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.
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.