30 Jan, 2020

One of the Principle Investigators, Dr Trust Donga, presenting on the pollinators project at the inception meeting.
The JRS Biodiversity Foundation has awarded two project grants to the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) titled “Saving the critically endangered riverine fish species”, led by Professor Emmanuel Kaunda under NEPAD/SANBio Fish Node and “Harnessing pollinator biodiversity informatics in Malawi to understand the importance of agro-ecological interventions”, led by Dr. Trust Donga under Crop and Soil Sciences Department.

LUANAR on Tuesday, the 28th of January 2020 held an inception meeting of the two projects at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe. The one-day inception meeting aimed at defining roles and highlighting synergies that could exist between the projects and partner institutions.

In his remarks at the official opening of the meeting, Vice Chancellor of LUANAR, Professor George Kanyama Phiri, said in view of the significance and to achieve sustainable utilisation of the fish and pollinator resources, appropriate planning for biodiversity conservation and management strategies are of utmost importance.

“It is therefore pleasing to note that the workshop will provide an opportunity for a common platform for both national and international partners, which will help to understand the threat level of the fishes and pollinators of the country and formulating species specific conservation plan for saving invaluable fish and pollinator resources in the country,” said Professor Kanyama-Phiri.

The Vice Chancellor went further to say that the meeting is of great importance to LUANAR, as the university is committed to contributing to improvement of the agriculture and fisheries sectors in the country through research, improved data collection, processing and access system.

“As a university, we recognize the role that aquaculture and fisheries is playing in the country, and as World Bank African Centre of Excellence (ACE) in Aquaculture and Fisheries, we will continue to commit ourselves to oversee the Aquaculture and Fisheries sector. LUANAR, through the Crop and Soil Department will also help to provide knowledge to our small-scale farmers about the importance of pollinator dependent crops, hence increasing the food security in the country.” He added.

And speaking in an interview, Director of the Africa Centre of Excellence in Aquaculture and Fisheries Science and Centre Leader for the NEPAD/SANBio Regional Fish Node, Professor Emmanuel Kaunda, said some species especially fish and insects are critically endangered in Malawi. He said some species are going towards extinction and there is a need to conserve them hence the need for the two projects.

“We need to generate important information from the past researches that have been done. We need to put all the ideas together so that we can get the issues that have to do with these species so that we can better conserve them,” said Prof. Kaunda.

The two projects will be implemented in 36 months and will work together to develop a database and portals that will enhance access of Malawi’s fish and pollinator biodiversity information. Information collected by the University through this program will enable policy makers and others to understand the significance of Malawi riverine fish biodiversity and pollinator diversity, and hence promote effective conservation action.