CAT, LUANAR sign K14 million research grant agreement



The Centre for Agricultural Transformation (CAT) and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) have signed a $13,500 (about K14 million) research grant agreement to support six undergraduate students to carry out research on demand aimed at providing quick solutions to production challenges faced by smallholder farmers and selected agribusinesses in Malawi.

The grant covers one year of research activities by four male and two female students drawn from LUANAR’s Bunda College campus, who were selected through a competitive and rigorous process managed by both the university and CAT.

Specifically, the grant will enable the students to undertake specific tailor-designed research areas including investigating the agronomic uniformity and genetic stability of CG11 groundnut variety, develop tissue culture protocols for rapid propagation of Sukari and Zeru local varieties of banana, evaluate and
identify effective integrated pest management approaches for Soybean, assess effect of sunken beds on yield of rain-fed and irrigated garlic, study the field establishment and agronomic performance of chia seeds, and evaluate the potential of used mushroom substrate as an organic fertilizer.

These production challenges were identified late last year through CAT’s visit to its Business Incubation and Commercialization (BIC) partners who are upscaling various technologies and innovations to support smallholder farmers’ adoption across the country.

The research activities will be conducted at the CAT’s Smart Farms located within the precincts of LUANAR’s Bunda and NRC Campuses with regular visits to selected agribusinesses in Lilongwe based on individual production challenges they face while working with smallholder farmers.

CAT Executive Director Macleod Nkhoma said: “We are delighted to work with LUANAR towards supporting undergraduate research needs that have an impact on smallholder agricultural production as well as those that
can provide solutions to production bottlenecks our agribusiness partners face as they support farmers through various alternative value chains.

“This is a unique opportunity and
CAT strongly believes this will further cement the existing partnership between CAT and LUANAR; but more importantly it will generate evidence-based data that will eventually help these farmers enhance their agricultural productivity, increase income and ensure improved livelihoods.”

Nkhoma added that although this is a pilot phase targeting undergraduate students, there is potential for expansion in near future to include other value chains and target groups who may want to research on challenges being faced by the agricultural sector.

On her part, Deputy Vice Chancellor of LUANAR Dr. Agnes Mwangwela said the initiative which will go a long way in building and strengthening undergraduate students’ capacity to conduct scientific research.

“The University deeply cherishes a practical partnership with the CAT that is cascading down to our students. Following this initial grant, we look forward to an expanded program that would accommodate more students and staff to conduct demand-driven and cutting edge
research for the agriculture industry.”

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World through Agricultural Transformation Initiative has provided funding for the initiative.

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