Muchi felt helpless as he watched swarms of armyworms eat through his crops, leaving him with next to nothing. Soon, he was unable to feed his three children, and they eventually had to drop out of school as he could no longer afford to pay the fees.
Sadly, Muchi is not alone. Armyworms – the larvae of a type of moth – have been devastating farmers’ crops across Africa, and 2020 saw the worst invasion of the insects for over 25 years. Combined with extended periods of drought due to the climate crisis, it has been increasingly difficult for farmers in parts of Africa to survive.
Testing new techniques
Tearfund has been responding to this problem across Africa in a variety of ways. In Malawi, funding from the Scottish government has enabled us to set up a research project to test different farming techniques.
‘We were concerned about the impact of the armyworm invasions and the changing weather patterns on farmers, and we wanted to investigate which farming techniques could be used to overcome these problems,’ explains Vincent Moyo, who oversees Tearfund’s work in Malawi.
Muchi enrolled in Tearfund’s research program, and was trained in sustainable farming methods. The aim was to help his soil and crops become more resistant to drought, as well as fend off armyworm attacks.
Muchi put the new farming techniques into action and recorded armyworm attacks on his crops. He found that the number of armyworms decreased, and was amazed to find that his harvest was four times bigger than before.
Now he is able to fight back against the attacks and has successfully adapted his farming to counter some of the effects of the climate crisis. His farm has been saved from ruin, and he can now provide for his family again.
‘I consider [this] as a game changer for my farming. I am now able to limit the attack of armyworms in my maize field and harvest higher quantities of maize,’ says Muchi.