International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

BSF Project - Fourth Cycle

Harnessing dryland legume and cereal genetic resources for food and nutrition security and resilient farming systems in Malawi and Zambia
Where are we working?

There is persistent low crop production in Malawi and Zambia due to lack of access to inputs, output markets, technical knowledge and climate variability. This causes food, income and nutrition insecurity. The project aims to use dryland legume and cereal genetic resources to address these challenges. In Malawi, the project is being implemented at Lilongwe and Salima for on-station trials and at Mchinji, Nkhotakota and Salima for on-farm work. In Zambia, the project is being implemented at Msekera and Mambwe for on-station work, while on-farm work is being conducted in Lundazi, at the Mthilakubili Cooperative Center and in Chipata, at the Farmers’ Outgrower Foundation.

What are we doing?

The project is currently undertaking the following activities:
  • conducting studies to inform implementation, i.e. gender and needs & vulnerability assessments;
  • establishing an Innovation Platform as a tool for engaging stakeholders;
  • evaluation of the available genetic resources (germplasm) and farmer collections for sharing and or deployment; genotyping for high oleic acid;
  • development of manuals and flyers for capacity-building;
  • demonstrations on cropping systems (intercrops) – sustainable intensification to enhance stability on smallholder farms;
  • development of community seed banks to build capacity of communities in seed production, to support delivery of quality seed to smallholder farmers;
  • producing breeder seed as a source for established informal seed systems and supporting research and development of new varieties;
  • linking farmers to markets;
  • building capacity on: plant genetic resources for national programmes; training in pre- and post-harvest crop management, gender integration and agribusiness for farmers and extension staff; and
  • reviews of the National Strategy for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in Malawi and Zambia.

What has been achieved to date?

  • A total of 4 055 farmers, (1 716 men and 2 339 women) and extension staff and scientists have been reached through training and seed access, thereby improving their skills and enhancing productivity on their farms.
  • A total of 441 ha of seeds of improved varieties have been planted, translating to increased productivity and surplus produced for sale.
  • More than 20 tonnes of Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) and certified seeds have been produced annually to avail quality seed to farmers.
  • New improved varieties have been introduced to farmers (seven for groundnut, four for pigeon pea, two for sorghum). A total of fourfarmer collections were evaluated alongside the improved varieties.
  • A total of 2 950 lines of groundnut, 100 lines of pigeon pea, 40 lines of sorghum and 30 lines of pearl millet germplasm have been evaluated.
  • Two cropping systems (legume double-up and legume-cereal intercrop) were successfully introduced into communities, with positive adoption of sustainable intensification.
  • Capacity for national agricultural research system programmes was enhanced through training in the utilization of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and technology transfer.
  • A review of the National Strategy for Plant Genetic Resources was conducted in Zambia.
  • More than 1 000 community members were engaged annually through field days and training sessions.
  • Three crop manuals and three flyers were developed to enhance dissemination of project messages.
  • Two studies (gender and needs assessments) were conducted in Malawi and Zambia to inform or guide the project implementation process.
  • An Innovation Platform has been established in Mchinji-Malawi as a tool for engaging stakeholders on project matters.

Who has benefited?

To date, in Malawi the project has benefited around 2 950 people through improved access to seeds (farmers), trials and demonstrations (farmers, scientists, extension staff), gender integration training (farmers, extension staff), the Innovation Platform, crop production training (extension staff, lead farmers), training on modernization of breeding for efficiency and impact (scientists) and farmer field days.
In Zambia, more than 1 100 people have benefited from the project through improved access to seeds, trials and demonstrations (farmers), farmer field days and plant genetic resource training (scientists).

Best practices and success stories

  • Community seed banks (CSBs) have proved to have strong potential for reaching farmers with limited resources. More than 20 tonnes of QDS and certified seed are produced annually, with 2 689 farmers accessing seed, leading to expanded land under groundnut, pigeon and sorghum cultivation. Farmers have welcomed this intervention, as seed is available within their communities and at the right time for planting. The only prerequisite is being a member of the CSB and adhering to its rules.
  • The project has led to farmer investment in 472 ha (260 in Malawi and 212 in Zambia) under improved varieties, thereby boosting productivity and contributing to food security.
  • Through sales of seed, farmers have invested in a variety of assets; one example is Kayoyola Nthache of the Chitunda Community Seed Bank in Mchinji-Malawi, who has bought an ox cart. He uses this for his household needs, but also hires it out for extra income. Some farmers have invested in livestock, such as chicken, goats and pigs. This has the potential to improve their food, income and nutrition security.
  • More than 3 000 lines (germplasm) have been evaluated annually, contributing to the selection of key parental materials for breeding purposes and or advancement towards the release of resilient varieties.
  • Improved varieties have been introduced to farmers through participatory varietal selection (PVS). The 2020–2021 cropping season was a Groundnut Rosette Disease year and farmers using new improved and resistant varieties were not affected, unlike those who grew CG 7, who suffered up to 100 percent yield losses. The use of the PVS approach has also improved farmers’ capacity to experiment, thereby building their technical capacity for the present and future.
  • Farmers who have adopted the cropping system interventions – legume-legume and legume-cereal intercrop – have reported that this diversity reduces risks of crop failure, while contributing to increased productivity per unit area, and hence income.
Finger Millet, Groundnuts, Pearl Millet, Pigeon Pea, Sorghum
Region: Africa
Target Countries: Malawi, Zambia
Implementing institution: International Crops Research Institute for The Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Link to dedicated website
Partners involved: Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS)-Malawi, Department of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES)-Malawi, Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI)-Zambia, Farmers’ Outgrower Foundation-Zambia, Mthilakubili Cooperative Center-Zambia
Contact details: James Mwololo International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) ( [email protected])

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