ENHANCING USE OF ORANGE MAIZE IN FARMING COMMUNITIES OF THE SOUTHERN AFRICAPosted by: Isaac Bulangeti | Posted on: December 5, 2018
A case of Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi
Deficiency in vitamin A is one of the most prevalent problems in Sub-Saharan African countries including Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. The consequences of deficiency of vitamin A is high fatality rate (60%) but even sub-clinical deficiency is associated with a 23% increase in preschooler mortality in areas with endemic Vitamin A deficiency”. An array of solutions have been proposed to combat Vitamin A deficiency. These have included Vitamin A capsule administration campaigns in pre-schools and primary schools unfortunately this has left behind others. On the other hand deliberate fortification of selected food products such as milled maize flour, sugar food, margarine, butter among others have been tried in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique (Inquire on Mozambique). Unfortunately, this has left out the marginalized who cannot afford such products. Fortunately at the end of the tunnel there is a blight light, Agricultural Productivity Program for Southern Africa, APPSA, has coupled up with National Agricultural Research Services, NARS, Universities and other stakeholders to develop and promote bio fortified maize varieties which are usually called orange maize varieties. This is has proved to be a cross cutting solution across all social classes including peasant farmers because maize is a staple food in all these three countries. “The Zambia Agricultural Research Institute, ZARI, commenced the orange maize initiative when the Zambia Government called for fortification of Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc. The Zambians were not sure of health hazards that may be imparted by chemical fortification of food products so they opted for conventional, natural occurring bio fortification through use of orange maize as a safest option for having vitamin A in food,” said Kabamba Mwansa (PhD), a maize breeder from Golden Valley Trust who is leading the initiative in Zambia. On the other side, the initiative is being successfully led Dr. Kesbell Kaonga and Dr. Emmanuel Temo in Malawi and Mozambique respectively. The collaborative platform has shortened the breeding process through sharing of germplasm, data, information, experiences and across country experimentation. This is being accrued to the APPSA initiative. So far, the collaborative efforts has released a total of 11 orange maize varieties and three are in the pipeline. Out of the 11, Malawi has released 5 varieties (Malawi Hybrid 45 with Vitamin A – MH45A, MH46A, MH47A, MH48A and MH49A), Zambia has released 6 varieties while Mozambique is geared to release 3 varieties, the ones in the pipeline. These varieties have been successfully tested and proved to be well adapted to the three countries before released. For all this to be possible, it has been the efforts of the World Bank, through the APPSA project.
Right now, farmers and users are aware of the benefits of using orange maize varieties in the three countries. It was observed that most Zambian farmers are aware and willing to pay for the benefits of orange maize because of earlier initiatives by ZARI and other service providers. This was observed in Mambwe district, where Patronella Hamaidza Chulu, an Extension Officer for Kapita Agricultural Camp, appreciated, “Owing to nutritional benefits from orange maize, farmers and traders in this area are willing to pay higher price for orange maize than white maize (find out about the price difference between orange and white maize)” she further expressed that, “although I am an extension officer I also love growing orange maize because it is nutritionally great for my family”. One of the farmers under Patronella’s realms of advisory services, Manase Ngoma, alluded that, “orange maize has multiple uses in our households; the flour is used for making porridge for infants and healthy flitters that are sold for income. The green maize is roasted while fresh where it is consumed or sold, this bring forth income that support settling other household issues”. Dr Kaonga said, “When fresh orange maize is roasted, it contains higher levels of pro-vitamin A”. These are some of the uses among many.
The good news on orange maize has also extended to grain processors who are also keen to turn the orange grain in something more valuable. In Zambia, Mpogwe milling company is zealous to use orange maize for Milling. They plan to multiply the maize through their out grower scheme. On the other hand, a Malawian company known as Vita-Meal is interested in using orange maize for processing a product widely known as Likuni Phala, a nutritious porridge for infants. (Place a picture of Vita-Meal, a worker at the factory and associated comments on orange maize). In Mozambique, Losana Farm is interested in using orange maize for making animal feed. Seed availability has also been a challenge on most new maize varieties, the three countries have opted to strike a deal with private companies to pick the varieties and multiply the seed. Malawi is engaging Museko Seed Company whilst Mozambique is working with Campanhia De Zembe and Nyara Yapera whilst Zambia has demand from Sygenta Seed Company, Mpongwe Milling Company and Chilala Milling Company. The essentiality of orange maize has manifested itself by the existing demand. Kesbell Kaonga of Chitedze Agricultural Research Station expressed that he has been contacted by a Mozambique company that urgently wish to multiply and use the orange maize varieties that have been released in Malawi. This shows that there is a pull effect from user and potential users.
It manifested that Malawi and Zambia have a higher demand for using orange maize for human consumption unlike Mozambique which has a higher demand for livestock feed. There is a need to place promotion mechanisms that will advocate use of orange maize for human consumption in Mozambique. On the other hand, there is need to advocate use for livestock feeding in Malawi and Zambia. It is need to change perception of many potential users in the three countries who related orange maize to some yellow maize that was offered as a donations from Kenya during a hunger period that struck the region in the early 90s. There is a need to iron out the background in the current dissemination activities to eliminate the misconception.
These varieties are being disseminated through a number of dissemination pathways including demonstrations (on-farm and on-station), field days, fairs (agricultural, seed, science, trade among others), TV and Radio programs, printed media (policy briefs, brochures, factsheets, online publications, participatory variety selection, participatory preference assessments. Additionally, there have been other innovative approaches specific to each country. Malawi conducts Mini field days that targets Commercial Company and other stakeholders that are interested with the newly released orange maize varieties. In additional, they have developed training videos that gives step by step recommendations in handling the varieties. Equally, Zambia is using an innovative approach called seed drop where they distribute 300 kernels or grains of orange maize to farmers for free. Mr. Chazingwa, the vice chair of Kapita Camp Committee in Zambia expressed a slightly modified approach, he said “we distributed 500g packets of orange maize to 500 pupils at a nearby primary school which we advised them to plant at their homes with their families”. This has been a powerful approach to provide an opportunity for farmers to test on their own whilst bringing awareness to many farming households within one production season. For Mozambique, Mr. Sostino Makumbi, APPSA Communication specialist, expressed that, “we intend to engage promotion activities that will impact awareness on benefits of orange maize to make sure that these nutritious cereal reaches out many”.
Dr. Mwansa indicated that “these varieties are awesome but there is a need to build capacity in amongst specialist across the three countries on determination of Vitamin A”. He added that, “the Vitamin A content for the released varieties are ranges from 8 to 13 parts per million (PPM), we need to further the content to 15 PPM, which is the anticipated level by most nutritionists”.
Cyprian Mwale, a maize breeder at Chitedze Research Station also said that “there is a need to assess retention of Vitamin A over time under varying condition with regard to moisture, heat, susceptibility to insect pests, exposure to light among others”.
“To sum up, there are eleven varieties that have been released. There is a need to have considerable quantities of parental lines of these released varieties so that when stakeholders are interested to multiply the seed, they should do that with ease”, stressed Kayombo Kambukwe, an agricultural research of officer at Golden Valley Trust, Zambia.