Malawi officially releases its first improved chickpea and finger millet varieties

(L) Finger millet on-station trial at Chitedze research station. (R) On-farm chickpea trial in Phalombe district. Photo: ICRISAT-Malawi

High-yielding chickpea and finger millet varieties with yield potential of up to 3 tons per hectare had their first-ever official release in Malawi. The release aligns well with the government’s crop diversification agenda for food and income security and the funding agency Irish Aid’s goal of increasing the resilience of poor households to economic, social and environmental shocks.

The three chickpea and three finger millet varieties are the culmination of five years of on-station and on-farm evaluations for adaptability, yield, nutrition, climate resilience and utilization facilitated by the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project (MSIDP). These varieties bred by the ICRISAT breeding program in Kenya were tested for adaptability in Malawi.

Smallholder farmers who have been growing low-yielding landrace varieties for food and income have welcomed the new varieties that have the potential to invigorate chickpea and finger millet production in Malawi, said Dr Patrick Okori, ICRISAT Country Representative for Malawi. The farmer participatory research process, including food testing trials, have seen farming communities expressing interest in the new finger millet varieties as they are popular in traditional recipes such as sweet beer and porridge. The varieties will strengthen the community complementary feeding and learning programs being implemented by the nutrition program of the MSIDP. Similarly, chickpea remains key in the diets of many rural households in southern Malawi, where it is also an income-generating crop, owing to the increasing market demand, regionally.

The MSIDP project aims to strengthen legume and cereal seed systems and their complementary agricultural innovations, in order to improve productivity and consequently food, nutrition and income security of smallholder farmers.

The Department of Agricultural Research Services in partnership with ICRISAT has released the three chickpea (ICCVs 96329, 97105 and 97114) and three finger millet (ACC#14FMB/01WK, KNE#688 and P224) varieties, following clearance by the Agricultural Technology Clearing Committee, of the Ministry of Agriculture, Malawi.

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