By Paida Mpaso:
Kutukula Ulimi M’Malawi (Kulima) Multi-annual Programme Estimate (Mape) is a six-year programme which aims to contribute to fulfilling one of the three objectives of the Kulima Sustainable Agriculture Programme, which is to increase agricultural productivity and diversification in a participatory, sustainable and climate change-resilient manner.
The programme, which is funded by the European Union through the 11th European Union Development Fund, seeks to achieve this by providing overall coordination and complementary support for the implementation of relevant interventions by Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and other stakeholders like FAO, GiZ and NGO Consortium led by Self Help Africa
The objective of Mape responds to the recognition that agriculture and food security is one of the nine stated priority development areas in the National Development Strategy but it is, however, facing increasing challenges from climate change, low productivity, progressive depletion of natural resources – soil fertility among others – and overdependence on two crops: maize for food security and tobacco for exports.
One of the key activities being implemented by the programme is the revamping of the banana industry through the distribution of clean planting materials and multiplication of suckers through macro-propagation and micro-propagation of bananas.
Macro-propagation of bananas is being done by farmers as well as Ministry of Agriculture through agriculture research stations.
On the other hand, micro-propagation of bananas is being implemented in tissue culture laboratories at agriculture research stations and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), Bunda Campus.
Another key activity being implemented under the programme is propagation of fruit trees at agriculture research stations.
Macro-propagation of bananas by farmers
As of July 2019, Kulima Programme Estimate had facilitated the distribution of about 36,000 banana suckers for the establishment of community orchards and nurseries.
In addition, 6,453 are expected to be distributed between September 2019 and February 2020.
All these suckers are being distributed by Ministry of Agriculture through the Department of Crops Development in all the 10 Kulima implementing districts of Mulanje, Thyolo, Chiradzulu, Salima, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Mzuzu, Chitipa, Karonga and Mzimba.
From these, farmers are then expected to multiply the suckers for further distribution among group members and to other groups formed within the districts as pass-on programme.
In total, smallholder famers have produced 8,595 suckers, 4,174 from humidity chambers and 4,421 from mother blocks.
Famers have also started the pass-on programme in the districts which benefitted from the first phase of the distribution and these include Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Mulanje and Thyolo.
One group of farmers in Nkhotakota, which has managed to pass on 200 suckers to a community orchard nearby, believe the programme has the potential to transform the lives of the farmers as well as restore the glory of the banana production.
Friday Phiri is a member of Chithowe Club – a group comprising 47 members – which, after receiving 200 banana suckers in March 2019, it has now managed to pass on 200 to another community club within the same area.
“As farmers, this is good progress for us, we expect 110 farming households to benefit from such arrangements and, together, we can get back to the way things were before the banana bunchy top virus wreaked havoc,” he says.
Micro-propagation and macro-propagation at agriculture research stations
In addition to working with farmers, the programme is also working with Luanar, Lunyang’wa Agriculture Research Station and Bvumbwe Agriculture Research Station where micro-propagation through tissue culturing is being done.
There are some challenges to the project, of course, like contamination of some plantlets, which is retarding the propagation process.
Bvumbwe Research Station, for instance, has managed to only initiate 38 tissues against the target of 60,000.
Bvumbwe Research Deputy Station Manager Felix Chipojola says, however, the station has established its own banana orchard whose major purpose is to not only act as a demonstration plot to farmers but preserve banana varieties.
The banana orchard covers two hectares with an estimation of 2,222 suckers but the target is three hectares.
“In the event that one banana orchard is attacked by virus, we are in the process of also establishing two mother orchards at Kasinthula and Makoka research stations – one hectare each – to mitigate the risk. We are also working to find a solution on contamination of our tissue in the laboratory,” he says.
He says established mother orchard at Bvumbwe will also be a source of suckers for distribution to farmers, hence source of income through the sale of suckers.
Propagation of fruit trees
In terms of fruit propagation, Bvumbwe Research Station has grafted 3,100 mangoes against a target of 5,000 and 8,530 macadamia seedlings have been grafted against a target of 10,000, of which 8,120 have been planted.
In addition, about 5,800 seedlings of citrus have been planted against a target 5,000. Of these, 5,000 have been planted at Bvumbwe Research Station and the rest at Lunyangwa Agriculture Research Station.
In conclusion, the activities being implemented by Kulima Programme Estimate are aimed at having a positive impact on the targeted beneficiaries, most of which are the smallholder families.
For example, the implementation of banana activities is aimed at improving the food and nutrition security of households as well as their economic wellbeing.
This is in line with the government development objectives for the agriculture sector as outlined in the National Agriculture Policy (2016-20), the National Agriculture Investment Plan (2017/18-2022/23) as well as the third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.