January 25, 2011

Malawi Local-Language Workshop Yields New Business Ideas, Linkages

Participants Explore Promise of Pigeon Pea Value Chains

Pigeon peas have powerful potential in Malawi, which is among the world’s top exporters.

Known locally as nandolo, pigeon peas are important both as a cash crop and as highly nutritious food.

ACDI/VOCA recently hosted a one-day value chain stakeholders’ workshop on pigeon peas in Zomba, Malawi, as part of our project’s larger efforts to build local partners’ and stakeholders’ capacities to use commercial agriculture to boost local nutrition and food security.

The event also marked the first time a value chain workshop in Malawi has been held in the local language. English is an official language, but most people don’t speak it as their native tongue.

Conducting the workshop in Chichewa—an official language spoken by more than 57 percent of Malawians (CIA World Factbook)—enabled the 70-plus participants to engage fully as evidenced by the many business ideas generated in the day’s discussions.

New Market Trends, Opportunities Discussed

The workshop participants represented a diversity of groups—large exporters, intermediary buyers from rural trading centers, farmers and extension workers—from areas where the USAID-funded Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) project operates. Representatives of large buyers and exporters of pigeon peas, including Agora Ltd., Transglobe Ltd. and Rab Processors, shared vital information about the requirements and trends of the end markets, including emerging opportunities to differentiate Malawian pigeon peas by their fresh aroma and flavor and brand the exports as Malawi dhal.

Buyers also shared that they would like to get sorted varieties of pigeon peas instead of the current mixed commodity—new information for the farmers and intermediaries. And in response, some farmers noted that the buyers needed to provide incentives for farmers to produce these sorted products.

As a result of the day’s discussion, the participants agreed that buyers should provide premium prices for preferred bean types like the white pigeon peas, so farmers can see their value and respond by increasing production—a win-win for the value chain actors.

Meeting participants also addressed the need to adopt improved seed varieties that mature faster than local varieties so they can seize overseas market opportunities in countries like India, which have limited supplies during certain seasons.

Future Meetings Planned

Toward the end of the day, participants deliberated on a road map of interventions to address current value chain constraints and prioritize solutions.

They agreed to future meetings to review the road map’s progress and develop an action plan for 2012.

Better Collaboration for Improved Incomes, Food Security

ACDI/VOCA is a technical partner of the WALA program, which is spearheading efforts to increase the production and improve the marketing of the crop among farmers in Malawi’s southern region to increase smallholders’ incomes and food security.

USAID Food for Peace Officer Emmanuel Ngulube opened the workshop by highlighting the need for actors in the pigeon peas value chain to interact and collaborate to improve industry competitiveness.

The participants concurred that the workshop was an effective first step toward that end.

Learn more about our work in value chains.

Flickr photo album of the pigeon peas workshop in Zomba, Malawi.