By B. Chataika, E. Maereka, R. Zulu and R. Chirwa

The 26th of September 2016 marked the dawn of the new chapter in Research for Development in Malawi, as the Country witnessed the double launch of two projects: the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project phase II (MSDIPII) and the Roots and Tuber Crops for Agricultural Transformation (RTC-Action).

MSDIP-II is implemented by ICRISAT, CIAT and Legumes Development Trust (LTD) while RTC-Action is implemented by CIP and IITA with the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) as a key partner for both projects. The two projects are being funded by Irish Aid and will run for the next five years from 2016.

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The distinguished guests tasting the legume-based products From right to left: Minister of Agriculture, Water and Irrigation Development, Dr George Chaponda, The Director of Agricultural Research Services, Dr Wilkson Makumba in blue suit, The Ambassador of Ireland to Malawi, Her Excellency, Áine Hearns, and the Principle secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Irrigation development, Mrs Erica Maganga (in blue and red).

The implementation design of the two projects manifests strategic partnerships amongst CGIAR Research Centers, development partners, the Malawi Government, the private sector and the donor. The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Irrigation development, Honorable Dr. George Chaponda, and the Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Her Excellency Áine Hearns, jointly launched the projects during a function held at Chitedze Agricultural Research Station, which was attended by Senior Government Officials, the private sector, representatives from national and international Non-Governmental Organizations, CGIAR centres, farmers, and the media.

The objectives of MSIDP-II are: 1) To strengthen production and delivery of improved legume and cereal varieties to improve the functionality and productivity of seed and grain value chains in selected agro-ecologies of Malawi; 2) To develop knowledge and technology delivery options for agricultural innovations that improve smallholder farmer productivity and competitiveness; 3) To increase domestic demand for targeted legumes and cereals by intensifying utilisation of safe and nutritious legumes and cereals by women, children, adolescent girls and other vulnerable groups; and 4) To deepen integration of value chain players in domestic and international markets through strengthened policy advocacy, dialogue and partnerships.

The focus crops for MSIDP-II are common bean, pigeonpea, groundnuts, sorghum, finger millet and rice, targeting at least 200,000 households. Through the project, CIAT intends to facilitate increased availability of pre-basic, basic and certified beans as precursors for increased productivity from 600kg/ha to 100kg/ha, and an increase in area under bean production from 9,351 hectares to 2,3972 hectares in target districts. In his remarks, the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Dr George Chaponda stressed that a key challenge facing agricultural development in Malawi is low productivity, due to low access to improved technologies. He therefore thanked Irish Aid for supporting the two projects and pledged Government support.

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The Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Her Excellency, Áine Hearns delivering her speech as The PABRA Director, Dr Robin Buruchara (seated far left) attentively listens.

Speaking on behalf of Irish Aid and the donor community, the Ambassador of Ireland to Malawi, Áine Hearns, pledged increased financial support to the two projects over the five-year period. She announced a commitment of 17.8 million Euros for the two projects over five years by the Government of Ireland, while EU was planning to provide 8 million Euros to the CGIAR through the “KULIMA” Program. The EU support is expected to be implemented through GIZ, which will facilitate linkages between CG centres, EU and FAO. Ambassador Hearns further stated that the total support over five years from the EU and Member States is likely to reach some 26.0 million Euros. This demonstrated the strong commitment of the donor community towards advancing joint EU programming to improve harmonization and reduce the burden of reporting on our partners. Ambassador Hearns highlighted the alarming 6.5 million food insecure people in Malawi and lauded the commitment made by the two projects towards breaking this cycle byfurther supporting increased production of certified seeds and other planting materials, promoting crop and dietary diversification to withstand climate change including drought, and promoting access to improved nutrition and overall health.

For this to work, she emphasized the need for transparency, fairness and enabling policies. On policies, Ambassador Hearns said: “I welcome the fact that the Government has recently approved the National Agriculture Policy which will guide the various investments in the sector. We are also looking forward to the finalization and approval of the National Seed Policy and its related registration which is critical for the development of a robust seed system in the country.”

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The Ireland Ambassador to Malawi and the Minister of Agriculture, Water and Irrigation Development cutting the ribbons to mark the official launch of RTC-Action and MSIDP-II. From left to right: The Principle Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Irrigation Development, Mrs Erica Maganga; the Director of Agricultural Research Services, Dr Wilkson Makumba; the Ambassador, Her Excellency, Áine Hearns; CIP Country Representative, Dr Paul Demo; CIAT Country Coordinator, Dr Rowland Chirwa and PABRA Director, Dr Robin Buruchara.

Amongst the distinguished delegates who graced the launch were Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water development, The head of development, Irish Aid, The head of Cooperation of European Union in Malawi, The head of Cooperation of Germany in Malawi, The Director of Agricultural Research Services, The PABRA Director, the ICRISAT Regional Director, Senior Government officials, the private sector and other development partners. The two projects have received overwhelming support from key stakeholders and are expected to make significant contribution in addressing challenges facing the agricultural sector.

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