Friday, July 22, 2016

Small- to Medium-Scale Urban Legume Exchange in Lilongwe

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.

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