The purpose of this project was to contribute to poverty reduction by improving the level of crop management in smallholder coffee. The objectives were to more widely disseminate information on project outputs in the region and to assess the impact of
previous project activities and outputs in Malawi. The main partners with NRI are CABI Africa Centre, Lunyangwa Agricultural Research Station and the Smallholder Coffee Farmers Trust [SCFT].
This short extension has added value to previous work funded by CPP by disseminating the lessons learned in Malawi to Zambia, by consolidating the work in Malawi where we completed two impact studies and promoted our ICM system for Catimor varieties directly to farmers through field days held at the project’s on-farm demonstration plots.
The project has complemented an EU programme to rehabilitate smallholder coffee which has seen production increase dramatically over the last two years as new Catimor
varieties came into full bearing.
Project activities, previously confined to Malawi were extended to Zambia where we found smallholder coffee still in the early stages of development. The project was able to contribute to this development due to Zambia having very similar constraints and
adopting the same Catimor varieties as in Malawi. Following a socio-economic and biological survey of smallholder coffee in Zambia, a workshop was held with the Coffee Growers Association and the Coffee Board of Zambia, at which we highlighted a number of constraints that smallholder coffee faced in Zambia. The most significant problems were a lack of commitment to extension support and timely delivery of inputs, the need to concentrate on Catimor 129 to control CBD in the north of the country and the need to control white stem borer. A modification of our leaflet on CBD was distributed to
smallholders and other coffee stakeholders in Zambia.
The main focus of activities in Malawi was to expand training activities to concentrate more on knowledge-sharing with farmers instead of training of trainers. The coffee x banana intercrop demonstrations planted previously, provided the venue for working with lead farmers who then transmitted the lessons to their own farmer groups.
Although the number of households impacted by this research is only around 3000 in Malawi and 120 in Zambia, there is a large potential for smallholder coffee in Zambia, it is expanding in Malawi and outputs are relevant to Tanzania where there are 40,000 coffee growers.
Two monitoring surveys were conducted. The first to assess the extent of coffee berry disease [CBD] in new plantings of Catimor ‘populations’ distributed 3 – 5 years ago under
EU funding to the SCFT. The findings showed that CBD was a significant problem that required chemical intervention to prevent yield loss. This is in contrast to the situation with Catimor 129 and cv. Nyika that were promoted by the project, in which CBD was not recorded. The second survey was to assess the impact of the projects communication strategy and also the wider strategy of the SCFT.
The impact survey used PRA techniques to assess the impact of project activities and effectiveness of our communication strategy. There still seems to be a problem in effective distribution of extension literature to all coffee farmers. Furthermore, while the more literate farmers appreciated our information leaflets, most farmers considered that the best way to share knowledge of agricultural technologies was through direct contact through training programmes and field days. Our demonstration plots and training days were therefore the most valued communication medium but farmers complained that the
plots were too few with long travel distances for some farmers to reach them. This is a resource issue for research programmes with limited funding but a message that has been taken-up by the SCFT.
The popularity of our demonstration plot with farmers and the use of more conventional [rather than high density] planting with banana, has persuaded the SCFT to consider promoting this as a less intensive option for Catimor varieties. Also, a much higher
proportion of Catimor 129 will be planted in future due to its resistance to CBD and the mother garden we established at Lunyagwa will be a lasting resource to supply planting material.