By Yohane Chideya, Wilson Nkhata, Mary Singini, Adon Phiri, Jefferson Munyao & Jean Claude Rubyogo,
Expectations are high that bean farming will get a boost in Malawi, as the Alliance of Bioversity International and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (The Alliance) equipped 110 Field Officers from different districts with skills in common bean agronomic practices.
Senior Research Associate at The Alliance, Eric Kaima, said the training has been conducted with emphasis on site selection, planting, fertilizer application, pests, and disease identification and management, as well as harvesting and postharvest crop management.
He added the officers will then be leading common bean farmers in their respective areas on the same, through setting up of on-farm demonstrations.
“We expect the Field Officers to cascade the knowledge gained from the training to lead farmers, who will later establish and manage on-farm common bean demonstration plots in their respective locations. On-farm demonstration plots will be used to teach various agriculture technologies and production techniques as well as highlight the performance of improved bean crop varieties.” Said Kaima
The development follows a two-year Accelerated Innovation Delivery – Initiative (AID-I), meant to assist smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to boost their productivity, efficiency, and incomes through improved technologies and production methods in common bean farming.
AID-I is a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded intervention, through the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYYT).
The trained Field Officers, who are from the districts of Nsanje, Zomba, Karonga, Rumphi, Chitipa, and Mzimba, are expected to drill farmers in good bean production practices.
The officers were from different non-government and farmers organizations such as the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM), Catholic Development Commission (CADECOM), and Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM).
Some of the participants pose for a photograph at the end of training sessions in Karonga district – photo Yohane Chideya
One of the Facilitators of the training of trainers, Mary Singini, has since described the exercise as a huge stepping stone in the quest to improve bean farming from production and management in Malawi.
“It is amazing that the sessions were more interactive. Participants asked questions, which is a sign that they were understanding what exactly they are going to do in their respective areas, and they know what is expected of them as they will be engaging farmers,” she said.
Chikumbutso Moto is a Field Officer with CADECOM in Karonga district, who took part in the training and was thrilled with the sessions. He added that with the new skills he has acquired, he is ready to engage smallholder farmers in his area in the best bean farming practices to advance AID-I’s agenda.
“They have been very insightful training. We have shared experiences with each other, and I have acquired new knowledge that we are going to use in training the communities we are working in, concerning common bean farming and management,” he said.
Some of the field officers during a training session in Karonga
Following the training, around 30 on-farm demonstrations are expected to be instituted in each district, with the guidance of the drilled Field Officers.
The Field Officers have since appealed to authorities for continued skills enhancement, in a bid to improve common bean production in Malawi.
In this initiative, the Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) is accelerating the delivery of bean innovations through the bean corridor approach by, among others, catalyzing both public and private sector investments for improving bean productivity, commercialization, and consumption in Africa.