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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 938: XXVIII International Horticultural Congress on Science and Horticulture for People (IHC2010): International Symposium on Environmental, Edaphic, and Genetic Factors Affecting Plants, Seeds and Turfgrass

SWEETPOTATO INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE IN MALAWI

Authors:   F.P. Chipungu, A.J.D. Ambali, J.D. Kalenga Saka, N.M. Mahungu, J. Mkumbira
Keywords:   Malawi, food security, germplasm collection
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2012.938.61
Abstract:
A survey to document indigenous knowledge associated with sweetpotato production was conducted in Chitipa, Karonga and Mzimba in the North and Mulanje, Phalombe, Chikhwawa and Nsanje Districts of Malawi in 2003. The study aimed to better understand the knowledge associated with farmers’ varieties for potential use in the development of improved and acceptable varieties. In total, 268 varieties were documented and 62 of the 140 farmers sampled were custodians of these varieties. In general, the study revealed that 44% of farmers grew sweetpotato varieties in mixtures of two (all districts) to sixteen (Nsanje) with a mean of 3.85±1.33. Among the varieties documented, only one of the seven officially released varieties, Kenya was grown in all districts by 78% of farmers either in pure or mixed stand with other varieties. However, susceptibility to sweetpotato weevil damage and short shelf life after harvest were the main draw backs of variety Kenya. Farmers therefore tend to harvest Kenya and other susceptible varieties in bulk at maturity which resulted in high market price variation between seasons due to the commonality of the harvesting time period. In the prevailing situations of food insecurity, shortened rainy but prolonged dry seasons and increased weevil thresholds, early maturity was ranked crucial by 68% of farmers and more so were other traits that allowed for relay harvesting and post-harvest storage. Farmers’ classification of their varieties revealed diversity in terms of yield level, maturity period, tolerance to weevils and post-harvest shelf life where only mixed cultivation enable prolonged availability for household use. The poor root shape and size renders the farmers’ varieties to have no market value. The livelihood of many Malawians could be improved if this indigenous knowledge is applied in the improvement program to facilitate adaptation to climate change through increased food productivity and availability.

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