Adoption and use of modern and proven technologies in agriculture is one sure way through which Malawi can achieve food security and reach out to export markets. Principal Secretary for Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Mrs. Erica Maganga, made the remarks when she officially opened a day-long National Inoculant Conference in Lilongwe on Thursday.
The Malawi Oil Seeds Sector Transformation (MOST) and the USAID-funded Feed the Future Malawi Ag Diversification Activity, organized the conference to create awareness on the importance of inoculant use to boost productivity of legumes.
Maganga said her Ministry welcomes safe and tested agricultural technologies that support achievement of the government’s food security goals at the household and national levels.
“Without effective production, there is nothing to process and export. That is why the national inoculant conference is important, particularly now that Malawi is diversifying its agricultural production in line with the National Export Strategy,” she said.
Maganga noted that oil seeds, such as soy bean and groundnuts, are crops of great economic potential with demand ever increasing in both regional and international markets. She recognized, however, that productivity levels of oil seeds remain far below their potential.
She attributed this, among other challenges, to poor quality seed and low uptake of inoculant among Malawi’s farmers.
“Allow me, therefore, to underscore the need for partners including those in the private sector to make this technology available to farmers and the need to encourage its adoption among smallholders in the country,” Maganga said.
Over the years, farmers have failed to maximize on soybean potential with an average yield of 800-1000 metric tonnes against the maximum of 3,500 metric tonnes per hectare. Yield increase of between 40 to 90% has been recorded where inoculant has been used among smallholder farmers.
In her remarks, Chair for the Donor Committee on Agriculture and Food Security (DCAFS), Lynn Schneider said USAID will, through the Feed the Future Malawi AgDiversification Activity, seek to provide inoculant to a minimum of 50,000 farmers directly with an overall target of 100,000 farmers through its networks.
She also said the Activity will in the pre-season period provide district-level support to extension staff from the public, private and NGO sector, raising their awareness of the importance of legume inoculation and enabling them to effectively educate smallholder farmers in their districts on the use of this technology.
“Experience of MOST and other partners in this initiative has demonstrated that inoculant can increase soybean yield by more than 40 percent, which is huge for a product that costs only K950 per 50grams,” Schneider said.
The inoculant conference brought together more than 400 representing stakeholders across Malawi’s agricultural sector. Participants included government officials, seed scientists, and members of the donor community, the private sector firms and farmers.