ASWAp-SPII Rolls Out the Agriculture Market Information System

The Agriculture Sector Wide Approach-Support Project II (ASWAP-SPII) has rolled out the Agriculture Market Information System (AMIS) aimed at achieving regulated and efficient market systems in Malawi.

The project has bought digital gadgets for agricultural officers to use for collecting data on market prices for various farm commodities.

One of the officers, Eunice Sulamoyo Kambalame from Zomba Agriculture Office has commended the initiative.

Previously, we collected market information on a piece of paper. It was difficult to transfer information to the Ministry, especially in rainy season because papers could get soaked – she explains.

In addition to tablets bought for extension workers for collecting data, ASWAp-SPII has bought a desktop computer placed at Zomba District Office to be used as a backup gadget. Furthermore, each Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator (AEDC) has received a laptop computer.

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Manure making

Farmers of Mjintho village under Chabuka model village in the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Kalumo in Ntchisi expect bumper yields this season following the use of manure.

The farmers are now able to make and apply manure in their fields after being trained by ASWAp-SPll. Lloyd Moto, chairman of Chabuka model village, says manure improves soil fertility, thereby increasing crop yield. Moto harvested 1600kgs of maize in the previous season compared to 800kgs he used to get from the same field. He has since bought an oxcart, 2 motorcycles and built a 4 bedroomed house.

Chabuka model village has 130 households participating in making and using manure.

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ASWAp-SPII Geared to Restore Banana Industry in Malawi

In a bid to restore the banana industry, ASWAp-SP II through the Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS) has intensified banana macro-propagation and community orchards. According to Harold Katondo, Horticulturalist at Bvumbwe Research Station, DARS has produced over 40,000 suckers since ASWAp-SP II started, thus from 2018/2019 growing season.

Among others, commercial farmers like Ovillella Mkhupela of Chilumba farm collaborates with the Zomba District Agriculture Office and has since planted 1500 William banana variety on his one-hectare piece of land.  

I decided to venture into banana production because I know that farming is business, and I believe that there is a lot of money in the banana industry – says Mkhupela.

Mkhupela – I believe there is a lot of money in the banana industry

Smallholder farmers are also multiplying their clean banana planting materials in their communities. Peter Mose from Mchinji district is among such farmers.

“I was given 100 suckers, but now I have more than 160 banana tree. I will keep multiplying because I have seen the benefits in banana production,” says Mose.

To date, a total of more than 600 hectares have been put under banana production by 11,213 farmers with 53.8% women in the implementation districts.

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Improvement of rural unpaved roads twinkles hope to farmers in Ntchisi

In Malawi, road transport plays an important role not only in facilitating the mobility of agricultural produce to markets but also enhancing interaction among farmers from different areas, as well as opening up new areas to economic focus.

However, lack of access to good roads has been one of the major challenges that have affected farming business for most smallholder farmers in the country.

As such, the Agricultural Sector Wide Approach Support Project II (ASWAp-SP II) has been supporting road improvement interventions in twelve project’s implementation districts in the country.

Ntchisi is one of the districts in the country where ASWAp-SP II is rehabilitating and upgrading some ten unpaved roads with the longest road being ten kilometers. Additionally, the Ng’ombe-Nyalavu road which is about six kilometers will be tarmacked.

Isaac Mdindo is Director of Public Works in the district and he has hailed ASWAp-SP II for the timely intervention which he said will change the face of Ntchisi in as far as improved road network is concerned. He said the good roads will not only facilitate the smoother movement of farm produce to markets, but will also ensure timely delivery of farm inputs to farmers which will eventually improve agricultural productivity.

“Poor road conditions have always affected our farmers in accessing markets for their farm produce as most of these roads are impassable during rainy season. Now that this project is improving the roads, surely more farmers will join the farming business”, Mdindo explained.

He added that the improved roads will also help to improve service delivery in education, health and other crucial sectors of the economy.

Chinipha Vula is a farmer from Nzoma Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kalumo in Ntchisi district. He is the Chairperson for Chikhwakhwa-Mkwambisi seven kilometer road rehabilitation program.

