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LEG4DEV project hosts multi-stakeholder research & innovation workshop on scaling legumes for development outcomes in Malawi (9th December 2022)

As Malawi faces food security and economic challenges, there is a need for accelerated transformation of agricultural and food systems to develop multiple development outcomes for the nation. Legume crops have major potential to improve livelihoods, productivity, diets, sustainability and foreign exchange earnings. Multiple stakeholders and scaling partners are engaged in efforts to scale legumes for production, consumption and exports in Malawi. There is a need to identify opportunities and barriers for scaling legume production and consumption in, along with the knowledge gaps that are hindering accelerated scaling of legumes in the country.

The LEG4DEV project held a multi-stakeholder workshop in Lilongwe, Malawi, on Friday 9th December 2022 at the Sunbird Capital Hotel, Lilongwe. The workshop brought together over 80 scaling partners and stakeholders from across multiple sectors including the government, private sector, investment, NGO, farmers organisations, research organisations, universities and donors. The workshop participants worked in teams to identify key barriers/opportunities to scaling legumes, along with the key research and innovation priorities of the organisations and companies engaged in scaling legumes in Malawi.

LEG4DEV multi-stakeholder research & innovation workshop on scaling legumes for development outcomes in Malawi (9th December 2022)

The workshop was opened by the Department of Agricultural Research Services of the Ministry of Agriculture, with remarks from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the EU Delegation in Malawi. During his presentation of the LEG4DEV Project Leader Prof. Charles Spillane (University of Galway) indicated that “There is a need to accelerate the adoption, production and consumption of legumes and legume-based foods for a range of national development outcomes. These include higher & climate resilient yields, improved diet and nutrition, diversification, water use efficiency, legume-based businesses, employment, income and exports. The EU-funded LEG4DEV project will conduct multidisciplinary research & innovation with scaling partners to help accelerate their scaling of legumes”.

Marco Vacirca from the EU Delegation to Malawi further stressed that “LEG4DEV is coherent with Malawi 2063 objective of agricultural commercialization and aligned with the priority areas of partnership between EU and the Government of Malawi. EU considers legume value chain strategic for the development of Malawi, indeed, over the past six years, EU has substantially financed the legume value chains and this will remain a priority in EU future programs. He also called for the Malawi government to speed up the formal approval process of the innovations and technologies designed and experimented at research stations, in order for extension services to be able to disseminate formally the new wealth of knowledge available.

Dr. David Chikoye from IITA and LEG4DEV Co-Investigator further highlighted that “’The scaling of legumes enabled by the LEG4DEV project will improve agriculture and food systems in several ways, including increasing farmers’ incomes, improve nutrition and contributing residual nitrogen to staple crops grown with legumes. Legumes can be considered as “green gold where the LEG4DEV research project aims not to reinvent the wheel but instead to do research that makes the wheels of scaling turn faster”’

The Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Seamus O’Grady also addressed the workshop highlighted the importance of the agriculture sector to food security and the economy of Malawi, where commercialisation of agriculture will help grow the economy. He welcomed that LEG4DEV researchers are working with legume scaling partners from across the private and public sector in Malawi to address knowledge gaps that hinder transformation of agricultural and food systems.

Legumes produce high-quality edible protein that is critical for future sustainable protein supply for nutrition and food security needs. The LEG4DEV project aims to fill knowledge gaps that can allow the potential of legumes to be realised for climate-smart transformation of nutritional, income and sustainability outcomes.

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LEG4DEV Mission to the Songwe Region of Southwestern Tanzania

In October 2022, a joint team of PPS-WUR, CIMMYT and TARI-Uyole researchers*, trained extension workers and lead-farmers in the use of the Farmer-MBA (Management-Based-Advisory) mobile phone application, in Songwe region of Tanzania. Farmer-MBA provides field-specific agronomic advice for maize and leguminous crops like common beans, groundnuts and soya.

Dr Jens Anderson (WUR) and Paswel Marenya of CIMMYT visit a market in Songwe, Tanzania

1-15 October 2022 – Dr. Jens Andersson, Dr Renske Hijbeek (WUR), Dr. Paswel Marenya (CIMMYT-Nairobi), and the two WUR-PhD researchers,  Mukoma Kilakila and Thomas Delaune, visited  the Songwe region of southwestern Tanzania. They explored local legume markets, to assess the popularity of specific legume varieties, the availability and prices of improved legume seeds, fertilisers and maize varieties. This information was incorporated into this year’s version of the Farmer-MBA mobile phone application, which provides investment-based, field-specific advisory to maize and legume growers.

While women traders, who dominate legume grain markets, usually sell many different varieties of common beans legume, and several varieties of groundnuts and soya varieties, certified legume seed is extremely hard to come by. The vast majority of agro-dealers does not stock improved seeds of leguminous crops as commercial seed companies hardly sell seeds of leguminous crops in Tanzania. This was confirmed by these companies’ representatives on a local agricultural fair in the centre of the region. 

