Agriculture Field day exposes flaws and solutions

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Malawi faces a decrease of 27% in maize yield this season compared with last year. The recent Agricultural field day held at LUANAR Natural Resources College organized by the African Institute for Corporate Citizenship (AICC) and attended by different agricultural organizations and students has shown that some fields yielded well, despite the floods and the dry spells that have characterized this growing season and that will have good harvest.

"We should accept that the floods and the dry spells have affected us a lot but at the same time Agriculture advisers should seek farmers better solutions that they be exposed to better farming activities. If you have noticed, in the same area, some farmers will harvest much more than others. This shows me they followed proper farming practices and others did not" commented Dr. Wilfed Lipita, the Director of Agriculture and Extension services in Malawi who was the guest of honor at the function.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is coming up with varieties that can adapt to changing climate. "Our breeding unit is currently working on coming up with better varieties that are both early maturing and drought tolerant. We already have released one variety named Tikolore, for which farmers who planted it this year, can testify that this was not much affected by the dry spell that hit the country".

Indeed, visiting the IITA plot at the field day showed that Tikolore soyabean variety had already matured, ready for harvest well before other soyabean varieties on the demonstration field. When asked why IITA is promoting production of legumes, it was explained that soyabean and other legumes help in nitrogen fixation in the soil thereby helping to improve soil fertility.

"Within N2Africa we have reached over 25,000 farmers with dissemination messages on agriculture and Nitrogen fixation. Through our interaction with farmers backed by research and demonstration we have established that they are spending close to MK60,000 (US$140) per hectare on inorganic fertilizer while they could be spending about MK6,000 (US$13) in just applying inoculant to their legumes. We think farmers should be given a wide choice of crops for them to be successful and let them know that agriculture is money. Apart from maize, they can also do soyabean farming" says N2Africa National Coordinator, Mr. Lloyd Phiphira.

Agnes Zala is a soyabean farmer who came to the field day and was left only to admire the technologies hoping she will have the opportunity to apply them. "The difference is we, are still using hoes to do farming while our friends are using tractors, this limits our abilities to expand our farming. We are also worried with where we are going to market our crops this year. It’s a challenge for government to help us smallholder farmers".

Emmanuel Mwale