Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Commercialization and the "Last Mile"— Bringing New Soybean Seed Varieties to Malawi's Farmers

This post originally appeared in the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Soybean Value Chain Research's newsletter.

The soybean industry in Malawi suffers from a lack of new, improved varieties for producers to meet the growing demand from processors. In order to address this issue, USAID’s Feed the Future AgDiv Activity partnered with the Soybean Innovation Lab's (SIL) Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials (PATs). The PAT program fast-tracks the evaluation, selection, registration, and commercialization of new varieties sourced from around the globe. This is a complement to traditional breeding as SIL seeks to assure that African farmers have access to new adapted varieties on a regular basis. 

Florence Kamwana, Legume Agronomist with DARS has led efforts to register and release the new soybean variety TGX 1991-22F to the farmers of Malawi.

The program actively evaluates 30-50 soybean varieties, and DARS is already registering the first new variety. The PATs involve critical private sector partners who support the commercialization process, the “last mile”, ultimately bringing these new materials to growers and the industry. 

Under Florence Kamwana’s coordination, DARS has tested more than 70 soybean lines over the course of three seasons in Malawi, with a fourth season almost ready for harvest. During the 2017-2018 growing season, Florence and her team identified a number of high-yielding experimental lines, some of which yielded greater than the highest producing commercial variety, Tikolore. Released in 2011, Tikolore, meaning “let us harvest”, has been the go-to soybean variety since the early 2000s across Malawi. Finding several varieties that out-performed Tikolore was a significant achievement for the advancement of soybean development in Malawi.

The conference, Commercialization and the "Last Mile": Bringing New Soybean Seed Varieties to Malawi's Farmers was hosted in partnership by USAID's AgDiv and Soybean Innovation Lab on January 16, 2020 in Lilongwe, Malawi.

SIL’s Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials (PATs) are in the process of bringing 15 new high-yielding soybean varieties to market in Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Cameroon, and Malawi. Local seed producers now have access to multiple varieties for registration, multiplication, and commercialization, rather than just one or two aged national varieties. Breeders and seed companies understand that seed contracts and royalties are central to commercialization. Public breeders now see a new revenue source for their breeding programs. Private breeders see new markets, and a low-cost way to enter these new markets. Local seed producers see a way forward to improve farmer productivity. This 3-part incentive-based structure of the PAT enables countries across Sub-Saharan Africa to shift away from seed saving practices and towards a sustainable private sector seed system complex that will drive soybean development. This incentive-based system will lead to higher yields, profitable soybean production, and reduced poverty and hunger across the African continent.

SIL’s Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials (PATs) are in the process of bringing 15 new high-yielding soybean varieties to market in Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Cameroon, and Malawi. Local seed producers now have access to multiple varieties for registration, multiplication, and commercialization, rather than just one or two aged national varieties. Breeders and seed companies understand that seed contracts and royalties are central to commercialization. Public breeders now see a new revenue source for their breeding programs. Private breeders see new markets, and a low-cost way to enter these new markets. Local seed producers see a way forward to improve farmer productivity. This 3-part incentive-based structure of the PAT enables countries across Sub-Saharan Africa to shift away from seed saving practices and towards a sustainable private sector seed system complex that will drive soybean development. This incentive-based system will lead to higher yields, profitable soybean production, and reduced poverty and hunger across the African continent. 

SIL’s PAT provides a 3-part incentive system for breeders, seed companies, and farmers that will drive soybean development across the value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The "Last MIle" event brought in over 50 attendees from 31 different organizations, ranging from government to micro-enterprises to civil service. Maurice Shines, Deputy Director, Sustainable Economic Growth Office, USAID Malawi opened the conference with a captivating presentation highlighting his support of the soybean development work being done by SIL and AgDiv in Malawi. The conference included presentations from Dr. Michelle da Fonseca Santos, PAT Program Manager, SIL and Dr. Brian Diers, Deputy Director, SIL. Presentations were followed by a panel discussion and questions from the audience.

Comments