Farm Radio Trust Radio Programmes Specialist, John Mpakani interviewing Malawian women farmers

By Pauline Mbukwa

For many years now, farmers in Malawi have been exposed to fake seeds by unscrupulous sellers, who flourish on the lack of awareness on the techniques for confirming the authenticity of inputs. 

Clementina Chakumba, a farmer from Mtukwa Village in Mchinji District, says that while she has not been personally affected, she has heard of people who bought fake seed, which resulted in poor germination and low harvests. 

Such reports have made her cautious, even as she struggles to authenticate the quality of seed she buys, and often has to rely on the guidance of an extension service provider, who is based 20km away from her village. 

To relieve farmers like Chakumba of the perennial worry of buying low quality seed, the Farm Radio Trust is using a radio show Mbeu Zovomelezeka Ndi Boma (Seeds Approved by the Government) to teach farmers on how to tell apart fake from genuine seed.

The radio show airs every Tuesday evening on popular radio stations Zodiak and Mzati FM. During the program, farmers can share their concerns or experiences via call, SMS or WhatsApp messages. 

“Since the radio program started airing, farmers know how to differentiate between fake seed and genuine seed. Initially, they thought seed bought from any agrodealer was genuine. The farmers now know how to use the verification scratch card system to know whether the seed they have bought is fake,” said Farm Radio Trust Program Officer Stanley Chiyaka.

The verification scratch card system Chiyaka is referencing to was introduced in August 2021, and it works by attaching a special tag to seed packages with a special code that is sent by SMS to a toll-free number for information on the manufacturer, date of production, seed quality, seed weight, test date and seed lot number. 

According to the host of the Mbeu Zovomelezeka show, John Mpakani, “the program aims to increase awareness of fake seed in the market, in addition to training farmers on good agricultural practices for increasing their production.”

The show is part of a year-long project titled Upscaling Awareness and Outreach in Malawi’s seed system (UAOMASS), which was initiated in January 2021 as a partnership between Farm Radio Trust and the Department of Agricultural Research Services through the Seed Services Unit, Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) and the Seed Traders   Association of Malawi (STAM), with financial and technical support from USAID through AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa).