African Journal of
Agricultural Research

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Agric. Res.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1991-637X
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJAR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 6693

Full Length Research Paper

Facilitating food crop production in Lungwena, Mangochi District in Malawi: Lessons from a farmer-based pass-on seed support model

V. H. Kabambe*, W. G. Mhango, M. Msiska, W. A. B Msuku, G. K. C. Nyirenda and C. Masangano
University of Malawi, Bunda College of Agriculture, P.O. 219, Lilongwe.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 22 May 2008
  •  Published: 30 June 2008

Abstract

 

Lungwena extension planning area is a coastal community on the south end of Lake Malawi.  Due to a unimodal rainfall pattern, food shortages are common for two to five months before the next harvest. In order improve food production, a farmer-based seed multiplication program was initiated in 2005/06 season in three selected villages. Focus group discussions (FGD’s) were used to identify important crops for the area and their related constraints. A scaling-out program was then designed and implemented with farmer participation. The main research objective was to identify and test a mechanism for accelerating food crop production in a community where availability, use and production knowledge of improved main food crops are low. The guiding principles were to identify an easy-to-administer crop production intervention within reach of resources and management capacity of the researchers, extension system and farmers. The hypothesis was that by working with a few eager farmers to multiply seeds of improved varieties of cassava and legumes, the seed would spread out through organised or informal sales and sharing. The FGD’s showed that maize (Zea mays L.), cassava (Manihot esculent a Crantz), pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan {L.}. Millspaugh), cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata {L.} Walpers) and bambara groundnuts (Vigna subterranea {L.} Verd) were main food crops.  Poor access to seeds of improved crop varieties and knowledge of improved production technological packages were noted as main constraints.  For maize, lack of inorganic fertilizers and poor soil fertility were other constraints. The results of the seed multiplication program showed that out of 63 farmers planned to participate in seed production, 21 took part. Some 38 farmers were identified for further multiplication.  Those that participated were also trained, and indicated that they learned new skills and concepts quite useful to their farming. The low success rate was attributed to lack of commitment and unpreparedness to fence cassava and pigeon peas crops. Scaling out of seed amongst farmers may be enhanced through promotion of sales, rather than sharing. It was anticipated that the knowledge that new seeds, particularly of cassava cuttings, are available would prevail and farmers would transact with it further.

 

Key words: Food security, livelihoods, farmer participatory methods, community seed production, Mangochi District.