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Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) for smallholder farmers

Photo credit: Africa Rising

Growing cowpea creates new business opportunities for small scale outgrowers

Quality cowpea seed production offers Zambian women farmers opportunities for quality lives

In economies like Zambia, where maize-based farming is predominant, grain legumes – such as cowpea and soybean add the much needed fertility to the soils degraded by monocropping. Legumes are widely grown as intercrops or in rotations on maize-based farming systems. They fix substantial amounts of atmospheric nitrogen through biological nitrogen fixation in the soil, help improve  soil fertility and also contribute to improved crop productivity. However, one the main challenges to growing legumes is the fact that their seeds are not easily available to farmers. But thanks to an emerging breed of bold farmers who have taken to producing seeds for their colleagues in Eastern Zambia, this challenge is being mitigated.

Mrs. Tichoke Phiri with her son, Kenneth, at their homestead in Kawalala Camp, Katete District Photo credit: Cannon Mukuma/IITA

Mrs. Tichoke Phiri with her son, Kenneth, at their homestead in Kawalala Camp, Katete District

Mrs Tichoke Phiri, a woman farmer from Kawalala camp in Katete district, Zambia is one such farmer. She is part of a group of farmers involved in the SIMLEZA-Africa RISING Project activities to promote the cultivation of legumes.

“I was attracted to the idea of producing cowpea instead of soybean seed because we don’t have sources of improved cowpea seeds in my community and also because there are already a lot of farmers producing soybean seed. Cowpea seed will give me an advantage in the legume seed market.”

To establish their seed multiplication farms, the project gave Phiri and her fellow “seed producing farmers” each a 2 kg of cowpea basic seed for multiplication after a training on how to effectively raise quality cowpea and soybean seeds. Mrs Phiri planted those and took extra care of the crop, ensuring that her seed multiplication farm passed all field inspection tests.

 

Read the full article: Africa Rising

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.