Lilongwe — Soybean farmers in Lilongwe and Mangochi districts say they are able to almost double their annual harvest since they were introduced to inoculant technology being upscaled by USAID-funded Feed the Future Malawi Ag Diversification Activity (AgDiv).
Inoculants are bacteria that help fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil - a technology approved by Government for use in legumes.
Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator (AEDC) for Chitekwere Extension Planning area (EPA), Winston Kantambe, told the media about 489 soybean farmers received free inoculants from AgDiv in the growing season 2017/2018 and that almost all farmers had increased their previous harvest.
Chokani Folopesi, a soybean local farmer in Lilongwe said he cultivated a hectare and harvested 86 bags of soybean of 50kg each, contrary to 40 bags he harvested from the same piece of land before he started using inoculants.
"My life has literary changed. I am able to earn a living, paying school fees for my children, buying food and have constructed a new brick house thatched with iron sheets," he said.
Another farmer in Mangochi under Katuli EPA, Ali Chande, said he harvested 55 bags contrary to 30 bags which he used to get in the past before using inoculants and earned MK250, 000 from soybean selling which he has used to purchase iron sheets, buy TV and satellite dish.
In addition he has molded 15,000 bricks in readiness to construct houses for renting to tenants.
Chande also said he has a grocery and a barbershop and hopes to harvest more in the next season and be able to construct another house for tenants to rent.
"I am calling upon other farmers to use inoculants. They should just try it within a small area and see the results," he said.
Cecelia, Chande's wife echoed the husband's sentiments, saying inoculant technology has changed their home through increased harvest of soybeans from which they are also able to make Soy milk which has improved the nutrition status of their family.
In Malawi, records show that inoculants for several legumes are produced and sold at a modest cost of MK950 per 50g packet. A 100g packet of inoculant is enough to cover 10-15kg of seed.
According to AgDiv's Agriculture Productivity Consultant, Funny Malongo, research has confirmed that the addition of inoculants to soybean before planting can boost yield by 30-50 per cent and even more in certain cases with all other factors kept equal.
"Inoculants technology in Malawi has been spearheaded by Chitedze Research Station, USAID Partners for Innovation and other numerous international research organizations.
"The Government of Malawi has approved the technology and a local producer, Agriculture Input supply ltd (AISL), has been established to sell inoculants to soybean farmers in the country," Malongo said.
The five-year Feed the Future Malawi Agriculture Diversification Activity aims at sustainably reducing poverty and hunger among Malawi's smallholder farmers by building robust market linkages and improved agricultural productivity.
The project is implemented in Malawi by Palladium.