Bambara Groundnuts III

Lead Organization:

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Partner Organizations:

University of Greenwich, Instituto de Investigacao Agraria de Mocambique

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa


Tanzania and Malawi




Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea) is a grain legume that is well suited to hot and dry conditions. In southern Africa it is generally cultivated in small plots in semi-arid areas, predominantly by women. Bambara groundnut grows well in light, free-draining soils and is more tolerant of drought conditions than most other crops grown in similar environments. The grain contains high levels of protein and carbohydrates and is also rich in minerals and vitamins. This makes it a useful component of the diet of people whose main source of food is from cereals such as maize, millet and sorghum. Bambara groundnut is grown mainly as a subsistence crop. Small amounts are also sold for cash and provide a source of seasonal income for women. In spite of its useful properties, little research has been done on Bambara groundnut in southern Africa. The varieties which are grown are low-yielding and little attention has been given to develop improved crop management practices. One reason why Bambara groundnut remains a neglected and under-utilized crop is that markets for the grain are not well developed and so there has been little demand for improved varieties and production systems. The project builds on the previous work on varietal development by supporting the release of improved varieties in Malawi and Mozambique and by evaluating additional lines on-station and through participatory varietal selection. Additional research will be done on agronomic practices and local seed systems will be strengthened through support to community seed banks and other institutional models. The effectiveness of the different models in producing sufficient volumes of quality seed will be assessed. Activities will be undertaken to explore the best ways of encouraging increased utilization of Bambara in household diets with the aim of supporting improved nutrition, especially of women and children. Research will be carried out to address post-harvest constraints which threaten to limit the consumption and sale of groundnuts. Special attention will be given to identifying innovative ways of managing the risk of contamination of Bambara groundnuts with aflatoxin.

Grant Aims:

To scale out the selected (and potential new) Bambara varieties and production management recommendations identified in Phase II in selected Bambara producing areasTo increase the volume of Bambara seed available to promote productivity and market surplus on local, and possibly regional, marketsTo scale out the utilization of bambara groundnut at household level and for the local retail markets in the three countriesTo address the post-harvest challenges that threaten the increased yield and trade of bambara in the region 

Outputs and Outcomes:

A study evaluated the impact of the Bambara groundnut project on profitability for participants in the Mzimba and Ntchisi districts in Malawi with a sample size of 60 households out of 130 supported households. Using a t-test to assess whether the means of the group of participants and the group of non-participants was statistically different from each other, the results indicate that the project led to a net increase of MK 22,607 to supported farmers’ incomes (gross margins) when compared to the non-supported farmers. Furthermore, the return to labour for the supported farmers was much higher (MK134/hr) than the non-supported farmers (MK43/hr).