This report has been finished for quite some time, but we've finally got it posted on the GCFSI website: Small- to Medium-Scale Urban Legume Exchange in Lilongwe. It reports on research conducted over the summer of 2014 in association with researchers at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). The following is lifted from the Executive Summary.
Through a coordinated series of intensive studies, several teams of researchers sought to shed light on the question, “Where
and how can multipurpose legumes be scaled for sustainable intensification of maize systems and what would
the potential impacts be, in the medium term, across the food system in Malawi?” The integration of
multipurpose legumes into maize-based farming systems is a well-known and well-regarded agronomic
innovation that can improve soil fertility, raise maize yields, and diversify and improve household nutrition
and livelihoods. To date, most multipurpose legume research has taken place in relation farmer adoption and
the on-farm production environment. In contrast, this GCFSI research project recognizes that farming
systems go well beyond the farm gate, and that innovation in off-farm food system policy and practice can
have a profound impact on farmer decision-making.
This particular study is qualitative and is meant to understand better the constraints and opportunities in the legume
sector as small- to medium-scaled entrepreneurs describe them. Findings are largely based on response
rankings. Due to the conventional wisdom that pigeon pea is a legume of the south and not widely available
in Lilongwe, it was surprising to find that most respondents carried it. Given demographic patterns that show
population movements from south to north, it is expected that the demand for pigeon pea will grow as more
southerners settle in the central region. To enhance the ability to accommodate demand, innovations should
target the well-defined problems people face in storage and transportation infrastructure, and should improve
their ability to invest in their businesses. Where possible, solutions should aim to leverage existing
infrastructure and organizational forms. Importantly, the identification, creation and scaling of innovation in
urban areas should occur through collaborative mechanisms and involve municipal officials.
In a deliberate effort to maintain and intensify interdisciplinary efforts, the report identifies a number of
synergies with other GCFSI research. Recognizing that urban food provisioning and exchange occurs within
a social, economic, and environmental context, future urban food research should always consider how
farmers are affected, present and future ecological uncertainty, and gender/other sociocultural factors.
Lastly, the report identifies several next steps, which include building mixed methods research capacity,
continuing to address local research needs, and addressing specific intervention areas, in part through a
targeted RFA process. Those intervention areas include storage, access to capital for those working in urban
food-based livelihoods, and organizational models that concern food transportation.