(December, 2020) A 9-month saline agriculture project has launched, led by Seawater Solutions and funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund, to test the feasibility of using saline boreholes to grow salt-tolerant vegetables in Malawi to strengthen the climate resilience of rural communities and to empower the next generation of female farmers.
For rural communities in Malawi land degradation and the impacts of climate change and natural hazards are key livelihood challenges. The region of Chikwawa is especially prone to environmental strains as it is dryer, lower, and more arid than other regions of the country. Salinity in groundwater and soils threatens the region's already strained arable land resources and vegetation.
The Saline Agriculture for Climate Adaptation project (SACA) will restore degraded land, turning salinised soils into highly profitable and healthy ecosystems without using any freshwater. This sustainable approach will be achieved by using saline groundwater from traditional wells and modern boreholes which have become saline over time, or those that have been dug into deposits of saline water. SACA’s innovation lies in transforming these ‘spoiled’ saline wells into regenerative ecosystem-based saltwater farms in which nutritious, salt-tolerant crops are grown.
This project brings together Challenges Worldwide (CW) and Seawater Solutions in a new partnership. CW have supported more than 3,000 enterprises, encouraging the development of SME-centred products and services. CW's work in Malawi includes establishing commercial hubs to better balance supply chains and improve farmers' conditions.
Phillip Chidawati, Challenges Malawi Project Manager, said: “ For decades, saline areas in Chikwawa have been abandoned by the owners, rendering them non-productive, a situation that has contributed to rampant poverty and vulnerability of the rural households surrounding these areas. The SACA Project provides a timely intervention that will turn the areas into productive and profitable gardens, and the subsequent increase in the resilience of the rural households through production and sale of high value salt tolerant vegetables.”
In addition to the community benefits, SACA will provide a host of environmental services, including water cleaning, flood-mitigation, carbon capture, and pollution remediation. Yanik Nyberg, Seawater Solutions Founder and CEO, said: “Artificial wetlands bring huge benefits to rural regions, from being one of nature’s most effective carbon sinks, through to promoting regenerative farming approaches and ecosystem restoration. We are particularly excited about how SACA could demonstrate the applicability of our innovation, not just to coastal regions, but also to inland regions and land-locked countries, and act as the launchpad for improving the incomes and livelihoods of farmers all over the world suffering from salinisation.”
The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will invest up to £9.3 million in prototype stage projects. The projects must have the potential to transform lives in developing countries, through appropriately designed innovation that responds to real market demand. More information about the GCRF funding competition can be found here: https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/564/overview
You can stay up to date with the project at https://www.seawatersolutions.org/international-development