ICRISAT’s 50th year of innovations and impacts: Officials and farmers, all have their say!
In the 1970s, ICRISAT, based in India, rapidly expanded its activities in West and Central Africa and forged numerous partnerships in favor of agricultural production systems in the semi-arid zones of the region. In Niger, this collaboration dates back to the early 1980s with the establishment of the Sahelian Center of ICRISAT, the largest center of the institute in Africa. “It was a critical period, marked in particular by severe droughts and food insecurity that many still remember,“ recalled Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-West and Central Africa.A priority of ICRISAT’s intervention in Niger was creating basic infrastructure for carrying out long-term research on millet varietal improvement and options for integrated soil fertility management for farmers. Since its establishment, ICRISAT has contributed to the registration of wide varieties and hybrids of millet in the official catalog of plant species and varieties of Niger.
According to Dr. Ramadjita Tabo, “The development of varieties can be counted as a big contribution as smallholders saw their production increase and their incomes improve significantly”.
“The development of breeding methods using molecular markers for sorghum resistance to Striga is an important impact of our intervention in Niger,” he underlined.
“From the ICRISAT Sahelian Center in Niger, ICRISAT has assisted in the development and conservation of millet, sorghum and groundnut genetic resources within the framework of a regional gene bank established at the Sadore research station. This bank currently contains more than 40,000 accessions, available to all regional partners,” he said.
“Another major ICRISAT intervention has been the development of technologies for integrated soil fertility and water conservation management, bio-reclamation of degraded lands, and the African vegetable garden. For example, the micro-dosing of fertilizers, combined with other interventions such as warrantage (credit system) and input shops, has enabled many producers to improve their crops’ productivity and incomes,” he added.
“Capacity building has been central to all ICRISAT activities in Niger. Hundreds of pupils and students from agricultural training centers, schools, institutes, and faculties have benefited from holiday and end-of-cycle internships, training for Masters and Doctorates, and also refresher courses for young graduates. The technical and practical training has benefited thousands of producers, seed companies, and state and NGO extension agents,” said Dr. Tabo.
For the Minister of Agriculture of Niger, Dr Alambedji Abba Issa: “The government of Niger, through very positively appreciates the work of ICRISAT in Niger and wishes even more commitment from the institute in the country.”
The agricultural development strategy in Niger, in the perspective of the Zero Hunger objective, has been based since 2012 on the 3N initiative, Nigeriens feed Nigeriens. As part of this initiative, a 2021-2025 action plan is being implemented into which ICRISAT can contribute a lot to the achievement of the various objectives of the said initiative, explain the Minister of Agriculture.
“Today, we have become experts in seed production. Farmers who have managed to master and follow improved agronomics practices are now coping better with climate change in their production. We use early-maturing varieties such as Chackti, which is also adapted to the conditions of our agro-ecologies and can produce up to one ton per hectare. Given all these positive results, we believe that our collaboration with ICRISAT should continue”, said Mr. Yacouba Tanda, a seed producer at Falwell.