I had the opportunity to visit the Bunda campus of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) during the thirteenth Annual General Meeting of RUFORUM in Malawi. LUANAR is five years old but its history traces back to 1966 when Bunda college was a constituent of the University of Malawi. LUANAR’s Vice Chancellor, Prof. George Kanyama-Phiri welcomed the guests on behalf of the university. He stated that the total student population ranges from 8000-8500 and this number includes students from several constituent colleges of LUANAR. The university has a total acreage of over 3000 Ha with forest cover occupying approximately 600Ha. Several new buildings are coming up including an auditorium, lecture rooms and lecture theatres.
The university has a number of income generating streams including a petrol station, the Bunda Campus Service station. The university has pioneered this initiative amongst the several universities existing on the Africa continent. The filling station is highly profitable with profit margins increasing exponentially. Other African universities need to be enterprising and replicate such a commercial venture. The university strongly collaborates with the communities and is yet to evaluate the impact on to the communities.
A visit was also made to the seed processing unit, which has various machinery used to process the seeds before marketing. The unit was established under the seed fund provided by USAID under Feed the Future project. Currently, the unit is sustainable. The unit is used as a learning centre for the students in aspects related to seeds. In this unit, the university has thirty percent stake and the remaining seventy percent is for the private sector. The seed processing unit exploits the Seed Village Model involving three components. The first is the university, which provides access to germplasm as well provision of extension services. The second are the farmers and producers of the quality certified seed and finally the private seed company that undertakes seed collection, farmer coordination, seed marketing and distribution. The seed processing unit has impacted the farmers in a way that the farmer income levels have increased by 2.5 times, women farmer engagement has increased to twenty seven percent and up to 1500 farmers are engaged under the Seed Village Initiative. Currently, a total of 7000 farmers have been engaged.
There was also a visit to the aquaculture fish farm. The farm is part of the African Higher Education Centre of Excellence initiative and occupies 4.5 Ha. It has a fish hatchery and is also experimenting on crabs as an alternative to fish in situations of future adverse climate changes. It also breeds a specific type of fish to combat Bilharzia through controlling the snails.
Overall, the visit was interesting and very educative. It was good to see LUANAR taking strides to innovative methods in the agricultural sector as well as including farmers who are normally the ‘missing group’ when it comes to development and implementation of the agricultural research and development agenda.
Written by Pauline Atim, Onsite Reporter for the RUFORUM AGM 2017.