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Michigan State University
Spartan Sagas

Wezi Mhango
Alumna, 2011
Lilongwe, Malawi

I am an agronomist and my research interests are mainly to do with nutrient cycling, plant growth, and development. That is my interest. But because I also work with farmers, my interest is to see whether that research is making a positive impact on the farming community. So the idea is we want to improve soil fertility so that farmers are able to produce enough to feed their household.

My major responsibilities include teaching and research. In terms of teaching, I work for the University of Malawi in the College of Agriculture. And recently I have been working with farmers in northern Malawi (inaudible) in collaboration with Michigan State University.

Our work was mainly focused on using legumes in cropping systems to improve soil fertility but at the same time also using the legumes to improve family nutrition. As we know, legumes are able to provide protein-rich foods.

To me this research has a purpose because we are working with the farmers themselves. So whatever we found or observed, somehow it adds value to the life of the small-holder farming community. But also because we are collaborating with a mission hospital. From their study of the nutrition aspect, they have also shown that ever since the legumes were introduced in that area, the rate of malnutrition for the under-five children has decreased significantly.

It is important because, to start with, for somebody to be productive they have to be nutritionally well nourished so that they can be productive to their country. And then for most of the Malawians, most farmers are subsistence, so they produce their own food for their own households. So, therefore, it is important that each farmer has a component of legumes in their cropping systems to make sure they are well nourished in their household.

We are collaborating with Michigan State University. But I think there is more to that in that Michigan State University and the University of Malawi, they have a long-term history of collaboration which dates back to over 15 years ago. And most of the professors have been trained there, and Michigan State University is one of the topmost agricultural universities in the U.S. So I really wanted to go there.

I am not sure about—I still think there is something special about Michigan State. I could go on and on, it was such a wonderful experience for me. Of course, at first when I went there, I remember my roommate, when she told me about winter, I could not imagine how cold it gets until the winter came. It was like, wow, this is the winter. But then I got used to it. And every other season, I was looking forward to it.

Actually, my hope is that the farmers themselves will really be empowered to improve not just for their own consumption, but they should also be able to sell some on the market as a source of income for their households. But also I am hoping that from this area we can scale out to different parts of the country so that most small-holder farmers can benefit. But anyway that would require resources.

So I should mean resources are available. We are hoping we can expand to other parts of Malawi but also maybe across sub-Saharan Africa.