Improved legume seeds are chiefly supplied through the public sector, that is TARI-Uyole, and a network of smallholder farmers producing quality declared seeds (QDS). Yet, demand for improved seeds far exceeds supply. This market impression corroborates last season’s findings of the Farmer-MBA application; most legume growers use harvested grains as seed.

Next to providing advice on fertiliser use and nutrient management, the Farmer-MBA application also fills an important knowledge gap, as it generates a wealth of data on smallholder farmers’ legume cultivation practices. This data is used to develop new advice algorithms for the Farmer-MBA application, and thus expands and improves advisory to smallholder maize-legume growers in the region.

Participants in the Farmer-MBA training workshops comprised of government extension workers and lead-farmers from three districts (Momba, Mbozi and Ileje). All participants were equipped with mobile devices and will be providing field-specific agronomic advice to smallholder maize-legume farmers, before the start of the upcoming 2022-23 agricultural season. By including both extension workers and lead farmers, Leg4Dev aims to assess the potential of different scaling pathways for field-specific agronomic advice provision to maize-legume growers.

J.A. Andersson (October 2022)

* PPS-WUR refers to the plant production systems group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands; CIMMYT is the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and TARI-Uyole is the Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute in Uyole, in the country’s Southern Highlands.
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Legumes for Development (LEG4DEV) project holds multi-stakeholder planning & research prioritisation workshop in Lusaka (30 Sept 2022)

Legumes are critical to agriculture, food security and economic development in Zambia. The EU-funded LEG4DEV project is conducting research & innovation activities with scaling partners in Zambia which can enable them to more effectively scale legumes for production, consumption and other development outcomes.

Following an intensive schedule of bilateral meetings with stakeholders and potential scaling partners in Lusaka, the LEG4DEV project with IITA Zambia organised and ran a “Legumes for Development” multi-stakeholder planning and research prioritisation workshop on September 30th 2022 in Lusaka. The workshop was held at Lusaka’s Protea Hotel and was opened by Mr. Shadrack Mwale, Acting Director of Agriculture, representing the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture. He highlighted the importance of legume scaling to national development goals of Zambia in relation to agricultural productivity, health & nutrition, sustainability and livelihoods.

The LEG4DEV workshop brought together a wide range of stakeholders (39 attendees) from government ministries and departments, donors, NGOs, farmers organisations and private sector companies, all of whom are engaged in the scaling of legumes.

The LEG4DEV Project Leader (Lead-PI), Prof. Charles Spillane (Director of Ryan Institute, University of Galway, Ireland) explained the goal of LEG4DEV and how it aims to conduct research with scaling partners so they can scale legumes better, deeper, quicker for improved outcomes and impacts.  He indicated that the purpose of the workshop was twofold (1) to bring together stakeholders across the legume value and supply chains in Zambia and (2) to get consensus views of Zambian national stakeholders and scaling partners on what are the highest priority research questions, which if answered would allow them to scale legumes more effectively.

Dr. David Chikoye, IITA Regional Director and Co-PI on the LEG4DEV project indicated that a focus of the LEG4DEV workshop was pinpointing opportunities for legumes in Zambia. He noted that there is a serious shortage of improved seeds on the market, so that is a first opportunity – research to enable scaling of seed production. Other research needs and opportunities present themselves in the scaling and expansion of mechanisation, aggregation and logistics. He indicated that the workshop was a great example of bringing actors from different sectors and viewpoints together to identify and pursue opportunities together.

The Executive Director of the National Association for Smallholder Farmers (NASFA) in Zambia, Frank Kayula, welcomed the EU-funded LEG4DEV project, and highlighted that research and development is a key ingredient towards achieving national development outcomes. He stressed the importance of engaging stakeholders, including farmer organisations, to ensure that the research activities are focused on real challenges and key gaps that farmers and rural households face in relation to adopting, growing, consuming and selling legumes.

The workshop was organised around the six work packages of the LEG4DEV project where workshop participants worked in five teams to identify highest priority research questions (both technical and policy/institutional) that the LEG4DEV project research could focus on in Zambia to better enable legume scaling.

The 1 day LEG4DEV Multi-Stakeholder Zambia workshop was attended by 39 attendees from government, research organisations, universities, donors, NGOs, farmers organisations and companies.

LEG4DEV multi-stakeholder planning & research prioritisation workshop in Lusaka (30 Sept 2022)
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A Farmer as an Agent of Change

In preparation for the growing season In Southern Highlands of Tanzania which is about to start, LEG4DEV PhD researcher Mukoma Kilakila (WUR) has been meeting with legume farmers in several villages during summer 2022 to discuss the potential of new technologies that could increase legume production at low cost and maximize farmers’ investment return. By working with farmers as agents of change, LEG4DEV is focusing its scaling efforts on a range of technologies that include use of inoculants and improved seeds in common beans, groundnuts, and soya. These new legume-based technologies will be tested on farmer’s fields in the season starting in November 2022 and evaluated later by farmers themselves at the end of the season (July 2023).

