Norwegian State Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Hanna Maren Blafjelldall has urged Malawian farmers to conserve and keep plant genetic resources which would in future be a source of gene-pool for certain nutritious varieties, currently on the brink of extinction.
Blafjelldall was in the country last week accompanied by Kent Nnadozie from the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The Norwagian minister was speaking when she visited activities in Mzimba and Rumphi districts under the Benefit Sharing Fund whose overall objective is to improve the management of the diversity of sorghum, millet, cowpea and pigeon peas to further develop and promote the growing of adapted crop varieties.
“Malawi has to diversity so that it can break the cycle of food insecurity,” Blafjelldall said.
The entourage that escorted her included local non-governmental organisations, among them, Biodiversity Conservation Initiative (BCI), Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa) and Community Technology Development Trust of Zimbabwe and government researchers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development.
The team also included development partners that included FAO and the Development Fund of Norway.
The group travelled to appreciate a community seed bank at Nkombezi in Rumphi and an agro-biodiversity demonstration plot.
Ester Nyirongo, a farmer who planted legumes and maize accessed from the community seed bank, said crop rotation of maize and legumes which are nitrogen fixers has helped to improve soil fertility in a changing environment.
“The programme is about indigenous seed multiplication. Farmers can access seed on loan from the community seed bank and then repay. The rest can be re-sold to the community,” Nyirongo said.
BCI is helping farmers in the area to grow crops such as sorghum, pearl millet as a cash crop to replace tobacco.