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News - Thursday, January 22, 2015

MalawILVO? European agricultural know-how flows to research institutes in Malawi and back again.

By setting up a collaboration agreement between ILVO and the Natural Resources College of Malawi, ILVO is supporting the development of agricultural expertise in Malawi. After three months of research and writing in Belgium, two doctoral students, Kingsley Mikwamba and Naomi Mvula, have returned to Malawi to further their doctoral studies. The intention of this European-African collaboration is to support knowledge development in Malawi, but the results could also provide interesting insights that can be applicable in the European context.

malawiIn Malawi, 85% of the people in Malawi live in the country, usually with agriculture as their most important form of income. Therefore problems such as low yields, poor infrastructure and irrigation, limited access to land and credit, and bad connections with markets can have devastating effects on the everyday life of the people.

In 2013 ILVO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Malawi Natural Resources College (NRC). The NRC, a research and educational institution, focuses on agricultural techniques and advice. For the first time, two of their employees will get a doctorate to increase their expertise.
Kingsley Mikwamba (39) and Naomi Mvula (32) have begun their doctoral studies at ILVO and Ghent University (Dept. of Agricultural Economy), under the guidance of promotors Prof. J. Dessien and Lies Messely, ILVO Social Sciences. During their four-year trajectory the students will work partly in Belgium and partly in Malawi. Kingsley will focus on the AKIS-system (Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System). His goal is to understand and optimise the generation and communication of new knowledge. Naomi, working on the micro level, will examine the impact of agricultural advice and innovation on dairy farmers.

These studies and the general collaboration between ILVO and NRC can improve the development of the agricultural sector in Malawi as well as the capacity of the research institutes in Malawi. At the same time, the learning can also flow in the other direction: the sometimes-precarious relation between knowledge institutes, policymakers and farmers, and the problem of knowledge flows among the complex set of actors, is not exclusive to our southern neighbours. Insights gained in Malawi may thus also deliver insights for the European context.