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Thursday, July 18, 2024

CAT, LUANAR sign over $13,000 research grant for undergraduate students

…….to address production challenges facing smallholder farmers in Malawi

Dr. Agness Mwangwela LUANAR Deputy Vice Chancellor

The Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) have signed a $13,500 (about MKW14.5 million) research grant to support six undergraduate students carry out research on demand (RoD) aimed at providing quick solutions to production challenges faced by smallholder farmers and selected agribusinesses in Malawi.

The grant covers one year of research activities by four male and two female students drawn from LUANAR’s Bunda College campus, who were selected through a competitive and rigorous process managed by both the university and CAT.

Specifically, the grant will enable the students to undertake specific tailor-designed research areas including investigating the agronomic uniformity and genetic stability of CG11 groundnut variety, develop tissue culture protocols for rapid propagation of Sukari and Zeru local varieties of banana, evaluate and identify effective integrated pest management approaches for Soybean, assess effect of sunken beds on yield of rain-fed and irrigated garlic, study the field establishment and agronomic performance of chia
seeds, and evaluate the potential of used mushroom substrate as an organic fertilizer.

These production challenges were identified late last year through CAT’s visit to its Business Incubation and Commercialization (BIC) partners who are up scaling various technologies and innovations to support smallholder farmers’ adoption across the country.

The research activities will be conducted at the CAT’s Smart Farms located within the precincts of LUANAR’s Bunda and NRC Campuses with regular visits to selected agribusinesses in Lilongwe based on individual production challenges they face while working with smallholder farmers.

CAT Executive Director Macleod Nkhoma

CAT Executive Director Macleod Nkhoma said: “We are delighted to work with LUANAR towards supporting undergraduate research needs that have an impact on smallholder agricultural production as well as those that can provide solutions to production bottlenecks our agribusiness partner’s face as they support farmers through various alternative value chains.

This is a unique opportunity and CAT strongly believes this will further cement the existing partnership between CAT and LUANAR; but more importantly it will generate evidence-based data that will eventually
help these farmers enhance their agricultural productivity, increase income and ensure improved livelihoods.”

Nkhoma added that although this is a pilot phase targeting undergraduate students there is potential for expansion in near future to include other value chains and target groups who may want to research on
challenges being faced by the agricultural sector.

On her part, Deputy Vice Chancellor of LUANAR Dr. Agnes Mwangwela had this to say: “We applaud and celebrate this great initiative which will go a long way in building and strengthening our undergraduate students’ capacity to conduct scientific research.

The University deeply cherishes a practical partnership with the CAT that is cascading down to our students. Following this initial grant, we look forward to an expanded program that would accommodate more students and staff to conduct demand-driven and cutting edge research for the agriculture industry.”

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World through Agricultural Transformation Initiative has provided funding for the initiative.

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