Towards diversifying cropping systems in the drought and flood prone areas of Malawi, Pilira 1 variety of sorghum seeds will be distributed to smallholder farmers through the Malawi Government’s Farm Input Subsidy Program.

The Pilira 1 is a medium duration variety with a maturity period of 110 to 115 days. It has a yield potential of 2-4 tons per ha. ICRISAT under the framework of Dryland Cereals had recently contributed 1,400 kg of basic seed of Pilira 1 variety of sorghum for the 2015-16 cropping season. This contribution was made through the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security, Malawi.

Mr Bright Kumwembe, Deputy Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, while accepting the seeds on behalf of the ministry, underscored the appropriate timing of the seed sharing, as the ministry is trying to advocate crop diversification mostly in drought and flood-prone areas.

Mr Aidan Fitzpatrick, Head of Development, Irish Aid, said, “Adding sorghum in the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) and extending the seed systems portfolio to sorghum will positively impact livelihoods as the crop has the potential to improve food security and income. It is not only an easy crop to produce, but also drought tolerant.”

The seed distribution will help to meet the challenges associated with low sorghum production in the low-lying areas of Lower Shire in the southern region of Malawi and those along the shores of Lake Malawi where it serves as a staple food. These areas are mostly hit by dry spells and intermittent rainfall. 

Presenting the seed bags to the ministry, Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, ICRISAT, highlighted that the major challenges to increasing sorghum production in the country were lack of access to seeds of improved varieties, poor production practices and lack of diversification, as farmers cling to traditional crops.

Under the framework of Dryland Cereals, ICRISAT along with a consortium of partners is implementing the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project (MSIDP) with the aim of ensuring smallholder farmers have access to seeds of improved varieties of legumes and cereals.

In 2015, through MSIDP, around 5,500 kg of Pilira 1 variety seeds were produced, enough to cover 1,100 ha. The 1,400 kg seeds given to the ministry would cover about 280 ha put to certified seed production.

Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings