Malawi: Farmers acquire and maintain good quality groundnut seed to improve yield

| June 7, 2021

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One of the challenges that Malawian groundnut farmer Cynthia Mvalo faces is lack of access to quality seeds. Lack of information is another. She says many groundnut farmers do not know agro-dealers who stock and sell quality groundnut seed. To deal with these and other challenges related to groundnut production, Mrs. Mvalo seeks guidance from researchers, turning to Chitedze Research Station. She says that, now that she buys groundnut seed only after seeking advice from researchers, she no longer faces the challenge of poor quality seed.

Cynthia Mvalo smiles with her hands on her hips. She looks happily at the truck full of groundnuts which she harvested today, ready to transport to the storehouse. Besides her excitement, one thing lingers in her mind—how she struggled to find the good quality groundnut seed she planted to achieve this bumper harvest.

Mrs. Mvalo recalls: “In the past, whenever I failed to buy high quality seed on the market, my groundnut yield was always low. I have now realized that for me to produce more groundnuts, good quality seed is the key, and each year I always try my best to source and plant it.”

Mrs. Mvalo lives in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, and her farm is in Mchinji district, about 120 kilometres from Lilongwe. She says that, as a small-scale farmer, she faces a lot of challenges finding and maintaining quality groundnut seed.

She explains: “There are fake seeds on the market which a farmer only discovers during germination when the money has already been paid. On the other hand, quality groundnut seed is expensive so, as a small-scale farmer, sometimes I fail to buy enough for my field.”

Mrs. Mvalo says that lack of market information is another challenge she faces when trying to buy groundnut seeds. Many groundnut farmers do not know all the authorized agro-dealers of good quality seed, and many dealers don’t stock quality groundnut seed.

To deal with these challenges, Mrs. Mvalo seeks guidance from researchers, turning to Chitedze Research Station for information on where to source seeds.

Justus Chintu is the plant breeder at the Department of Agricultural Research Services. He explains that small-scale farmers fail to source good quality groundnut seed because market demand exceeds the limited supply.

He says, “Farmers resort to recycled seed or use well-sorted grain as seed. The high prices of seed also put off farmers and make them fail to buy seed of good quality.”

Mr. Chintu adds that the proliferation of fake seed on the market is another source of frustration for farmers. An additional challenge is the poor flow of information about groundnut varieties and seed markets from research to extension workers, and to farmers.

Mr. Chintu says that farmers need to maintain the quality of their seeds during storage to ensure a good yield. Poor storage can mean low yields, even when farmers find good quality groundnut seed. He explains that groundnut seeds need good aeration and should always be stored in dry conditions. They should also be harvested at the right time if farmers want to store and use them again.

Mr. Chintu adds that pests, heat, and moisture affect the quality of the seed. He explains: “Usually, farmers harvest their groundnut very late, after other crops like maize. As a result, farmers leave the groundnut in the soil for a long period, exposing it to pests and adverse conditions like heat and moisture. During drying, farmers dry their groundnuts on structures such as rooftops that directly expose the seed to heat which damages it.”

Stan Juma is the production manager at Multi Seed Company Limited. He says it’s better to transport groundnut seed in the shell, because the shells cushion the seed from cracking and from high temperatures.

Mr. Juma explains: “The life of the groundnut seed is longer in the shell than in the shelled seed. Therefore, farmers should keep it in the shell until about two weeks before planting.”

Using high quality seed in groundnut production is important because it helps to achieve bumper yield. Mrs. Mvalo says that, now that she buys groundnut seed only after seeking advice from researchers, she no longer faces the challenge of poor quality seed.

She explains, “Farming is my life because it gives me income. Since I started using quality seed, I have been able to construct a three-bedroom house and am able to pay for my children’s school fees.”

This resource was supported with the aid of a grant from The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) implementing the Green Innovation Centre project.

A farmer holds peanuts in his hands in Ghana, 2016. Credit: Tara Sprickerhoff