ASWAp– SP II in a clean banana suckers propagation drive

Travelling in the steep slopes of the mountainous Thyolo and Mulanje districts, the evergreen cover of tea and bananas ushered a beautiful scenery to travelers just a decade ago.  Not long ago, a good number of graduates we see today managed to complete their education with money realized from banana sales. Parents and guardians in the two districts and other parts of Malawi counted on banana bunches for food and income.

The benefits of bananas to the farmer and everyone are multifaceted. Matured green bananas are in some parts of the country cooked and eaten as a staple food. When ripen, they are eaten as a fresh fruit very rich in vitamins. Bananas make good sales on the market and the demand for the fruit is never quenched, as such, they are also grown as a cash crop.

“Bananas have greatly contributed to the social-economic development of my area and the whole country, Malawi. . Banana farming is not an energy intensive farming activity, doesn’t require fertilizers but its demand is always increasing and makes good sales”, says Senior Chief Mthiramanja of Mulanje.

Senior Chief Mthiramanja, Mulanje District


Nevertheless, banana production in Malawi has in the past decade been declining and threatened to extinction due to the occurrence of Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTD) which is caused by the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV). BBTD has spread to almost all the areas and districts where bananas are grown in the country. This has greatly disturbed the social-economic development of the farmers who heavily depend on the fruit for food, nutrition and income.

Healthy Banana Field in Mzimba District

“Bananas assist us a lot. When our fields were attacked and destroyed by BBTD, we were stranded and hopeless. We didn’t know what to do and we were facing a lot of challenges to acquire some basic needs of our lives”,  laments Martha of Mawira village under Mkosi of Loti Moyo model village in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mthwalo in Mzimba.

The need to revamp banana production in the country has been frequently underscored by different stakeholders in the agriculture sector including the farmers themselves.

In a bid to restore banana production and bring back the splendor of the industry in the country, the second Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Support Project (ASWAp – SPII) is supporting the propagation of clean banana suckers at different designated areas and sites in the country. The clean and disease free suckers are distributed to community propagating fields and further to individual farmers to plant in their respective fields.

Agriculture Research Stations such Lunyangwa in Mzimba, Chitedze in Lilongwe and Bvumbwe in Thyolo are producing clean planting materials which are distributed to farmers with support from the project.

According to Banana Technicians at the stations, they have mother orchards with clean banana planting materials where they get corms which are prepared for planting in the humidity chambers for propagation.  When the corms sprout, primary suckers are killed while secondary suckers are kept and hardened off in tubes for two weeks within the chambers and later distributed to farmers for planting in their fields

Through macro propagation with corms, every three months each corm produces over 25 suckers. There are two beds in the chamber where propagation is currently being done at the stations with 300 corms on each bed. This means through this method alone, the stations on average are producing over 15000 suckers every three months.  The stations propagate four banana varieties of Nzeru, Mulanje, William and Grand Nine according to farmers’ demand.

Lunyangwa Research Station Manager Tony Harris Maulana, says ASWAp – SPII has greatly assisted in the restoration of the banana industry in the northern region and the country at large.  According to Maulana the station multiplies the clean banana planting materials in three ways.

“ASWAp – SPII has helped us a lot in restoring the banana industry. We do multiply clean planting material in different ways. One is to use tissue culture lab which we have here at Lunyangwa. The other one is to use the corm system. We can use split corm or whole corm to produce suckers. The other way is that we are increasing the hectares so that we can get a lot of suckers from there. We have at the moment 8 hectares for banana plantation where we harvest the suckers and then distribute to farmers” he said.

One of the established community nurseries for banana propagation is Nazidongo Banana scheme in Thyolo which was established in 2019. The members of the scheme received 300 clean suckers from ASWAp – SPI and planted the suckers. The scheme has at the moment distributed 89 suckers to its members and sells some suckers to non-members.

Joyce Nazidongo, chairperson of the scheme says, the nursery has brought hope for banana production in the area which was almost become extinct. She says members of the scheme and other villages are benefiting a lot from the scheme as they are now getting disease-free banana suckers.

“Before ASWAp – SPII, we had no bananas here following the attack by BBTD. But when the community nursery was established I got suckers from there and started my own nursery where I am multiplying and selling the suckers. This has given hope for the restoration of banana farming in this area”, she said.

Speaking during a visit to farmers at Magunda in Thyolo, Minister of Agriculture Honorable Lobin Lowe MP, admitted that banana production in the country has significantly declined and we are importing the fruit from our neighboring countries. He further indicated that government through projects such as ASWAp – SPII is doing everything possible to bring back banana farming to its usual state.

Lowe said, “If you follow history you will agree with me that Thyolo and Mulanje used to be our food baskets particularly in the supply of bananas but due to BBTV the industry collapsed and we are eating bananas from our neighboring countries. As government, we have special programs which aim at revamping the industry. We are encouraging farmers to uproot all the infected plantations and we are providing them with clean banana suckers”.

Government and the donor community continue to support farmers through different initiatives and projects to revamp and restore the banana industry in Malawi through the propagation and distribution of clean planting materials. The country through projects such as ASWAp – SPII will not long from now restore banana farming.

