Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) vice-chancellor Professor George Kanyama-Phiri says while innovations in agriculture that can transform food systems and lift smallholder farmers out of poverty exist, most farmers do not fully adopt them.
In his keynote address at the annual general meeting of National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (Nasfam) on Thursday, Kanyama-Phiri said there have been many innovations in maize production, improving soil fertility and agro-forestry technologies which have not been effective over the years.
He said the reasons for the ineffectiveness of the innovations is lack of involvement of farmers in developing the innovations and poor access to extension services.
Kanyama-Phiri said most innovations he has researched on have been supported by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and once projects come to an end, farmers do not feel the need to continue.
“The major problem is that even the Ministry of Agriculture does not follow up when they introduce new technologies. This is why we are involving the farmers to take the lead so it is much easier and sustainable,” he said.
The Luanar vice-chancellor said in the past, preference for poundable maize by farmers led to production of a maize variety such as MH18 or DK8073 while attempts to reduce high labour costs and the need to conserve the soil led to innovations such as zero tillage, use of herbicides and promotion of compost making.
Other innovations introduced have included concrete granaries and pesticides to reduce post harvest losses.
On her part, Nasfam executive director Betty Chinyamunyamu said her organisation has engaged government on how existing policies can support the agricultural transformation agenda.
“There are many innovations being developed in the country using locally available materials. The only challenge is that most of it remains with researchers. While we know researchers are producing a lot of innovations, it is important that they reach the end user,” she said.
Chinyamunyamu gave an example of maize varieties which most researchers focus on.
“But when research only considers productivity, you find that varieties that have high yields are not adopted by farmers,” she said.
The Nasfam AGM was held under the theme Innovation: Key to Agriculture Transformation in Malawi. n