The Beating Famine Southern Africa Conference, held 14-17 April 2015, in Lilongwe, Malawi, explored strategies for expanding farmer-managed natural regeneration, alongside other sustainable land management practices, to help smallholder farmers boost their productivity and resilience to climate change. The conference also discussed ways to align these strategies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other international aspirations, while preserving a “unique Southern African voice.”

In a keynote address, UNCCD Drylands Ambassador Dennis Garrity lamented “alarming” trends in land degradation in the region over the past 25 years and described the conference as a “launching pad for many new partnerships, initiatives, programs, projects, and action plans to reverse [these] … trends.” He stressed that the “real issue” is assisting the rural poor with increasing their own productivity, so they can grow more for their families, sell more on the market and meet their basic needs.

Participants also discussed a study of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), which was launched during the conference. The study identifies 24 different social, environmental and economic benefits that stem from the practice of FMNR.

The conference also explored strategies for expanding the ‘Building a Large Evergreen Agriculture Network for Southern Africa’ (BLEANSA), which brings together research organizations and innovation platforms. Isaac Nyoka, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Coordinator for Southern Africa, said that one of BLEANSA’s goals is to develop an agroforestry information hub to promote awareness of climate-smart agriculture among policy makers, extension staff, farmers and other land users in the region. Hamilton Chimala, Department of Agricultural Extension Services, Malawi, emphasized the need to provide farmers with the right tools and knowledge to improve their productivity and income, and reported the department is currently developing an agroforestry information-sharing model that farmers can access through dedicated television and radio channels.

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