Seed Systems Malawi

Lead Organization:

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR)

Partner Organizations:

Malawi National Plant Genetic Resources Centre, the NGO Self-Help Africa, Michigan State University

Community of Practice:

East & Southern Africa






Malawi suffers from chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, with a child stunting rate of 37%. Seed security can play an important role in food and nutritional security. Over the past decade, the Malawian seed industry has grown in both the number of seed companies and the types of crops, largely as a result of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme, which is supported by the government and donors. The program has focused on certified maize seed with a small allocation for legumes. However, access to certified seed by smallholder farmers remains low. Eighty percent of smallholder farmers use seed saved from their own harvest or sourced from neighbors or local markets. Government policy does not support the use of farmer-sourced seed, which is considered inferior to certified seed. Although the local seed system continues to play a critical role in crop production and is a major contributor to national food security, farmer-managed seed systems have largely been ignored. As a result—for key crops like millet, sorghum, greengram, chickpea, and amaranth—farmer-preferred varieties that are locally adapted, climate-resilient, and nutritious are often unavailable or of poor quality.

Grant Aims:

The project is expected to improve awareness and understanding of farmer-managed seed systems and how to support them among scientists, NGOs, extensionists, policy makers, and farming communities. It will strengthen the capacity of farmers—particularly women and youth—and service providers to produce quality seed and conserve germplasm. It will contribute to improved crop and genetic diversity, food and nutrition security, incomes, and resilience of farming communities in different agroecologies in Malawi.

The goal of the project is to strengthen farmer-managed seed systems for improved seed quality and access to preferred crop varieties in Malawi by smallholder farmers.

Outputs and Outcomes:

  • Assess farmers’ preferred varieties/cultivars, traits, and practices for maintenance of selected crops in Mzimba, Kasungu, Ntcheu, and Chiradzulu districts of Malawi.
  • Collect and conserve germplasm samples of preferred varieties of selected crop varieties from the targeted farming communities
  • Phenotype and genotype the farmer-preferred varieties with reference to germplasm available in the gene bank or from breeders.
  • Assess capacity needs of the farmer-managed seed system for seed maintenance and multiplication and access under cereal-legume systems in the targeted farming communities.
  • Identify drivers that positively and negatively affect effectiveness of the farmer seed systems/assessment of seed security for selected crops in the targeted communities
  • Co-design a “farmer-managed seed production model” and training program, with farmers and engaged educators of other NGOs across Malawi
  • Evaluate seed quality and production performance of seed produced by pilot farmer groups in selected environments of Malawi
  • Identify critical challenges to be addressed for seed produced under farmer-managed systems to be recognized by the seed policy.