Cowpea Alectra III

Lead Organization:

Ilonga Agricultural Research Institute

Partner Organizations:

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resource, Bunda Campus, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Horticultural Research Training Institute, Tengeru

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa


Tanzania and Malawi




The purpose of the project is to develop improved methods for controlling the parasitic weed Alectra vogelii in cowpea in order to enhance system productivity and improve livelihoods for resource-poor farmers in Malawi and Tanzania. Alectra vogelii is causing significant yield loss in many areas where cowpea is cultivated and farmers have few options for managing it.  Improved agronomic practices and a better understanding of socioeconomic factors influencing the production and use of cowpea are expected to complement the anticipated gains from varietal improvement. The net result should be more productive and sustainable cereal-legume systems with better returns for farmers. This strengthens the capacity of farmers, research, and development organizations to develop more resilient, multifunctional, and self-provisioning agricultural systems.   The project team will do this through a combination of on-station and on-farm research utilizing multi-stakeholder partnerships that will examine issues relating to production, marketing, and home consumption. The main emphasis will be on improving sustainable productivity to improve crop performance and farmers’ livelihoods. Unless the Alectra vogelii problem is addressed, the viability of the crop will be seriously compromised. As there are few non-cereal alternative crops in the environments in which cowpea is grown, this would lead to less diversified systems and poorer nutrition for rural households. Addressing this important cowpea pest is therefore a priority to protect soil and household health.

Grant Aims:

  • To identify non-varietal factors which can improve yield of Alectra resitant varieties and decrease pest pressure.
  • To develop Alectra resistant cowpea materials with good performance in different agro-ecolofical zones in Tanzania and Malawi.
  • To study how farm families can benefit from improved cowpea varieties To study the diversity of Alectra species and host range in Malawi and Tanzania.

Outputs and Outcomes:

In order to develop high yielding Alecra vogelii resistant cowpea cultivars the previous phase of the project (2010 – 2014) screened a range of cowpea lines for resistance to Alectra and general adaptability.  As a result three cowpea varieties, namely Vuli-AR1 and Vuli-AR2 in Tanzania and Mkanakaufiti in Malawi, were released.  The released varieties are preferred by farmers as they have large seed size, early maturing, short cook- ability time and cream color.