Vula said Chikhwakhwa-Mkwambisi road which is at an advanced stage, once completed, will not only benefit farmers and people within the vicinity but Malawi as a whole as agricultural produce from all over places will easily reach designated markets within and outside the district.

“We produce a lot of Irish potatoes here, but we usually make huge losses as our produce fail to reach markets due to poor roads. As such most of the time, we sell them at giveaway prices that do not compensate our capital. I am proud to mention that the road will make farmers, cooperatives and model villages more visible”. Vula said.

ASWAp-SP II also emphasizes on providing disposable income through jobs to the farmers in the surrounding local communities.

Doreen Nakalani from Mkwai village, T/A Kalumo is one of the women who have taken part in the rehabilitation works.

She said income from the work has enabled her to afford farm inputs and some basic needs such as food and groceries for her family.

Her budgeting was also shared by Watson Tawina who was among farmers rehabilitating Chikwakwa-Mkwambisi road.

“I bought maize seed and fertilizers which I applied to my field. I hope to harvest bumper yield this year. The road project has given me income that I have used to support my farming activities”, said Watson Tawina.

ASWAp-SP II seeks to develop a resilient and diversified agriculture sector through improved productivity, improved market access infrastructure, adoption of technologies, restoration of soil fertility, resilience and diversified agricultural systems among others.

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ASWAp-SP II scores high in Gender Mainstreaming

Farmers in the country, mostly in the twelve districts where the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Project (ASWAp-SPII) is being implemented, have parted ways with the old tendency of making decisions or taking actions in agriculture production basing on one’s gender; credit to the project for intervening with gender mainstreaming initiatives.

In the promotion of gender equity and equality among farming households, ASWAp-SP II has managed to ensure that women and men have equal access to and control over resources, benefits and decision-making at all stages of agricultural production.

Georgina Mikael of Nkhwazi Model village in the area of Traditional Authority Kapondo in Mchinji district says ASWAp-SP II has taught her not to be on the receiving end, but ensure that with her husband they do all farming activities together as a couple.

“ASWAp-SP II has taught us that when crossing a river, we should not be carried at the back, but instead we hold each other’s hand so that we see together where to step our feet on, thereby enabling us to cross the river on our own. That is why my husband and I work and make decisions together,” she explains.

“Working together as a couple helps to have an equal workload and that no one overworks than the partner. This is very important in a family. I am also happy that my husband understands better the gender concept. He is now able to do with me several household chores such as cooking, cleaning dishes and cleaning the house,” she added.

Her husband Mathew Mikael says he is delighted with ASWAp-SP II’s lessons on gender equality in a farming household. He added that working together has helped his family to increase their income due to combined efforts that have resulted in increased productivity. The two decide together on the size of land to cultivate, the varieties to grow and market decisions.

Previously in most rural farming households here in Malawi women used to do relatively more work and worked more hours than men.

For instance, a couple could go and work on equal portions in the crop field but thereafter, as the husband is resting, the woman had to continue with collecting fuel, fetching water, preparing food, caring for the children and maintaining the home.

Mathew concedes such a discriminatory distribution of household roles based on gender which he attributes to societal misconceptions.

“In the past, I used to think that domestic chores such as cooking, collecting firewood, taking care of children and cleaning the house belonged to women. But ASWAp-SP II has helped to remove such a perception. Now my wife and I work together in all these activities,” he said.

The Mikael family is just one of the many families from Nkhwazi model village in Mchinji whose agricultural productivity has gone up by working together as couples. The families work together in both rain-fed season and irrigation farming activities. They have equitable access to farming resources. The couples also make marketing decisions together.

In the strengthening and implementation of innovative agricultural extension and advisory services, ASWAp-SP II supports gender mainstreaming using approaches and tools that encourage improved gender relations at the household level such as the Household approach.

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ASWAp-SP II introduces giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety to Chitipa through lead farmers

Apart from ensuring food sufficiency and promoting food diversification for nutrition at household level, ASWAp-SP II also seeks to promote commercial production and agro-processing for market development among smallholder farmers in the country.

As one way towards achieving this goal, the project is promoting production of disease-free banana varieties through treatment and multiplication of healthy banana suckers.

