Increasing adoption of improved varieties that meet the needs of farmers and consumers was the focus of a review and planning meet of the project Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement for Sorghum and Millet Phase II (HOPE II) held recently.
Focusing on developing a seed road map, discussions were organized on how teams could better organize seed delivery for each country. The discussions were led by Dr Henry Ojulong, Senior Scientist, Finger Millet Breeding, East and Southern Africa Program, ICRISAT and Dr Prakash Gangashetty, Scientist, Pearl Millet Breeding, West and Central Africa Program, ICRISAT. This exercise helped participants draw up proper and consistent seed road maps including plans for certified, breeder and foundation seed production and supply, so as to meet the needs of farmers and the market.
The goal of this meeting was to assess progress and facilitate exchange of experiences, mutual support and learning among HOPE II partners, and collective review and planning of activities. More specifically, it provided an opportunity to:
- Share and learn from the project partners’ experiences over the last 12 months, including their achievements (knowledge, processes and innovations) and impacts
- Create a better understanding of the project objectives and strategies among the partners
- Strengthen the sense of teamwork by identifying ways through which cross-country, collective and individual sharing and learning can be improved
- Review plans of activities for the next year at country, region and project levels.
“We experienced great progress during the first phase of the project,” said Mr Roger Kabore, President of an innovative farmer-producer association called Association Minim Song Panga in Burkina Faso. “For example, we selected together with male and female farmers a new variety of pearl millet ‘Misari-1’, adopted by many farmers. Four new varieties of sorghum were disseminated in the north-central part of Burkina Faso. And for the first time, we were able to start the production of pearl millet seed, and four years later went from nil production to 120 tons of pearl millet seed. Although we used to produce sorghum seed, we experienced a major leap in sorghum also, producing up to 170 tons. Our dissemination strategy has improved tremendously, including the usage of mini-packs to sell more seeds through the network of agro-dealers, with more farmers using a combination of improved seeds and fertilizers to increase their yields. It is obvious that we need to continue those efforts to better production systems.” He added, “Our ambition is to reach a larger scale beyond the villages and townships, up to thousands of women and men producers. Partnership and linkages between producers, processors and the market is key that will get us there with sustainable impacts.”
“Partnership with producers’ organizations and with national and private seed companies is an important determinant to making improved seed more affordable and accessible,” emphasized Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Director, West and Central Africa, ICRISAT. He outlined the importance of sorghum and millets in the context of adaptation to climate change and their high iron and zinc content for better nutrition. This echoed a remark during the opening ceremony by Dr Hamidou Traore, Director, Institut de l’Environnement et Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso, who spoke about the linkages and opportunities that the project could seize and harness, particularly in the areas of processing.
The participants were introduced to ‘mugudugu’ and ‘bassi’, two pearl millet-based products made from Misari-1, a pearl millet variety selected and disseminated during HOPE I. The two traditional recipes were improved as part of the sorghum and pearl millet grain processing project funded by the McKnight Foundation and implemented by the food technology laboratory of the Institut de Recherche en Sciences Appliquées et Technologies (IRSAT) in Lebda, about 100 km north of Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso.
“Our focus on pearl millet-based products comes from the evidence that it is a cereal that has very interesting nutritional qualities that we need to optimize and gain nutritionally. It was after we characterized about 20 millet varieties to determine their nutritional values, and following culinary testing with the target community in Lebda that Misari-1 was chosen as the most adapted for mugudugu and bassi” said Dr Fatoumata Ba Hama, researcher in nutrition and food science at IRSAT.
“The women who are part of Association Minim Song Panga were provided with Misari-1 pearl millet variety, which they grew and processed into mugudugu and bassi, primarily for their communities. Work is now underway to further enrich these products and, at the same time, improve the packaging for sales in the supermarkets of the city of Ouagadougou,” said Dr Ba Hama.
“Getting out the technologies is in our best interest and during the coming 12 months we shall do what we commit to do” said Dr Moses Siambi, ICRISAT Regional Director, East and Southern Africa and Principal Investigator of the project as he pointed out that ownership will be a key for success.
The meeting revealed that although improved technologies were disseminated during the previous phase of the project, more effort is needed on increasing availability and accessibility to the end users. It emerged that labor-saving technologies and efficient technology delivery systems need to be developed. Researchers should create competition by involving more stakeholders in the programs. Finally, it is important to integrate production, processing, nutrition and diversity in all research and dissemination of technologies.
The accomplishments of each country, the challenges faced and lessons learned were discussed on the first day; working groups were set up to provide inputs into each country’s review. On the second day, project leaders made presentations and provided feedback on issues raised by the country teams in their presentations.
Also, during the second day, participants had the opportunity to briefly interact with Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, and Dr Jeffrey Ehlers, Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Talking to the participants remotely, they both stressed on genetic gain and the need for improving efficiency of the breeding programs.
The third day focused on external communication strategy and identifying key activities and opportunities for more visibility. This was led by Ms Agathe Diama, Head, Regional Information, ICRISAT, and included presentations from working groups for each country. Dr Esther Njuguna and Dr Jummai Yila, Gender Specialists, ICRISAT, spoke about provocatively questioning the mainstreaming of gender in HOPE II. During parallel sessions, teams of ICRISAT scientists under each objective met with each country team to closely work on addressing needs for improvement, discuss plans for Year 2, as well as identify specific needs for backstopping.
This annual review and planning was facilitated by Dr Hamado Tapsoba, HOPE Project Coordinator, and Ms Diama.
The meeting was held from 20-22 March, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and was attended by 37 participants drawn from national agricultural research institutions, farmers’ organizations and private seed companies from the six countries involved (Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda) as well as scientists from ICRISAT.