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US$13,500 CAT project engages varsity students in identifying, addressing challenges facing smallholder farmers

In its quest to address challenges facing smallholder farmers and increase agricultural production and productivity, Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) has partnered with students at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in identifying and finding solutions to the challenges choking the agriculture sector.

CAT is implementing the initiative through a five-year project aimed at providing opportunities for smallholder famers to consider other value chains rather than just focusing on tobacco.

The Centre’s Director of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Geoffrey Kananji, said they noted through their partners who work with smallholder famers that there are some production challenges; hence, the decision to initiate the project.

“In order for CAT to immediately provide solutions to those challenges, we said let’s identity who can work with in order to find solutions to the problems that smallholder famers face. So, as a project, we approached one so that we let them identify students to work on those challenges so that we can assist those farmers,” said Kananji.

He assured that the solutions to the challenges will be laid to smallholder farmers they work with so that they can be able to improve productivity as well as maximize their yields.

Kananji added that by the end of this year, they expect students they are working with at LUANAR to continue exploring further in their research and then take messages to smallholder famers.

Global Seeds Limited is one of the partners for CAT and in his remarks, the company’s Managing Director, Shane Phiri, said they were impressed with the progress they are making in providing seeds to smallholder farmers as part of their fulfilment of their agreement.

“We are providing both basic seeds and certified seeds of groundnuts, we are working on two varieties of CG 9 and CG 11 groundnuts, these are very new varieties that are very tolerant to groundnut roosert which is one of the significant problems facing smallholder farmers in Malawi,” said Phiri.

From left to right are Lenso Vincent, Robert Kapito, Victor Chataika, Sarah Chinula and Jickson Kawaye

Acting Deputy College Director for LUANAR, Dr. Joseph Dzanja, commended commended the partnership that is there between LUANAR and CAT, which he described as demand-driven research from the partners.

Sarah Chinula, one of the students from LUANAR, is researching on field establishment and economic performance of chia seeds.

Chia is a plant that is fast gaining ground in Malawi due to its extraordinary benefits and most of the farmers have started growing the seed in Malawi.

Chinula said her research is thus based on finding the most effective field establishment technics that farmers are supposed to use in order to come up with the best yields.

“I am intending to achieve finding some of the best methods of planting that the farmers can do out there in order to have high yield production. I have benefited alot from the sponsorship am getting from CAT because some of the materials that am supposed to use in order to conduct the research I can afford to find them because of the sponsorship and without the sponsorship all this could not have been achieved, each one of us presented a budget of about K1 million,” she said.

Meanwhile, authorities have commended five students from LUANARA for producing high-quality preliminary research on demand findings during their presentations yesterday at CAT-Bunda Smart Farm in Lilongwe.

The students are conducting research on demand aimed at finding quick solutions to production challenges smallholder farmers face in Malawi, following a $13,500 research agreement LUANAR and CAT signed earlier in the year with funding from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

Their research on demand work is focusing on six value chains namely; groundnuts, soybeans, bananas, mushrooms, Chia seeds and garlic, in close collaboration with their research supervisors.

The students also made presentations to a meeting of stakeholders at the LUANAR-Bunda Campus and received direct valuable feedback from supervisors, professors and other stakeholders including industry players.

Students in the photo – From L-R: Lenso Vincent, Robert Kapito, Victor Chataika, Sarah Chinula and Jickson Kawaye.

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