Fostering agricultural diversification through emergency response

Women farmers with seeds bought at one of the seed fairs. Pic FAO
Women farmers with seeds bought at one of the seed fairs. Pic FAO

In a bid to promote agricultural diversification through the emergency response, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) organized 90 seed fairs in 11 districts most affected by the El Niño-induced drought.

Pooling a total of 128 agro-dealers, the seed fairs were conducted from 6-31 December 2016 in Balaka, Blantyre Rural, Chikwawa, Kasungu, Mwanza, Mzimba, Neno, Nsanje, Phalombe, Salima and Zomba. Eight partners (Oxfam, COOPI, Concern Universal, COPRED, Blantyre CADECOM, Chikwawa CADECOM and Save the Children), with complementary technical support from Catholic Relief Services, implemented the exercise.

With financial support from the Government of Canada, Italian Agency for International Cooperation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Aid (DFID), 50,922 farmers (of which 64 percent were women) that had been affected by El Nino and were targeted under the food emergency response, received a voucher each valued MWK10, 500 to buy seeds of cereals, vegetables and legumes.

However, no farmer could buy more than MK2, 520 to MK4, 725 of maize seed only (depending on districts). This was a condition to ensure more diversification by creating an opportunity for them to buy more of seeds of other crops than maize.

Seeds that were bought with the remaining 55 percent varied according to location. Groundnuts were the second preferred crop in all the 11 districts but in Mzimba and Kasungu beneficiaries preferred to buy vegetables, beans and soy beans, and the third preferred crop also varied significantly according to location.

Instead of the farmers spending the entire coupon value on maize seed only, the restrictions encouraged them to buy many different crops with the remaining 55 percent coupon value, depending on their own preferences. For example, beneficiaries in Mzimba and Kasungu chose five different types of seeds while Chikwawa and Nsanje beneficiaries bought seeds of nine different type of crops.

Seed Fair Market locations in 2016. Pic FAO.

Seed Fair Market locations in 2016. Pic FAO.