After two weeks based in Mzuzu in the Northern Region, we’ve moved south to Lilongwe, the capital city. It’s a sprawling and fairly uninspiring city, but it is where a lot of gifted Malawians are and we met several of them at Luanar, the agricultural university. Over two days we met the Head of Horticulture; the Assistant Dean who majors on soil science; and the Head of the Livestock Department. They were all impressive people and all the talk was about partnership opportunities and doing things together.

Increasingly, we are seeing the need for Malawi to develop new seed systems. For our greenhouses, we are having to go the South Africa and Tanzania to get tomato and pepper seed and we are finding the same with vegetables. It’s definitely been a neglected area. So it was a privilege to visit the Luanar Plant Tissue lab, and meet Bridget and Sam (pictured) who are raising clean plantlets for banana and potatoes. Both of these crops have been blighted by disease for many years and starting again with clean planting materials is the way to go. Bridget and Sam – more seriously smart people who are looking to play their part in modernising farming in Malawi. We then visited a privately owned plant tissue lab in Lilongwe – the only commercial one in the country.

Frank, the Malawian owner of Hortinet, was very welcoming and eager to talk about working in partnership. We’ll see where this leads in the months ahead but it has been a really encouraging few days, meeting these passionate and knowledgeable individuals but also realising what high regard they have for us. Elizabeth, Head of Horticulture at Lilongwe University said, “We have sent you our best graduates because of the work you are doing.” We’ll take that!

The MFT staff team, including the best of the Luanar graduates