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LEG4DEV Visits Uganda and The Netherlands

In June 2022, Prof. Charles Spillane and Dr Kieran Fitzpatrick travelled for LEGDEV related activities. Prof. Spillane engaged in an AgriFood Entrepreneurship Workshop in Uganda, while Dr Fitzpatrick visiting project partners in Wageningen, the Netherlands.

13-17 June 2022 – Prof. Charles Spillane attended a 5 day Workshop in Kampala, Uganda on the topic of “Strengthening Agribusiness Incubation Ecosystems in Africa”, which was co-organized by African Union, FAO, African Agribusiness Incubators Network (AAIN), the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), Agripreneurship Alliance, and Sustainable Food Systems Ireland (SFSI). The workshop brought government, NGOs, farmers organisations, research organisations and accelerator/incubators together from five African countries to jointly plan a capacity development program to Strengthening Agribusiness Incubation Ecosystems in Africa. The workshop was extremely relevant to LEG4DEV activities on Legume-derived enterprises and bioeconomies for more resilient bioeconomies. The initiative discussed at the workshop focuses on five countries in SSA, with two of those being countries in which LEG4DEV is working: Malawi and Zambia. 

Image: Meeting of international agricultural development experts from Ireland with Dr. Janet Edeme, Director of Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission. L-R: John Rae (SFSI), Patrice Lucid (IFIAD), Janet Edeme (AU), David Butler (SFSI), Charles Spillane (NUI Galway / SFSI), Brendan Allen (NUI Galway). 

20-21 June 2022 – LEG4DEV’s most recent hire, Dr Kieran Fitzpatrick (LEG4DEV Project Manager), met with key team members at Wageningen University and Research (WUR) for discussions and planning re WUR’s activities within the LEG4DEV Project. He listened and responded to presentations by doctoral researchers, Thomas Delaune and Mukoma KilaKila, on their respective research activities within LEG4DEV, which ae focussed on the southern highlands of Tanzania. These LEG4DEV research activities build on a previous research project in the area, TAMASA, and help to facilitate the scaling of legume-maize crop rotations through digital applications that channel Management Based Advice (MBA) to smallholder farmers.

In addition, Dr Fitzpatrick met with senior academic staff in WUR, such as Dr Jens Anderssen one of LEG4DEV’s co-investigators, and Helena Posthumus, the facilitator of the DeSIRA Lift programme, which assists in supporting all of the research projects funded by the European Commission’s DeSIRA funding programme. 

Dr Fitzpatrick stated,

“My LEG4DEV visit to the Netherlands partners helped familiarise me with, not only Thomas and Mukoma’s PhD research on LEG4DEV and how it will complement the other members of the LEG4DEV doctoral cohort, but also the project’s strategic significance for research in agriculture, both in Africa and Europe. Probably most significantly, it allowed me an opportunity to ‘break bread’ with our team members in Wageningen and foster relationships in person. These relationships are crucial in a project that, by necessity, revolves so regularly around virtual, time-bound meetings, and will I feel be significant in helping us implement LEG4DEV as effectively as possible.”

Blog by Kieran Fitzpatrick, Isabel McLaughlin, Charles Spillane

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LEG4DEV project researchers are identifying exciting legume research and disseminating to stakeholders via the LEG4DEV Twitter feed

To enable scaling of legume-based innovations all of the PhD researchers on the LEG4DEV are now scanning the research literature weekly to identify exciting and relevant legume based research papers which are of interest to the LEG4DEV project and all partners and stakeholders engaged in scaling of legumes for development outcomes.

This approach fulfils two functions (1) to ensure that our intrepid PhD researchers stay abreast of the latest developments in legume research and (2) to help disseminate legume-based research and innovations to legume scaling partners and stakeholders.

LEG4DEV Communications Officer Isabel McLoughlin indicates “The tweets are focused on recent papers, projects, or events that are relevant to LEG4DEV in a broad sense. It is an exercise in knowledge sharing between the LEG4DEV team and our wider stakeholder community.”

The dissemination of the latest research papers via the LEG4DEV twitter accoung is leading to a growing global follower network of the EU funded LEG4DEV project, fostering a sense of community around the project and encourage collaboration and information sharing.

The LEG4DEV project is using Twitter analytics to track communications progress via Twitter, and identify areas where we can improve our engagement and outreach efforts. We consider that our social media presence will be a valuable asset in achieving our project goals and promoting the scaling of legumes for sustainable agriculture and food security.