MALAWI – Malawi launches a €6.3 million (US$7.3m) project dubbed Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA), financed by the European Union (EU) seeking to promote climate-relevant, productive and sustainable transformation of agriculture and food systems in the country.

The five-year project also aims to integrate technological options adapted to local conditions, reports Nyasa Times.

The DeSIRA initiative is an EU project aiming to support research and innovation projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and strengthening research capacities and research governance involving key actors at national, regional, continental and global levels.

The total funding of the project of €300 million comes from the European Commission (Development Cooperation Instruments) under the Global Public Goods and Challenges Thematic Programme.

Speaking at the virtual launch of the project, the Director of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), Dr. Wilkson Makumba, said although agriculture holds the key to food security, economic growth, employment and overall poverty reduction in Malawi, the sector still faces several production challenges, resulting from adverse climatic conditions such as recurrent droughts and floods, declining soil fertility, desertification, and outbreak of pests and diseases.

“Despite the gains made through research and development interventions in the past years, the agriculture sector still faces several production challenges and scientific prediction suggests that these adverse climatic conditions will continue in the coming decades, affecting the food and nutrition security of people, especially smallholder farmers,” said Makumba.

He said it is against this background that DeSIRA project was designed to improve the climate change adaptation of agricultural and food systems in Malawi through research and uptake of integrated technological innovations.

According to Makumba, the project objectives are directly aligned with the government’s research priorities to address climate change and build sustainable resilience as set-out in Malawi’s National Agricultural Policy (NAP, 2016) and National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP).

“This will involve the development of diversified crop and livestock production systems, robust integrated pest and disease management strategies to predict, monitor, and control existing and emerging biotic threats to agriculture; and improve post-harvest management technologies,” he said.

The project activities will involve establishment of on-station experiments to evaluate various integrated technology options at various research stations and on-farm trials to allow farmers and other stakeholders to participate in the evaluation of the various technologies.

“Let me also reiterate that the project is special because it promotes cross-center collaboration through clustering of scientists from various CG centers, DARS, LUANAR and other institutions to develop climate smart innovations that are demand-driven and tailored towards the technology needs of smallholder farmers,” Makumba said.

He thanked the EU for its generous support to fund the project. He also commended the International Potato Center (CIP) for taking the lead in preparing the project document.

In his remarks, the Programme Manager of the EU Delegation to Malawi, Jean Pierre Busogoro, said the organization is prioritising research in agriculture and food systems in order to address through science and innovation the challenges caused by climate change was very much aligned to the national policy orientations.

Busogoro observed that Malawi is well known for having built a system where there is a constant and strong collaboration between the national research system hosted by your department and the various CGIAR centres operating in Malawi.

“This good partnership between the national and the international agriculture research system has been facilitating the CGIARs centres based in Malawi to engage in the process of ‘CGIAR Country collaboration (formally known as site integration process). This good development has inspired the design of the DeSIRA project for Malawi,” he said.

Busogoro stressed that technology development in the National Climate Change Management Policy (NCCMP) is a way to generate innovative approaches for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

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