The manually operated transparent shelter will, when conducting the research, be shielding selected tea plants when it is raining to ascertain their response to nutritional stress and theirÂ resistance to drought and pests.
Co-funded by the European Union and Carnegie Corporation of New York as part of an African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States Science and Technology Project, the shelter was handed over to the foundation at Village Duswa, T/A Mabuka in Mulanje on Friday.
Policy and Support Actions for Southern African Natural Product Partnership (Pol-Sabina), a network of natural product research and development in Sadc coordinated the project which guest of honour Dr Alfred Mtukuso described as a breakthrough in tea research.
“Tea is a strategic crop which plays a very important role to the economy of the country. Climate change is affecting the agricultural sector and the tea sector has not been spared. This facility will, therefore, help us to undertake important research in developing new technology and research that will boost the tea industry,” said Mtukuso who is also Ministry of Agriculture’s director.
The foundation’s director, Dr Albert Changaya and Professor Jane Morris from University of Pretoria, who are Sabina coordinators among universities of Malawi, Namibia and Dar es Salaam, also spoke during the ceremony.
In her earlier speech, Morris said the shelter “will lead to blossoming of interest not only in improving tea quality but also other crops.”
Sabina academic director Professor John Saka and Dr Changaya noted separately that tea production was at the mercy of climate change; hence, the facility will enable the Malawi tea industry to mitigate the effects of climate.
Tea is one of Malawi’s leading foreign exchange earners and the tea industry employs some 40 000 people despite being grown in Mulanje, Thyolo and Nkhata Bay only.