Timothy Sichilindi, a lead farmer from Mwenemalawa village, Traditional Authority Wenya, Chisenga, Chitipa district is among farmers in the country who are multiplying Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety.

The 61-year-old Sichilindi started farming business in 2015. Ever since, he has been growing different crops (under rain-fed and irrigation) and keeps a wide range of poultry and livestock. But despite his effort, the dedicated lead farmer has not been able to realize expected maximum profits from his farming business due to market constraints.

However, Sichilindi never gave up on farming. He relentlessly continued pursuing his dream of becoming a successful farmer one day.

“I do not believe in resting, as resting means lasting, I work hard and I am a king”, he said.

What is more adorable about his story is that Sichilindi does the farming business together with his wife and children.

“We do farming business together as a family. We plan, work and budget together,” Loyna Kanyika, Sichilindi’s wife explained.

The life of Sichilindi in agriculture started changing in 2018, when he got the opportunity to be among five farmers from Chitipa district who attended a learning tour in Thyolo and Mulanje districts under ASWAp-SP II. According to him, the tour was meant to help farmers from other districts appreciate efforts of ASWAp-SP II intervention in banana production and Banana Bunchy Top Virus disease (BBTV).

Inspired by lessons and discoveries about the crop in the toured districts, Sichilindi and family decided to venture into banana production. Today they are successful banana farmers who have managed to pioneer production of Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) banana variety in Chitipa.

ASWAp-SP II provided Sichilindi with a humid chamber to be multiplying banana suckers, 100 banana suckers which were planted on his 0.2 acres’ land, 50 banana suckers which were planted in the humid chamber for multiplication and polythene tubes.

Most importantly on this investment, ASWAp-SP II imparted the lead farmer with technical knowledge and skills on banana production. Fast-forward the farmer has already started enjoying the benefits.

“The 50 banana suckers were treated and planted in the chamber (in March 2019) and currently there are more than 210 banana suckers ready for sale and I hope to have more suckers this season,” said visibly proud Sichilindi.

Currently, he is the only farmer multiplying the variety in his area. He is even set to make huge profits due to high demand for the variety in the district. In fact, he is selling them at MK2,500.00 per sucker as a start.

The excited Sichilidi poured more praise on ASWAp-SP II for opening his opportunities to successful farming. He believes the gesture will improve food sufficiency and security in Chitipa as more farmers will also benefit from him through access to the variety but also technical knowledge that he will be providing to the interested farmers.

This coming season, Sichilindi plans to plant 2,220 suckers of Mulanje banana variety on his 1-hectare land.

The lead farmer believes that, undoubtedly, sooner from now Chitipa will be home for the variety, thanks to ASWAp-SP II.

Banana is widely grown in Malawi as a cash crop as well as for local consumption. Giant Cavendish (Mulanje) is one of the recommended banana varieties in the country that have high yielding potential and fetches good prices on the market.

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Swapping bumpy, dusty roads with Aswap’s rehabilitated roads

Malawi is littered with roads that are dusty, rendering travel in some parts of the country an experiment at torture.

For traders and other residents in such areas, life hardly presents a tableau of bliss the tag ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ purports it to be.

Even when most rural dwellers are not expected to drive on those roads, they cannot escape the positive impact of roads on their lives.

According to Roads Authority (RA) statistics, roads handle more than 70 percent of internal freight traffic and 99 percent of passenger traffic, making them the most dominant mode of transport in Malawi.

RA adds that the national road network is composed of 15,451 kilometres (km), of which about 26 percent are paved.

“The rest of the road network (74 percent) is of earth/gravel surface,” it says, adding that studies carried out in 2005 identified about 10,000km of undesignated road network that serve the rural communities.

This [the last part] is the road network that is largely untarred and it seems that, somehow, someone does not seem to be heartily ashamed of, let alone care about, the situation.

So, in the end, earth roads have become one of the visible indicators’ of poverty’s far-reaching waves.

However, such a bad situation seems to be in danger. Yes, it may not last.

