|KAMBAUWA, GERTRUDE - Ministry Of Agriculture, Irrigation And Water Development, Department Of Land Resources Conservatio|
|MLAMBA, JAMES - Concern Worldwide|
|KABAMBE, VERNON - Lilongwe University Of Agriculture And Natural Resources|
Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/22/2015
Publication Date: 10/1/2015
Citation: Kambauwa, G., Mlamba, J., Delgado, J.A., Kabambe, V. 2015. Conservation strategies to adapt to projected climate change impacts in Malawi. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 70:109A-114A. doi:10.2489/jswc.70.5.109A.
Interpretive Summary: The peer-reviewed scientific literature strongly suggests that Malawi is at a crossroads as far as implementing policies that are needed for climate change adaptation. Peer-reviewed papers have reported that the population growth and effects from climate change that have been projected will occur, and will significantly impact food security, increasing the percentage of the malnourished population to close to 100% in the next two decades. The peer-reviewed scientific literature signal that if policies that are oriented towards climate change adaptation are not implemented, the potential to achieve food security will be significantly diminished. This is in agreement with the Delgado et al. (2011) paper (Figure 6), and the position statement from the Soil and Water Conservation Society about the need to implement conservation practices for climate change adaptation. The peer-reviewed scientific literature supports the use of conservation agriculture to adapt to climate change and increase yields. Yields can be increased with nitrogen fertilizer application, improved seed, and crop varieties that can better adapt to climate change. There is potential to use these technologies to double and triple yields across different regions of Malawi, especially in the most productive regions of Malawi. Other approaches that can contribute to climate change adaptation are the use of leguminous crops and/or manures that can contribute to improved soil quality and increase the nitrogen inputs to maize systems. Integrated systems that use nitrogen fertilizer, leguminous crops, manure inputs and improved management practices (especially those that can increase water use efficiency) can contribute to climate change adaptation. The peer-reviewed scientific literature indicates that there is a need to improve current policies/programs to make the current government nitrogen fertilizer programs more effective. The human factor, where managers decide how to implement best management practices, is also important. Extension agents trained in these topics, as well as new tools, can help users make decisions about how to apply best nitrogen fertilizer management practices to increase maize yields. This feature article aims to highlight the fact that the peer-reviewed scientific literature reports that for regions in Africa that could be impacted by lower precipitation and higher temperatures (as projections suggest will occur for Malawi as the climate changes), and that have a high population growth rate, the potential for food security will be diminished without the implementation of conservation agriculture and use of other technologies for climate change adaptation. Conservation practices, nitrogen inputs, government programs, new technologies and other transfers of information to small farmers and extension agents working with small farmers, could help implement adaptation practices in the field. The challenge is in front of us, but “business as usual in science, agriculture and ecosystem management” will not work as an approach to adapt to climate change (Poppy et al. 2014), and there is a need to implement policies for adaptation to climate change (Poppy et al. 2014; Figure 6; Delgado et al. 2011).
Technical Abstract: There is potential for climate change to have negative effects on agricultural production via extreme events (Pruski and Nearing, 2002b; Zhang et al., 2012; Walthall 2012), and there is a need to implement conservation practices for climate change adaptation (Delgado et al. 2011; 2013). Recent reports from the IPCC project that rainfall intensities will increase in many parts of the world, increasing the potential for soil erosion (Pruski and Nearing, 2002b; IPCC 2007). However, for other areas, such as the southwestern United States and southern Africa (which includes Malawi), lower precipitation and higher temperatures are projected (IPCC 2007). These projected changes in climate (i.e., drier climate, droughts, and extreme events) could contribute to lower yields in this region (Auffhammer 2011; Lobell et al. 2011), generating conditions that will decrease the potential for future food security in the region. Delgado et al. (2011) reported that due to the challenges of climate change, population growth, extreme weather events, depletion of water resources in key agricultural regions, and other world challenges, conservation practices will be key for climate change adaptation. For Malawi, achieving food security at the present with the current challenges is difficult due to the current rates of malnourishment, and since these challenges are projected to significantly increase as the climate changes, there is an urgent need to start implementing climate change adaptation practices to increase the potential to achieve food security. Training is also needed on how to make the best decisions for nitrogen management. New technologies such as the Nitrogen Index tool, which can be applied in low-intensive systems or even be run in smartphones, have shown potential to help people make decisions about nitrogen management practices (Monar et al. 2013; Delgado et al. 2013). The USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, University of Missouri, and USDA-ARS have been cooperating with Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in technology transfer for implementation of conservation agriculture and improved management practices. As part of this cooperation the new Malawi Nitrogen Index has been developed and transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Malawi. The tool can be used to integrate information about management practices in Malawi, to provide a quick assessment of the nitrogen balance, and to generate recommendations for nitrogen fertilizer application in Malawi. The tool can also assess potential residual soil nitrate, and pathways for nitrogen losses, including emissions of nitrous oxide.