Sustainable intensification explained: How Rhoda Mang’Anya made it work in Malawi
The story of Rhoda Mang’Anya, a farmer in Malawi, is one of the best examples of possible pathways to sustainable intensification. Although it is not a story from Africa RISING, it illustrates very well the kind of pathways that Africa RISING would like to enable.
Rhoad Mang’Anya acquired her half-hectare plot in the early 1990’s. The plot was divided between a ‘winter season’ plot and a garden, where she had planted maize.
At the time, Rhoda was struggling with the poor fertility of her soil. She planted ground nuts and pigeon peas to improve soil nitrogen. In 1994, she benefited from an NGO support program to plant five different tree species (among which faidherbia albida, tephrosia, Gliricidia) which improved the soil fertility and provided good fuel and fodder without requiring intensive labor.
With soil fertility improving, Rhoda dramatically increased maize yield (seventeen-fold) over five years.
The surplus of cash that she gained out of it allowed Rhoda to keep pigs and goats, but also to support her children and buy useful but expensive products such as soap and sugar.
With her rich tree-crop-livestock synergies, Rhoda has been able to sustainably intensify her agricultural production, improve the nutrition of her childrens’ and her own food and carve out a hopeful future for her household. The next step in Rhoda’s elaborate agricultural production design is to plan more soil fertility trees, as the price of fertilizers is increasing quickly.
The story of Rhoda illustrates the importance of sequencing interventions, the synergies between technologies, the unavoidable trade0ffs between competing demands, the importance of adaptive decision-making in the face of changing conditions and the central place of farmers at the crossroads between various value chains.