Why? Over a quarter of a million households are expected to benefit from over 1000km of rural roads to be upgraded and rehabilitated, thereby connecting agricultural markets in over 10 districts.

At the heart of such transformational efforts is the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Project (Aswap-SP II). The project is called the Rural Roads Improvement Programme (RRImP).

The three-month long project is also a means of equipping and assessing the capacity of district councils in managing roads under their jurisdiction, a function still under RA.

An improved rural road network is geared to increase the volume of production of selected agricultural commodities by 20 percent, according to Aswap-SP II projections.

Additionally, the targeted roads— which are totally or nearly impassable during the rainy reason— will, after improvements, facilitate farmers’ access to markets by ensuring that 100 percent of marketing centres are connected to the RRImP rehabilitated roads.

About 50 percent of those benefitting from the project are female farmers. Road construction works kick off in July 2019, three months behind schedule.

Aswap-SP II is a multinational Trust Fund with five contributors, which include the European Union (EU), Irish Aid, United States Aid for International Development, Flanders State of the Art and the Royal Norwegian Embassy. It is administered by the World Bank.

Its objectives are to promote agriculture productivity and improve accessibility to markets.

Aswap-SP II Country Coordinator, Henry Msatilomo, says the project, which is targeting 12 districts, is worth $55 million [approximately K43 billion].

It covers rural roads in Chitipa and Mzimba in the Northern Region. In the Central Region, six benefitting districts are Mchinji, Ntchisi, Kasungu, Dedza, Ntcheu and Lilongwe. In the Southern Region, Mulanje, Zomba, Thyolo and Phalombe will have their rural roads rehabilitated or upgraded in the next 90 days.

The road component is funded by the EU through a Trust Fund administered by the World Bank.

The roads will link farmers to market centres, Msatilomo enthuses, adding that: “The roads will also improve delivery of inputs to farmers in the target areas. Each district made a choice of its value chain of crops linking to the project.”

Apart from farming, the roads will link community members to schools and hospitals. Msatilomo says 84km of the roads will be bitumised and 116km will be rehabilitated to gravel level.

Aswap-SP II has four main components: Sustainable Agricultural Productivity and Diversification; Improvement of Rural Road Infrastructure for Market Access; Institutional Capacity Development for NAIP and Project Coordination and Management

Project implementers have bought vehicles, Information, Communication Technology equipment, among others, to build the capacity of district officials.

Some districts had done all preparatory work for the project by April this year. For example, in Mzimba North, a rural road that started as the local community’s own initiative has been targeted for rehabilitation.

The 10-km rural road off Mzuzu–Karonga Road at Endongolweni will open the area to markets. The road will be used by seven farming villages.

In addition, in Group Village Head Timeyo Mzuku Shona, there are 189 farmers earmarked to benefit from the project while six other villages where the road passes through will reap the benefits as well. Due to poor condition of the road, farmers have had problems taking their agricultural produce to Ekwendeni, 14km from the village.

“We are eager for the project and ready to contribute what we can to this project. You can see that we already started constructing this road at our own initiative. This is an indication of our level of commitment and thirst to have this road constructed. This clears any doubts lingering about our willingness to take part in this project,” Timeyo Mzuku Shonga says.

The traditional leader, whose area is a model village, says his area grows a number of crops but his subjects lack access to markets, putting them at the mercy of vendors. Farmers cultivate maize, soya beans, cassava, bananas, tomatoes and pepper.

Linley Chavula, a lead farmer, says women bear the burden of such problems.

In fact, women have, for a long time, endured the pain of miscarriages on their way to the hospital at Ekwendeni while some have tragically lost their children while connecting on foot to the tarmac road en route to the hospital, some 14km away.

“Cases of these tragedies can be minimised with a good road to our village. An improved road is our answer to the many problems we face here,” Chavula says.

Community involvement will be crucial in maintaining the road.

A total of 76km of rural roads will be rehabilitated or upgraded in Ntchisi, according to Director of Public Works Isaac Mdindo.

The project is valued at K2,119,937,237.93, targeting 10km of low volume seals and 66km of gravel, thereby connecting food producers in the district to markets. The project is expected to reach out to 21,885 beneficiaries with agricultural assets and services.

