Originally published on February 25, 2015.
UPDATE: On February 16, 2015, Lifuwu Research Station certified the rice seed of 22 farmers at the Lipimbi Irrigation Scheme. This marks the second consecutive year these smallholders have had their seed certified. Passing the inspection for certification this year is especially significant as the farmers have undertaken all costs associated with multiplying the seed and commissioning the certification inspection.
The year 2012 was particularly hard for Malawi’s Salima District. Although climate variability usually delivered Salima a mixture of heavy-hitting droughts and havoc-wreaking floods, the country witnessed a particularly harsh dry spell that year. The largest river in the area, Lipimbi River, went waterless faster than usual, weakening the harvest. To help reestablish the food supply, it was essential that farmers use high-quality seeds that would help ensure successful food production.
Salima’s Lifuwu Research Station is Malawi’s only government institution authorized to oversee quality control in rice production methods. To ensure the availability of certified rice seed, in August 2012, through a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded Food for Progress (FFP) program, Land O’Lakes partnered with Lifuwu Research Station to multiply certified rice seed at Lipimbi Irrigation Scheme in nearby Nkhotakota District.
The Malawi government established the irrigation scheme five years prior, in 2007, with only 26 members. Irrigation matters because, without it, a community cannot grow food year-round, improve yields, increase incomes, or prevent “Hunger Seasons.” Land O’Lakes upgraded Lipimbi Irrigation Scheme with new pipes and canals and, on September 25, 2013, the U.S. Embassy of Malawi’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Honorable Michael Gonzales, officially re-launched the site. By that time, the initial group of 26 members had swelled to 63.
Land O’Lakes continued working with Lipimbi Irrigation Scheme farmers to multiply early-maturing Nunkhire rice variety seeds on 7.0 hectares of land. In addition to ensuring the availability of certified rice seed, Land O’Lakes’ interventions also aimed to increase production through adoption of improved technologies including: the provision of early maturing rice varieties, fertilizers, and sacks for harvesting; field-based trainings on plowing; leveling; transplanting; weeding; fertilizer application; and harvesting. Land O’Lakes also supported the development of sustainable, market-oriented production and enhanced the private sector’s role in rice, cassava, and small livestock value chains.
By January 10, 2014, Lifuwu Research Station certified 11.7 metric tons of Nunkhire rice seed—enough to support 700 farmers whose land covered more than 300 hectares. This multiplication of rice seed at the scheme made history, as Land O’Lakes was the first private sector player to have successfully conducted smallholder-level certified seed production at in Malawi.