Group village head (GVH) Kalewa of Nkhotakota District has urged universities and institutions of higher learning to engage locals in research projects if they are to sustainably contribute to the country’s development.
Kalewa was speaking at Phaso Village on Thursday when Total Land Care Malawi (TLC) and its collaborating partner, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), held activities to raise awareness on quinoa.
The two institutions are conducting on-farm evaluation for quinoa—a highly nutritive crop that originated from South America.
The trials are taking place in four extension planning areas (EPAs) of Dowa, Ntchisi, Salima and Nkhotakota.
“How do you expect communities to embrace whatever you’re researching on without their involvement?” asked Kalewa.
He commended TLC and Luanar for involving lay farmers in quinoa trials, saying this will inspire communities to embrace and own the crop.
Moses Maliro, an associate professor in plant breeding and genetics at Luanar, said 13 quinoa varieties were introduced in Malawi in 2012 through collaborative research work between Luanar and Washington State University for adaptation studies for Malawi conditions.
He said initial trials were conducted at Luanar’s Bunda Campus and Bembeke Sub-Research Station of Department of Agricultural Research Services (Dars) in Dedza.
Journalists urged to help clear misconceptions on biotechnology
A research scientist at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) has said the media has a big role to play in clearing myths and misconceptions surrounding biotechnology.
James Bokosi, a professor of plant breeding and genetics at Luanar, was speaking in an interview on Friday on the sidelines of a two-day media training on biotechnology and bio-safety communication in Blantyre.
He said due to poor understanding and reporting, the media has created fear among the population, with some believing that consuming biotechnology products might lead to serious diseases or complications.
Malawi has not commercialised any biotechnology product but its market is awash with imported genetically modified organisms (GMO) products.
According to Bokosi, several international organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), have certified biotechnology products as safe.
Said Bokosi: “For 20 years, Malawians have been consuming these products but no effect has been recorded. It is funny to hear even policy makers misleading people on issues of biotechnology. As the media, you have the responsibility to enlighten people by understanding these issues for effective reporting.”
Making his presentation on simplifying science reporting, The Nation editor Aubrey Mchulu urged journalists to do proper research and engage relevant experts when writing on science topics including biotechnology.
He said: “Always ask yourself why you want to tell that story, put yourself in the shoes of the audience and avoid use of jargon.”
One of the journalists who attended the training, Emmanuel Chibwana from Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), appealed for more such trainings and collaboration between journalists and scientists.