By:Wells Kumwenda, Edward Chibambo and David Matiya.
Mrs. Stelia James is a lead farmer in Group Village Headman Chimwabvi, Traditional Authority Maganga in Salima district. She is married to Kilison James and the family has 7 children (4Male & 3Female). The first born is 21yrs old and the last born is 2yrs old. The family earn their leaving through farming and doing small business. Mrs. James loves spending her time doing volunteer work and practicing new agriculture interventions which she learnt from government extension workers and NGOs. As a lead farmer she is responsible for supporting 124 follower farmers who are practicing improved agriculture technologies. When CARE Malawi introduced a Food and Nutrition Security Program (FNSP) funded by the GIZ in her area, she was selected as one of the lead farmer to support the project on nutrition sensitive agriculture activities. CARE Malawi and CIP are collaborating to build household family resilience in food security, improve incomes and nutrition levels through increased production, sale, processing and consumption of OFSP.
Stelia was happy to learn about nutrition sensitive agriculture as previous projects covered only on agriculture production. Through the training and support she got from the project, she has managed also to help follower farmers with new knowledge in terms on food security and nutrition. Most of her follower farmers’ have also started improved nutrition by practicing food diversification in their households. Their family lives have improved since the initiation of nutrition project implemented. In January 2017, Stelia James and her fellow lead farmer Dalitso Shupika received four bundles each of orange fleshed sweet potato of four different varieties for mounting a demonstration (Mother plot) through CARE Malawi from International Potato Centre (CIP). The mother plot was used as a training plot for follower farmers within her community on how to produce OFSP roots. All the four varieties were planted on the same piece of land but on different beds in order to compare the yield of the different OFSP varieties.
OFSP which was harvested on their mother plot in the area (photo:Edward Chibambo)
Stelia said that “I have noticed that this orange fleshed sweet potato is high yielding sweet potatoes and its taste is good as well. Since I have been informed that it is also nutritious with high value in vitamin A I have decided to be growing it each and every year. I have also shared the vines with other 8 farmers who also have decided to have their own nurseries.” Mrs. James also said that it is important to keep the vines for next growing season so that even if they will not be supported again by CARE or any organization they can still have enough sweet potato vines for their field as well as her follower farmers. After harvesting her sweet potato, Mrs. Stelia James decided to plant the sweet potato vines in the wetland (dambo area) in order to preserve the vines. She believes that if farmers can focus on growing a variety of crops apart from maize only they can manage to achieve food and nutrition security. As of to date she has managed to keep the vines on a 0.2ha. field for all the four OFSP varieties.
Mrs Stelia James on her dambo field of sweet potato vines (photo: Edward Chibambo)
She believes that if the sweet potato vines will be multiplied till rainy season there will be enough vines for her family as well as sharing with the new follower farmers in her area. Stelia’s future plan is to be growing different crops including sweet potato, cassava and legumes. Currently, Stelia is busy doing campaigns to encourage her follower farmers to construct home gardens. Some of the gardens have OFSP vines and a total of 45 home garden have established to date. She also wants to start keeping chicken so that they have all six food groups at her household. She wants also to see her follower farmers improving their nutrition status and living a health life.