Ntchisi has established nine model villages. These model villages are aligning to the RRImP project.

Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development RRImP Desk Officer, Harris Kumwenda, says local authorities are road agencies in their own right.

“Each council has its own roads to take care of,” Kumwenda says, adding that district councils are in charge of all district roads and undesignated roads.

He says the majority of roads under district councils need to be upgraded or rehabilitated to all-weather roads so that farmers can easily access markets.

“We would want them to have access to better markets,” he says.

Twelve districts will benefit from the project in the short-term. In the long run, Kumwenda says, all districts in the country will benefit from the initiative.

In terms of capacity, district workers have been trained in procurement, especially where Aswap –SP II is supporting farmers. District council staff members were also trained in contract management as well as supervisory management, construction and maintenance of rural roads. The other component of capacity building was on road supervision as well as orientation on financial management, facilitated by the Road Fund.

Kumwenda says the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development is expected to fill all vacant key positions in the Directorate of Public Works. Capacity of personnel is, in fact, underway.

Through the National Authorising Office, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development will also take on board temporary staff in consultation with The Polytechnic Civil Engineering Department. The interns will largely be female students in fourth year or those that have just completed their studies.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development has also proposed that it should recruit engineers on non-established posts for Aswap.

Kumwenda says the ministry is relocating engineers, from districts that are not implementing road construction projects, to Aswap-implementing districts.

He also observes that training for supervisors ought to be lengthy to enable them to handle road projects.

Kumwenda further says the transport sector needs devolution to allow district councils to take charge of roads under their jurisdiction. He says, initially, districts can work in clusters on the road projects to complement each other, considering that shortage of personnel is another challenge.

Principal Civil Engineer in the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, Edwin Matanga, says, for further capacity building of district staff, a facility at Zomba Training Centre is handy for such a task.

“Retired civil servants and current civil servants can train the road supervisors. Other courses can also run at Zomba Training Centre,” Matanga says.

He says road supervisors can do theory in the first year and practical in second year, in both cases focusing on construction, maintenance and rehabilitation.

Matanga further observes that, sometimes, roads are in bad shape because of poor control of running [rain] water, poor drainage system and unplanned buildings, especially in urban centres.

“You see, people can benefit from rain water if they allow it to flow in their fields. That is why some community members are undergoing training in how to maintain and sustain roads,” he says.

Surely, the road to tarred roads is being paved.

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Malawi fit for next Aswap funding—World Bank

World Bank Agriculture Sector Wide Approach-Support Project II (Aswap-SP II) team leader Vales Muamvameza has assured Malawi that it is fit for another Aswap funding following satisfactory implementation of the programme.

Muamvameza, who is part of a World Bank team on a two-week tour of the project, said the bank is satisfied with the project and does not rule out the possibility of more funding.

Muamvameza (R) says World Bank is happy with Malawi’s progress

Aswap seeks to improve the productivity and market access of selected commodities for smallholder farmers in targeted districts of Malawi.

Speaking at the opening of the implementation support mission programme in Lilongwe, Muamvameza said the bank may extend the project for another two years.

He said: “I would say that we are happy with the progress. We have seen the changes in areas we asked government to change and things are going smoothly. We still have a lot to push and government should ensure that the activities are completed in time.”

Aswap-SP II, which started in November 2017 and is expected to run up to December this year, is being implemented by various ministries led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.

World Bank pumped in $55million (about K40.7 billion) of which government has used $17 million (about K12.5 billion).

Head of the National Agriculture Investment Plan, Nelson Mataka, said the project is moving in the right direction because it is being implemented by various ministries.

“We are happy that the World Bank is satisfied with what we are doing. This is because the impact is being seen,” he said.

Aswap-SP II seeks to improve the productivity and market access of selected commodities for smallholder farmers in targeted districts of Malawi.

It targets 300 000 rural households in 12 districts of Chitipa, Mzimba, Kasungu, Mchinji, Ntchisi, Lilongwe, Dedza, Ntcheu, Zomba, Phalombe, Mulanje and Thyolo.

