Cotton farmers in Malawi say there is need to fast track the adoption of genetically modified (GM) cotton if farmers are to reduce losses incurred with the continued cultivation of conventional cotton.
It has emerged that GM cotton does not require more pesticides when compared to conventional cotton an aspect that might help farmers get more profits.
In Burkina Faso, for example, farmers managed to get 57 percent more yields after they started using GM cotton.
The farmers who were interviewed on the sidelines of a one day workshop at Bunda College of Agriculture organised to sensitise them on the BT cotton advantages say they are impressed with what they saw and there was need to fast track the adoption of the cotton and make it available to all farmers in the country.
Currently, Bunda College is undertaking trials which started in January and the GM cotton looks greener and more leafy than the conventional cotton.
Chairperson of Chikwawa Cotton Association Francis Thole said conventional cotton attracts a lot of pests which means that there is need to apply pesticides over seven times.
“We are very excited with what we have seen in the field and cotton farming is affected because one has to apply a lot of pesticides when growing conventional cotton but what we have seen is that GM cotton need less chemicals and this will help us make more money,” said Thole.
He said as farmetrs they are in total support with the trials going on at Bunda because it is to the benefit of the country.
“GM cotton will help us get more yields and we cannot wait to see the crop to be on the market so that we can start growing it even during the next season,” said Thole.
Vice Chairman of the Cotton Development Trust Runcan Warren said in countries where the crop is grown on a larger scale the yields have greatly improved and farmers are happy with what they get at the end of every growing season.
“In Burkina Faso, South Africa and other countries in Africa where they are planting the GM Cotton the results have been good and Malawi stands to benefit more if it starts plating the GM Cotton,” said Warren.
One of the leading coordinators of the project at Bunda College, Professor Moses Kwapata said after conducting the trials at Bunda they will ask for permission from government to conduct the trials in the districts where cotton does well so that the results are not compromised.
“We know that some farmers have quit cotton farming because the pesticides are expensive but once BT Cotton is rolled out the farmers will be saving more money because instead of applying chemicals over five times they will only apply the chemicals twice or thrice,” said Kwapata.
He said GM cotton produces quality lint with a very good weight and discussions are already underway with companies like Monsanto on how the seed will be made available to the farmers.
He also said institutions like Framers Union have already been contacted on how the crop will be marketed once farmers start growing it.
Kwapata also disclosed that the process of collecting data and names of farmers interested in GM cotton will start shortly.