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Groundnut work delivers for smallholders

I saw impressive gains being made through production of improved groundnut varieties by smallholder farmers in Malawi first hand today.

I need practice to catch up to the pace farmers can strip pods from groundnuts in Malawi.

I need practice to catch up to the pace farmers can strip pods from groundnuts in Malawi.

We spent the day visiting many smallholder farmers who showed us the agronomic practices they are using to grow groundnut, pigeon pea and maize.

The farmers walked us through their involvement in the production and distribution of the improved groundnut CG 7, which has 50 percent oil content and a large seed size making them suitable for both oil production and for confectionary nuts.

It’s an interesting story – starting with five modest farmers who were provided ten kilograms of seed each in 2006.

Just two of the five farmers retrieved seed from their crop.  Impressively, the operation has now expanded to 1000 farmers producing certified groundnut seed from the work of those two farmers. The labour savings they are making through using conservation agriculture of maize is allowing the women farmers to increase their groundnut production.

Groundnut is a very important crop in Malawi, providing some 5.3 percent of agricultural gross domestic product.  Impressively, smallholders produce the majority of those groundnuts.  This has been a great economic opportunity for smallholders, their harvests delivering them an average return of US$450.

Malawi’s Minister for Agriculture, Dr Allan Chiyembekeza, worked closely with ICRISAT to develop CG 7. He started the seed revolving fund in 1998 with the support of USAID to scale up groundnut seed production.  He has been a long-term collaborator and supporter of our work and recounted the history of ICRISAT in Malawi and the impact of the work in the last 35 years.

Groundnut is an amazing crop. It flowers above ground but produces the seeds from the pollination below ground. The challenge is how to reduce the drudgery of digging up (lifting) the pods and ‘stripping’ them from the roots. This simple device (pictured) increases by a factor of four the rate at which roots can be processed. Despite its simplicity I need practice to catch up to the pace farmers can strip pods from groundnuts in Malawi.

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