Strengthening potato and sweetpotato value chains in Malawi

Strengthening potato and sweetpotato value chains in Malawi

From variety development, seed systems, production, and storage to nutrition, processing, and marketing

The International Potato Center (CIP) has been operating in Malawi since 2006, working with smallholder farmers, cooperatives, the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), District Agricultural Development Offices, universities, the private sector, and national and international NGOs to sustainably increase the productivity and production of potato and sweetpotato systems for food and nutrition security and more resilient livelihoods for smallholder farmers. To achieve this goal, we focused on:

Coordinating the collaboration of eight CGIAR Centers in Malawi in two integrated research and development programs that are aligned to the government priorities for agricultural development.

  • The EU-funded (and GIZ-supported) KULIMA project seeks to improve the lives of over 400,000 households through capacity building on integrated technologies and seed systems;
  • The EU-funded DeSIRA project brought together eight CGIAR centers to develop and evaluate new technologies to increase agricultural productivity in the context of climate change.

The impact of these two initiatives has been significant:

  • More than 245,000 households have been directly impacted with improved seed for cereals, legumes, and sweetpotato and other technologies;
  • 21 integrated technology options have been disseminated through Farmer Field School extension programs that trained over 380,000 households;
  • 277 master trainers were introduced to a wide range of climate smart technologies;
  • 521 community-based seed multipliers were trained to produce seed of cereals, legumes, sweetpotato, and other crop varieties; and
  • Designed and evaluated more than 40 integrated technological options with a special focus on climate smart intercropping systems, soil fertility management options, agro-forestry farming systems, aquaculture production systems, integrated pest and disease management, and innovative post-harvest management technologies.

In collaboration with Malawi’s national agriculture ministry, CIP released ten improved potato and eight improved sweetpotato varieties, which are currently being promoted for crop diversification, improved nutrition, and climate resilience. Other varieties are currently in the pipeline that will exhibit improved heat tolerance and high nutritional content. Further CIP and DARS are evaluating introduced heat tolerant and nutrient dense potato varieties. These pipeline varieties will help expand potato production into the nontraditional growing areas of Malawi.

Strengthening the seed systems of potato and sweetpotato by establishing tissue culture and screenhouse facilities for early generation seed production. Working with DARS, CIP’s expertise in propagation of planting material has helped create a system for decentralized seed multiplication in farming communities, which will ensure better harvests in the future.

Decentralized seed multiplication provides easier access to quality seed by farmers. Approximately 441 sweetpotato vine and 107 seed potato multipliers (as individuals, groups, associations, and cooperatives) are now active in Malawi.

Supporting good agronomic practices for nutrition and resilience through the dissemination of relevant technologies, innovations, and practices that have potential to improve farmers’ incomes, and food and nutrition security. Different approaches have been undertaken for information and knowledge dissemination including field days, agricultural fairs, on farm demonstrations, and scientist-farmer participatory technology development and dissemination.

Promoting diet diversity and creating awareness of the nutritional benefits of our crops through existing nutritional structures at national, district and community levels including care groups. Promotions include field days, cooking demonstrations, and use of print and electronic media. Focus is on enhancing utilization of different food crops available at household level for improved nutrition.

Facilitating market development, agro-processing, and value addition for potato and sweetpotato crops direct beneficiaries of potato, OFSP and cassava quality seed materials 515,628 by promoting the growth and development of inclusive agricultural value chains to ensure competitive and fair pricing of agricultural commodities, equitable value addition, and enhanced agro-processing investments.


Investor: Irish Aid (2016–21)

This CIP-led project seeks to help 200,000 households improve nutritional outcomes and incomes through the adoption of cassava, potato and sweetpotato technologies, benefiting one million consumers from the availability of nutritious crops.

Investor: EU(2017–20)

This project has reached 3,000 farm households with OFSP planting material, conducted value addition training and home-based food processing to 100 lead farmers. The objective is to help build resilience among the target households through improved food security, incomes and nutrition levels.

Investor: GIZ (2018–19)

KULIMA promotes enhanced agricultural productivity and diversification through the broad-scale adoption of climatesmart agriculture technologies and improved links to markets.