The project is a follow-up to Aswap-SP I which run between 2008 and 2016 with financial support from six donors in a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) under the administration of the World Bank.

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Norway gives Malawi K3.2 billion for ASWAp SP II

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the World Bank has provided $4.4 million (about K3.2 billion) to Malawi targeting farmers in 12 districts under the Malawi Second Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Project (ASWAp SPII).

The funding will be channeled towards implementation of climate resilience technologies, introduction of new crop varieties and improving agronomic practices.

A press release issued by the World Bank says an agreement between the three entities was signed in Lilongwe on Wednesday.

World Bank Country Manager, Greg Toulmin expressed satisfaction with ASWAp SPII implementation “The collective effort of development partners in supporting ASWAp SPII in Malawi continues to show impact and good outcomes in nutrition and women’s empowerment, leading to more inclusive economic growth and increased resilience in Agriculture” said Toulmin.

Investments under the project will include road rehabilitation to ensure access to markets, capacity building of Ministry of Agriculture personnel, and establishment of model villages as demonstration hubs for good agricultural practices which will be led and managed by the beneficiaries.

Toulmin said these areas are demonstrating a significant impact of ASWAp SPII in the agriculture sector.

Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Steinar Hagen, said It is important to strengthen government system including sectors related to policy, extension and research while at the same time reaching out to small-scale farmers with “concrete” support.

Hagen said: “These areas of support align fully with the Norwegian priorities.”

The second phase of the ASWAp multi donor trust fund, supported by United States Agency for International Development, European Union, the Government of Flanders, the Norwegian Government and the Government of Ireland, started in 2018 and is expected to reach more than 350,000 people by December 2021.

 

Source: Times

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NGOs promote production of area specific fertilizer

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) are promoting the production of area specific fertilizer with the aim of increasing productivity and incomes among smallholder farmers in Malawi.

The strengthening fertilizer systems through promotion of area specific blending project is being implemented with technical and financial support from Alliance from a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The project is also complementing the Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp-SP II) project by targeting the districts not targeted by ASWAp-SP.

Among the organizations include Department of Land Resource Conservation (DLRC) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Development, Africa Fertilizer Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) and Story Workshop Educational Trust (SWET).

During a briefing session with Fertilizer Association of Malawi (FAM) and private sector in Lilongwe on Thursday, DLRC Senior Land Resources Conservation officer Kefasi Kamoyo said the project will catalyse the production of appropriate soil and crop specific fertilizer blends for increased productivity and incomes among smallholder farmers in Malawi.

“We want to complement blending area specific fertilizer formulations in eleven districts such as Lilongwe, Mchinji, Kasungu, Dedza, Mzimba, Ntchisi, Phalombe and Ntcheu among others,” he said.

He claimed that despite agriculture being the major contributor to the nations’ economy and food security, the sector faces major productivity challenges emanating from continued use of poor agricultural practices.

He added that national soil nutrient deficient maps and area specific fertilizer blends will strengthen fertilizer system and supply chain including creating awareness on new fertilizer blends and increased adoption of appropriate fertilizer blends.

He pointed out that Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) will finalize soil analysis and development of soil nutrient deficiency maps.

SWET Senior Production Manager, Zee Chunga said they will raise awareness and promote adoption of the existing recommended blanket fertilizer blend and the soon to be developed area specific fertilizer blends.

He added that 66,000 smallholder farming households will benefit directly and over 800,000 farming families will be equipped with knowledge on improved fertilizer blends.

In a separate interview, Principal Soil and Plant Nutrition Scientist for Chitedze Agricultural Research Station, Dr. Moses Munthali said cultivation of crops without fertilization results into very low crop yields.

“We need to revise soil fertility maps and develop area specific fertilizer recommendations in various areas due to decline in soil levels of some macro and micro nutrients over application and under application of fertilizers,” he said.

He said plans showing the distribution of various soil nutrient elements have been produced for the 28 districts, 193 Extension Planning Areas (EPAs) eight agriculture development divisions and the nation.

However, he said there are still gaps of micro elements which have not been analysed yet for Likoma and partially Mzimba but it’s progressing well.

 

Source: Malawi 24

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