To provide improved livelihoods and enhance food security in Malawi, a number of improved varieties of finger millet were introduced in Malawi. These varieties developed by ICRISAT-Kenya, were introduced in the districts of Mzimba and Kasungu in Northern and Central Malawi.

To review the progress made in the region an ICRISAT team toured the region during the recent field days in Mzimba and Kasungu.

In Kasungu, the field day was hosted by the Kamudi Nkata farmer group, in which 34 women farmers and 43 men farmers took part. Farmers in the region earn an income from finger millet when it is sold to make local beer, sweet drink and Ugali (dish of millet flour cooked with water to a porridge or dough-like consistency).

The farmers’ preferred traits were early maturity, high yield, drought tolerance, blast resistance, compact heads and medium height. Farmers noted that all the introduced varieties were better than their local varieties, and selected Kal Atari, Acc 3779, and Gulu E as their preferred varieties.

Speaking on behalf of the farmers, the area chief thanked ICRISAT for providing alternative varieties and crops for food security. He observed that despite the demonstrations being planted late, due to delay in seed delivery, they have performed better, thus showing their ability to give increased productivity despite limited rainfall. Dr Grando thanked the farmers for embracing finger millet, a crop with high nutritive value and pledged more support.

In Chamunguma of Mzimba district, 98 farmers took part in the field day. Most farmers in the area grow finger millet and are getting an average yield of 700 kg/acre, compared to 300 kg/acre in Kasungu. Farmers were appreciative of the wide variability among the varieties, especially in relation to yield, resistance/tolerance to blast and drought.

Finger millet is grown in several districts of Malawi, but is mainly concentrated in areas in the Northern part of the country. These areas have the same agro ecology as finger millet growing areas in neighboring Tanzania where a number of varieties have been tested under the ICRISAT-led Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets project.

This activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.

Adapted from ICRISAT Happenings