C.12.Potential role of legumes in farming systems, food security and nutrition of HIV/AIDS affected households in Malawi
A.M. Kabuli Agricultural Economist, Risk Management Project, Bunda College of Agriculture, Malawi
The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Malawi continues to devastate and slow agricultural productivity in most areas where farming systems have already been constrained by high population, land shortages and declining soil fertility. This decline in productivity is a threat to food and nutrition security for many households who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Incorporation and utilization of legume technologies in the farming systems offers one option for mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS at household level. This is the case because legumes offer cost-effective sources of food, income and soil amelioration benefits to degraded farmland.
Legume technology research was conducted with farmers in Kasungu ADD to determine their uses, compatibility and contribution to farming systems of vulnerable and HIV/AIDS affected households in the country. Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, resource poor farmers gave feedback on legume performance, labor demands and potential food security benefits of these legumes.
Results from research studies indicated that legumes such as pigeon peas, soybeans, mucuna, cowpeas, groundnuts and bambara nuts contained large quantities of proteins, vitamins, fats, calcium and iron, all vital nutrients required in large quantities by people suffering from HIV/AIDS. While legumes played an important role in food diversification, nutrition and income needs of vulnerable households, farmers still treated them as secondary crops as indicated by large disparities that existed in land allocated to legumes and that allocated to the other cereal crops particularly maize. Results also indicated that most of the legumes were able to provide food and nutrition to the households while at the same time demanded less labor and fertilizer input for cultivation, and were suitable for both rotation and intercrop systems. Consequently, many vulnerable and resource poor farmers found them very attractive and profitable for their farming systems.