SATrends Issue 37                                                                                                                   December 2003

  • Introduction!
  • Raisins d’espoir pour le Sahel
  • Beat the heat, flout the drought!
  • Gender discrimination in SAT agriculture
  • 1. Introduction!
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    Started in December 2000, SATrends has just completed three years of publication. On the occasion SATrends’ third birthday we introduce below a monthly story in French. The editor for stories written in French is Michel Maruca (see picture below), who works at ICRISAT’s Niamey office in Niger.

    2. Raisins d’espoir pour le Sahel
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    Le mercredi 1er octobre fut présenté par un représentant de l’ICRISAT à son excellence le Premier Ministre du Niger deux paniers de raisins mûrs et un autre de figues fraîches. Les télévisions étaient présentes et l’image fut retransmise dans tout le pays. Depuis lors au centre de recherche sahélien de l’ICRISAT, à Sadoré, au Niger, sont accueillis des visiteurs qui toujours s’empressent de demander à voir ces fameux raisins, puis à goûter. Beaucoup souhaitent acheter un ou deux pieds de cette vigne.

    Michel et les raisins

    Mais les raisins ne sont pas encore à vendre, le développement et la diffusion doivent encore attendre…la recherche n’est pas finie!

    Il peut donc sembler inopportun d’avoir montré si tôt les raisins aux médias, et ce qui pourrait sembler dans le monde de la R & D être un empiètement de la recherche sur le rôle du développement n’est en fait qu’une subtile orchestration dirigée par les scientifiques. Cette production de raisin fait partie du programme de diversification des systèmes du professeur Dov Pasternak et de son équipe. Ce programme identifie les espèces susceptibles d’être adaptées au Niger, met au point les techniques de production adéquates, et les édite pour assurer un transfert efficace de l’activité aux organes de développement.

    Mais l’équipe du professeur pense que les aspects extérieurs doivent être pris en compte au moment de la recherche. Alors c’est pourquoi s’échappent de temps en temps de l’enceinte du centre scientifique de Sadoré, comme l’ont fait nos raisins et nos figues, des légumes, des fruits, des arbres. Leur mission ici est de provoquer la réaction du public. Cette réaction devient un indice de plus sur l’adaptabilité du nouveau produit au Niger. Le public s’exprimera et apportera des données qu’un économiste classera telle une loi des marchés, qu’un agronome telle une compétence intéressante, et le sociologue tel un cadre culturel. Ce sont autant de données qui aideront à l’orientation du programme de recherche. Cette réaction permet aussi de recruter des fermiers pilotes plus motivés qui s’essayeront à la recherche en milieu paysan ou de tisser des liens avec de nouveaux partenaires bailleurs de fonds ou développeurs. Les exemples illustrant les bons services de cette réaction sont nombreux.

    C’est ainsi que se développe le programme de recherche du professeur Pasternak. C’est une recherche qui repose sur des conventions classiques et rigoureuses comme se doit d’être toute recherche, mais elle a foncièrement décidé de soigner ses effets, de provoquer son public et cela pour mieux gérer ses impacts.

    Pour plus d’information, contacter d.pasternak@cgiar.org ou a.nikiema@cgiar.org 

    3. Beat the heat, flout the drought!
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    The global warming phenomenon, with its ominous threat of severe water shortages, demands crops that can withstand heat and drought. Enter pearl millet.

    Traditionally cultivated as a subsistence crop in the driest areas of Asia and Africa, pearl millet is primarily grown for household use as food. It is also an important poultry feed, and its biomass provides fodder for livestock. It is the most drought-and heat-tolerant food crop in the world.

    Research by ICRISAT and its partner institutions has already brought about notable successes in managing drought. ICTP 8203, a variety released in 1988, gave more grain yield and matured earlier than the popular varieties. The rapid adoption of this variety, covering 0.8 million ha at the peak of its popularity in 1995 in the drought-prone environments of Maharashtra state of India, revealed a genetic secret. The germplasm used to develop ICTP 8203 was derived from iniari landrace material from Togo. Iniari combined drought tolerance with large seed size and early maturity better than any other germplasm previously known.

    ICTP 8203: posing for a proud moment

    ICRISAT breeders introduced ICTP 8203 to southern Africa, where it was rapidly adopted as Okashana 1 in Namibia through farmer-participatory selection. A sister vareity, also named as Okashana 1, replaced ICTP 8203 and quickly reached the astounding adoption level of 50% of the pearl millet area in the country. Okashana 1 can be harvested 4-6 weeks earlier than the local varieties, thus escaping drought, and produces 25-40% higher grain yield.

    The large genetic variability of pearl millet permits even shorter duration cultivars. The greatest success story is that of a hybrid called HHB 67, which was developed by CCS Haryana Agricultural University in India with assistance from Kansas State University and ICRISAT. This hybrid, now grown widely in India's driest states of Rajasthan and Haryana, matures in 65 days, making it the earliest-maturing commercial cultivar in the world. Even though HHB 67 yields less than the full-season cultivars, fields planted with the HHB 67 can be vacated two weeks earlier, permitting the planting of winter crops like chickpea and mustard.

    Armed with vast genetic resources and more than 30 years of experience, ICRISAT breeders and partners have succeeded in responding to one consequence of global warming: drought. The next step, identifying sources of heat tolerance, is already under way, where cultivars producing grains at temperatures as high as 44°C have been identified.

    For more information, contact k.rai@cgiar.org

    4. Gender discrimination in SAT agriculture
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    In 2002, data concerning the roles of men and women in agriculture were collected in six villages in Ranga Reddy district of Andhra Pradesh. Different options were evaluated in partnership with farmers and local communities.

    First, a detailed sample and community survey was planned, and a census of all households was undertaken. Among 825 households, only 5% were female-headed. The case distributions showed that 53% of the households belong to backward castes, 23% to scheduled castes, 13% to minorities and 11% to forward castes. About 52% of the household labor force consisted of males, while 48% were females. A central question is whether these percentages reflect proportional labor contributions.

    Following the census, a random sample of 120 households was selected for a detailed survey. The data showed that agricultural labor is dominated by females. On average, women contribute 70% of the 124 days of labor required per hectare in crop production. Moreover, about 50% of this labor is hired within the village, from which female labor constitutes about 93%. The findings also show that women provide a significantly higher proportion of labor-intensive activities like transplanting, weeding, harvesting and threshing. 

    The obvious conclusion is that agricultural research and development priorities should increasingly consider women’s preferences in developing options for improving the productivity of smallholder agriculture in the SAT. Despite the dominant contributions of women, however, the data show that the average wage rates for female workers are less than half the rates for males (about 18 Rs/day vs. 40 Rs/day).

    How to explain this discrepancy? Some would argue that the productivity of female labor is lower than that of male labor. But are productivity differentials so wide to warrant such divergent wage differentials? Others would argue that male labor is engaged in other income-earning activities off-farm. However, migration income contributes less than 20% of the off-farm income in these villages, and more than 50% of off-farm income derives from activities in which women play a predominant role.

    It is logical to assume that these inequities indicate rigidities and institutional barriers within labor markets that do not correspond to the actual role of women and their productivity in SAT agriculture. Clearly, more research is needed to understand these relationships.

    For more information, contact b.shiferaw@cgiar.org

    We wish all our readers the peace and joy of the Christmas season, and a very productive and happy new year.