Malawi significantly increased and improved its oilseed production during the 2018/2019 agricultural season, thanks to the European Union-Southern African Development Community Trade Related Facility (EU-SADC TRF).
The Government of Malawi accessed Euro 1.4 million through the EU-SADC TRF, funded under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). One of the projects implemented by Malawi sought to enhance the production of oil seeds and development of the country’s oilseed value chain involving groundnuts, sunflower and soya beans by utilising yield improving technologies and training of farmers on selected demonstration plots.
Demonstration plots where oilseed improving technologies such as certified seeds, inoculants, soil and plant pest control chemicals, and good agronomic practices were utilized and Agricultural Extension Officers and service providers mobilised to work with existing groups of farmers for provision of extension services in seven districts.
Groups of farmers in designated demonstration plots were trained on the use of oilseed yield improving technologies, resulting in increased oil seed production as well as better quality of yields. One hundred and sixty farmer groups, covering over 16,000 stakeholders, have directly benefited from this intervention.
The demonstration plots registered grain yield increases in soybeans, groundnuts and sunflower in the 2018/19 season as compared to the 2017/18 season. The Yield Improving Technologies (YIT) demonstration plots did better than the Traditional Plots (TP), registering mean grain yield of 1.65 ton/ha (91.4%) higher than that of 0.86 ton/ha respectively. Certified seed of improved varieties, inoculants (in legumes), planting pattern, crop protection agents and fertilizers and good agricultural practices enabled improvement in grain yield. As illustrated in Fig 1 below, 2018/19 grain yield difference between YIT plots did better than the TP:
Fig.1: Grain yield performance in demonstration plots
These positive results would encourage both direct and indirect beneficiaries of the project to adopt the technologies displayed on these demonstration plots, thereby further increasing the yields of the above crops. The results from the demonstration plots also enlightened the farmers of the possibilities for doubling their income within the unit area they cultivate through the use of yield improving technologies and modern agronomic practices.
The increase in the yields provided an opportunity for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism to engage and collaborate with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Water Development, small-scale farmers, oilseed processors, and not-for-profit service providers involved in oilseed sector to work together towards enhancement of oil seed production and oilseed value chain.
The Significance of the Benefits
With the possibility of the farmers doubling their yields, production of the targeted oilseeds will increase and provide the much-needed raw materials for the edible oil extraction industry in Malawi. This will enable oil processing operations to increase capacity, with implications on oil seed output, employment as well as export opportunities, especially to regional markets. The anticipated increased output from the oil production would have a domino effect in supporting sectors such as packaging, livestock, hospitality, transportation and engineering services. This intervention in Malawi is significant in the context of regional integration. Value addition is a critical element of SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap, which has also prioritised agro-processing.
The oilseed sector is one of the prioritised export-oriented clusters for economic diversification in Malawi’s National Export Strategy. However, limited quantity of yields and low levels of quality oilseed production by farmers had been a critical challenge. This situation had forced oilseed processors to rely on imported crude palm oil as the main raw material in value addition processes. The poor quality and low production levels emanated from limited application of high yielding improved technologies. As a result, the poor quality of the oilseed output led to very low prices being offered by local traders and processors, thus discouraging small-scale farmers from venturing into oilseed production. The utilisation of domestic oil extraction and refinery capacities remained had sub-optimal.
Key lessons learnt
- Working with existing structures and systems in different districts of the country ensures attainment of the results of the project quicker than trying to create new systems and structures.
- Collaboration with both public and private operators in multiple sectors (for this project, agriculture, trade and industry) would ensure efficiency in resource utilisation.
- Farmers easily adopt technologies and practices, when there is proof of concept, i.e. the use of demonstration plots to highlight different crop improving technologies.
- The importance of training and continued extension work by service providers to farmers.
- Common understanding of the importance of enhanced linkages between farmers (producers) and processors towards mutual gains and broader national development imperatives.
Conclusion and next steps
Oil seed sector continues to play a key role in Malawi’s domestic economy. It has tremendous potential in enhancing regional and international trade as evidenced by continued demand in global markets. There is need to sustain benefits accrued from the TRF project through further adoption and use of the different technologies, agricultural extension service provision and intensification of industrial extension services to oilseed processors as Malawi continues to implement this project.
Fig.3: Profile of farmers and other stakeholders appreciating the influence of the TRF pack of technologies on growth, development and productivity of sunflower during the field day at Champhira in Mzimba on 18th April 2018
Fig.4: Contrast of YIT (left) and TP (right) sunflower plots, Dowa, 22 February 2019