At a time the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services is predicting dry spells in some parts of the country, farmers in Mzimba have been urged to plant an early maturing local maize variety locally known as Mthikinya.
Mthikinya is an orange maize variety rich in beta-carotene, oil and proteins. Beta-carotene is responsible for its orange colour and is converted to Vitamin A in the body.
Head of Human Ecology Department at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), Mangani Katundu said in an interview on Friday that farmers should cultivate this crop because it would minimise the effects of climate change.
He also advised farmers to grow the crop for consumption due to its high nutritious value.
Chancellor College, in conjunction with Ekwendeni Mission Hospital, is implementing a Malawi farmer-to-farmer agro-ecology project in Lobi in Dedza and Ekwendeni in Mzimba.
The project has multiplied seeds of Mthikinya maize variety and has distributed to 2 000 farmers in the two districts.
“Vitamin A deficiency is one of the major and serious micronutrient deficiency problems in Malawi. It affects children under the age of five and pregnant women.
“Using this nutritious maize as a staple food will increase our consumption of vitamin A from food sources,” said Katundu.
He said flour from orange maize can be used for making tasty nsima, porridge for children and adults, pancakes and other local foods such as thobwa, zitumbuwa, chingowe and mbwibwi.
“Orange maize can be used in the same way as white maize. Only that its products are tasty and nutritious,” said Katundu.
One of the beneficiaries from Mzimba, Anita Chitaya, said the variety matures early and it produces more crops from a piece of land unlike other varieties.
The project’s coordinator at Ekwendeni Hospital, Esther Lupafya, said the coming in of the project has reduced cases of malnutrition at the hospital.
She said the project is a continuation of other nutrition initiatives the hospital has been implementing in the area since 2000.
“In 1999, there was a very high rate of malnutrition going up to 35 percent. But since the introduction of such projects in 2000, the rate has decreased to four percent.
“Most of the children who are visiting our nutrition centre are malnourished not because they lack nutritious foods, but it is because of other diseases such as HIV and Aids,” she said.