innovations. These farmers are becoming more and more confident and enthusiastic in sharing experiences with fellow farmers in a spontaneous farmer-to-farmer extension fashion. There is clear evidence that on-farm agroforestry technologies compare favourably with fertilizer-based initiatives in terms of benefits. Mixed intercropping with Gliricidia sepium, relay cropping and improved fallows with Sesbania sesban or Tephrosia vogelii are capable of doubling or tripling maize yield without fertilizer applications. In addition, farmers combining agroforestry technologies with the 'Starter Pack Scheme' have confirmed positive synergies in maize yield. A wide variety of policies directly and indirectly influence the ability of agroforestry systems to deliver benefits to the farmers and the society at large. This paper proposes to recommend the use of proven agroforestry technologies as an exit strategy to the "Starter Pack Scheme or the Targeted Inputs Programme (TIP)" in Malawi, as a prelude to practical agrarian transformation that will help lift the smallholder farmers out of the vicious cycles of poverty.
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    Akinifesi F K; Kwesiga F R




    agroforestry, food security, soil fertility, technology



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