Malawi
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LUANAR students receive kudos over impressive research work on solutions to production challenges faced by smallholder farmers

Six final year undergraduate students at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and National Resources (LUANAR) have received praises for their excellent research on demand work which they are conducting with support from the Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT).

Both LUANAR and CAT officials expressed satisfaction with preliminary progress made by the six undergraduate students towards their research on demand activities aimed at finding quick solutions to production challenges smallholder farmers face in the country.

The remarks were made on Wednesday 6th September 2023 at LUANAR’s Bunda Campus in Lilongwe during a meeting of stakeholders aimed to receive progress of the students’ research on demand work being conducted at the CAT-Bunda Smart Farm and other locations of CAT partners’ premises within Lilongwe City.

Acting Deputy Director for LUANAR-Bunda Campus, Dr. Joseph Dzanja, while applauding the partnership between LUANAR and CAT under the $13,500 research agreement, said preliminary results showed that the students had done a good job in getting to the bottom of the challenges smallholder farmers are facing.

“This is an important research because the output of this research is what will feed into addressing the production challenges farmers face. The good thing is that the research problems the students are interrogating are coming from the farmers themselves,” he said.

The one-year research on demand initiative, which is being coordinated by Dr. Abel Sefasi of LUANAR, is focusing on selected value chains such as bananas, chia seeds, mushroom, groundnuts, garlic and soybeans.

CAT’s Director of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Geoffrey Kananji, said the students had shown to be skillful and knowledgeable in finding solutions to challenges smallholder farmers encounter.

“As CAT, we are extremely impressed with the progress so far because what the students are doing is in line with what they were asked to do. By the end of this year, we expect these students to provide solutions to production challenges,” he said

Earlier during the year, the CAT and LUANAR signed a $13,500 research agreement to support six undergraduate students (four males and two females) conduct research on demand aimed at providing quick solutions to production challenges faced by smallholder farmers and selected CAT partners in the country.

The research on demand activities are being funded by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World through support from its affiliate, Agricultural Transformation Initiative.

These students are investigating the agronomic uniformity and genetic stability of CG11 groundnut variety, developing tissue culture protocols for rapid propagation of Sukari and Zeru local varieties of banana, evaluating and identify effective integrated pest management approaches for Soybean, assessing the effect of sunken beds on yield of rain-fed and irrigated garlic, studying the field establishment and agronomic performance of chia seeds, and evaluating the potential of used mushroom substrate as an organic fertilizer.

On his part as an industry player, Global Seeds Limited Managing Director, Shane Phiri, expressed satisfaction at the quality and relevance of the research being conducted by the students.

“We are very impressed with what the students are doing because the issues which are being looked into are responding well to our industry needs and the quality of research is good. These are the issues we as an industry petitioned CAT and LUANAR to look into,” said Phiri.

Sarah Chinula, who is one of the six students conducting the research on demand particularly focusing on Chia Seeds, said she looked forward to finding solutions to problems farmers are facing through her research work and applauded the sponsorship support from CAT.

The students are conducting the research at the CAT-Bunda Smart Farm and selected partner locations in Lilongwe based on individual production challenges they face while working with smallholder farmers.