Partner Profile: Global Change Learning Lab highlights participatory legume-based research in Malawi

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The Global Change Learning Lab is an integrative web-based site that facilitates research and information sharing by global change scientists and partners collaborating on action research in Sub Saharan Africa. The learning lab website is designed to both inform and engage research partners, extension educators, and the public. Many collaborators are engaged in agricultural research for development efforts focusing on the role of legumes in smallholder systems. The website highlights challenges facing smallholder farmers primarily in Malawi and explores interdisciplinary, participatory action research and agroecological approaches to support farmers as they face global change forces such as resource degradation, globalization, and climate change.

Global Change Learning Lab participatory soil characterization exercise

Many Global Change Learning Lab researchers and partners, including N2Africa, are engaged in legume-based research efforts, including: investigating best bet legume options, biological nitrogen fixation, soil fertility and soil quality matter benefits, increased biodiversity, tradeoffs, climate change resilience, and important secondary uses such as nutrition, fodder, and fuelwood. Multipurpose legumes that include long-duration growth habits and ratoon management have been highlighted as key innovations in sustainable agriculture for development.

The Global Change Learning Lab research platform includes multiple sites in Central Malawi using an innovative participatory action learning method called Mother Baby Trials. The Mother Baby Trials include researcher and farmer (on-farm) assessment of maize/legume intercrops that include groundnut, soyabean, and pigeonpea. Additionally, researchers and farmers are exploring the Doubled Up Legume Rotation (DLR) in which two legumes are intercropped in one year, based on complementary growth habits and plant architecture, followed by the staple crop maize in year 2. The DLR and related legume-cereal intensified systems are key to markedly enhance biological nitrogen fixation, diversified diets, and soil rehabilitation for a more secure future.

Years of partnerships and cross-pollination with N2Africa and related organizations have led to these farmer-approved varieties, integrated nutrient use, and biologically-smart combinations such as “doubled up legume innovations” being released by governments and taken up by communities in Malawi, and neighboring countries. Commitment to strong, quality partnerships is at the foundation of the Global Change Learning Lab approach, which involves long-term ties with Malawi farmers, scholars, educators and development activists.

Visit to learn more.

Dorothy Sirrine and Sieg Snapp, Global Change Learning Lab