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ASWAp-SP II Making Improved Sweet Potato Planting Materials Available to Rural Farmers



To farmers like Dickson Kamtedza, sweet potato production has been a part of life. The conventional sweet potato varieties are everywhere and he has cultivated every bit of them. However, in the present, the joy of reaping maximum food and financial benefits from the crop lies in cultivating improved varieties. Switching to growing the improved sweet potato varieties was the last thing that Kamtedza wanted most, but he had nowhere to source planting materials to grow the improved varieties.

In Malawi, sweet potato is regarded as one of the food crops besides maize. Smallholder farmers prefer the crop because of its short growth cycle which allows them to harvest more than once a year. It is also cheap to produce as compared to other crops.

Government and other research and development organizations are now promoting the production of improved varieties of biofortified, vitamin A-rich orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) among farmers. However, most farmers have been faced with the challenge of limited access to vines required for growing the improved sweet potato varieties.

Kamtedza comes from Mkupila village in the area of Traditional Authority Chikumbu in Mulanje, and is one of the farmers who were most challenged. His dream of ever cultivating the improved varieties was just a blur. But thanks to Agriculture Sector Wide Approach Project II (ASWAp-SPII). He received OFSP sweet potato vines through the project.

“I received Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato planting materials from ASWAp-SPII. This variety is rich in vitamin A as compared to other varieties that we used to grow. We grow sweet potato mainly for food but also for sale to get money to support our families,” said Kamtedza.

Dickson Kamtedza in a field where he is multiplying improved sweet potato vines

ASWAp-SPII, in one of its components, is committed to improving farmers’ access to clean planting materials of root and tuber crops through vine multiplication. The project is being implemented in Malawi with financial support from five donors namely EU, Irish Aid, USAID, Flanders, and Norway, managed by the World Bank.

Kamtedza cultivated the improved sweet potato that he received from ASWAp-SPII on his 0.25-acre field with the aim of multiplying vines as per the objective of the project’s initiative. He has since multiplied and shared vines with five other farmers. Now that his only obstacle has been cleared, he hopes to increase hectarage to reap more from the variety.

“From what I have seen, this is a good variety and I am looking forward to increasing hectarage in the next season. Unlike the other varieties, this improved variety fetches high prices on the market and I hope to benefit much from it,” Kamtedza added.

ASWAp-SPII is promoting the production of vitamin A enriched root and tuber crops which are highly productive and drought resilient, with the aim of contributing to food, income and nutrition security in the country.

William Masinja is a farmer from Gowelo village in Zomba. He also received sweet potato vines from ASWAp-SPII and he said the vine multiplication initiative will go a long way in cushioning climatic change shocks.

“What prompted us to embrace sweet potato vine multiplication is climate change. We saw it right to receive the planting materials from ASWAp-SPII so that in the case where our maize has failed, the sweet potato will stand as our everyday food,” said Masinja.

Another farmer from the same village, Loveness Salanje said the improved sweet potato variety will help to transform his family.

“This is a hybrid variety, it is different from other varieties because it is early maturing; it matures in less than five months. This sweet potato will help us in terms of food and money after selling. We will use the money to pay school fees for our children. This will also help to improve production because other farmers will also get planting materials through us,” she said.

To ensure that farmers are accessing clean, improved sweet potato planting materials, ASWAp-SPII through the Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS) is supporting multiplication of OFSP varieties through research stations and progressive farmers.

Harry Mleta, a specialist in root and tuber crops at Chitedze Research Station said farmers across the country have already started accessing the planting materials through the initiative.

“Since the start of the programme in 2019, we have managed to distribute approximately over 10,000 bundles of planting materials to farmers in different districts. Next year we intend to distribute to other farmers as well,” said Mleta.

ASWAp-SPII is working hand in hand with Agriculture Offices in the districts where the project is being implemented.

“We are working together with ASWAp-SPII, and our focus is on increasing the availability of planting materials to our farmers. This project has helped us with OFSP varieties. We are multiplying the varieties so that they are available to everyone,” said Charles Hausi, Assistant Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator (AAEDC) at Msikawanjala Extension Planning Area (EPA) in Mulanje.

Charles Hausi_Assistant AEDC_Msikawanjala EPA, Mulanje District

He added that “So far in Msikawanjala EPA, the planting materials have reached a lot of farmers through ASWAp-SPII. Over 20 farmers have benefited through vine multiplication and we hope that the vines will reach more farmers through the ones that are multiplying.”

Hausi further said ASWAp-SPII is investing in multiplication of OFSP because there are a lot of benefits associated with the improved variety.

“OFSP contains vitamin A, which has been an issue of national concern regarding nutrition. Vitamin A improves eyesight, boosts the body’s immunity against infections and keeps the skin moist. Looking at the six food groups, the crop also supplies carbohydrates. So, we are encouraging farmers who have received the improved planting materials to keep on multiplying so that after two or three years the varieties should spread throughout the EPA and the district at large,” he added.

Improving access to clean, improved sweet potato varieties through ASWAp-SPII will contribute to reducing vitamin A deficiency in the country. This will in turn contribute to achieving food, income and nutrition security among farming families.ASWAp-SPII Making Improved Sweet Potato Planting Materials Available to Rural Farmers

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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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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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