RICE PRODUCTION IN MALAWI
Malawi has 600,000 hectares of land that can be used for rice production. If this area was fully utilised, the country could produce more than 2,000,000 tonnes of rice per annum. Currently, the total production of rice is 150,000 tonnes per annum, which translate to only 7.5 percent of the potential production. This underproduction is mainly attributed to lack of promising rice varieties that can produce more yield.
EFFORTS BY THE MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE WITH SUPPORT FROM WORLD BANK
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, with support from World Bank is implementing Agricultural Productivity Programme for Southern Africa (APPSA). APPSA is consistent with the World Bank’s Regional Integration Assistance Strategy (RIAS), the third pillar of which talks about supporting interventions to boost agricultural productivity; improving preparedness to analyze and respond to trans-boundary pandemics, other infectious diseases, and pests; and rationalizing regional research and tertiary education efforts. APPSA meets the regional project eligibility criteria of IDA. The Project has been supporting activities coordinated across three or more countries; generating benefits that have spilled over country boundaries; and have won strong support from SADC; provided a platform for policy harmonization. Furthermore, APPSA principal objectives are aligned national development strategies of the participating countries. APPSA has targeted agriculture as the driver of economic growth and food and nutrition security. Consequently, APPSA has contributed to increased agricultural productivity among other things. Equally, APPSA is a cross-cutting program on generation and dissemination of agricultural technologies.
APPSA is supporting research and dissemination initiatives that have introduced three improved promising rice varieties namely: Kayanjamalo (6.5 tons/ha), Katete (6.0 tons/ha) and Mpatsa (5.8 tons/ha).
These varieties were released in 2014 under the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.
These new varieties give an average yield of 5 tonnes per hectare under farmers’ conditions, unlike the local landraces that give an average of 2.1 tonnes per hectare. “Having these varieties adopted by farmers is a breakthrough on food security to the Malawi nation” elaborated Dr. Mzengeza, Plant Breeder and Chitedze Research Station Manager. He further expressed that the great performance of these varieties has brought fortune and interest among many Malawian rice farmers especially the farming communities living in Salima and Nkhotakota districts.
In the past three years the project pulled up its efforts to concentrate on the promotion of these three released varieties in Nkhotakota, Salima and Zomba districts targeting rice growing farmers. With desirable traits such as high yields and short height, the varieties soon gained popularity among the farming communities and in the subsequent years the number of adopters continued to increase by more than 80%.
“The uptake has just been tremendous and the benefits so evident”, highlighted Mr Machira, an Assistant Agricultural Research Office of Department of Agricultural Research Services.
On the other hand, rice-farmers expressed how they have benefited from the new varieties and how some have managed to grow their fishing businesses. “I have been growing rice on the same piece of land for many years, I used to harvest an average of 50 bags the previous years but this is the only time I have been able to harvest 95 bags after using Mpatsa rice variety” alluded Solomon Chinjedza, “this new variety matures early, tolerant to diseases but, not as aromatic as Kilombero and Faya”. Most farmers indicated that cultivation of the new varieties, coupled-up with Sustainable Rice Intensification (SRI) technology has increased the yield twice fold. Many farmers’ highlighted benefits and assets built after adopting these new rice varieties. Mrs. Kupata Hamidu, a prominent rice club member said that before engaging in production of these new varieties she never harvested enough rice to feed the family for the whole year, as she narrates, “After harvest, I sold 100 bags of rice, and with some money from my fishing business bought a car and expanded my fishing business by buying two fishing nets.” Another beneficiary, Chancy Mhango, a widow narrated, “From proceeds of the rice harvest, I bought a parental stock of goats and cows in one season. In the following season, I replaced my grass thatched house with iron sheets”. Katete Sidika, a chairperson of one of the groups, expressed that he has bought an oxcart and cows with cash from rice sales. Other members including Hawa Saidi, Emma Ntewa, Lucy Jafali, Esther Maloya and Mirriam Jabili Hawa explained that they have bought different types of livestock as benefits from increased rice productivity.
As with most agricultural development efforts, the issue of sustainability is always a threat but this is not the case with these farmers. This problem has been dealt with by reaching the farmers in groups. Good collaboration between agricultural research scientists and extension staff makes it easy to link these groups to easily access extension messages. Farmers are encouraged to bulk their quantity and sell larger quantities as they negotiate for better prices. They are organised as “Seed Producers Association” and “Grain Producers Association” that exist under an umbrella of “Rice Growers Cooperative”. This enables the farmers to have an upper bargaining hand in negotiating for attractive prices. The associations are multiplying certified seed and this increased farmers access to quality seed.