“We prefer those millet varieties that, when cooked, can be stored overnight without losing color and taste and that can be served as breakfast the following morning,” states Delu Shugaba, a farmer from Minjibir in Kano State of Nigeria, on traits he prefers in pearl millet. Delu is part of a group of 60 farmers (20 men and 40 women) who took part in a farmer participatory millet variety and traits selection exercise in Minjibir on 13 September 2017. The selection involved a pair-wise ranking of pearl millet traits to determine which farmers most preferred as a criterion for effective selection. Independent of each other, men and women’s groups listed 8 and 10 most important traits, respectively.
The result of pair-wise ranking for men farmers (Table 1) showed that drought tolerance, food quality and disease resistance (downy mildew) have equal status in their list of preferences, followed by early maturity and grain yield. Among women (Table 2), food quality, drought tolerance, disease resistance, early maturity and grain yield were ranked 1-5. Both genders ranked early maturity and grain yield in the fourth and fifth places, respectively.
A parallel discussion with the participants on why food quality and production constraints (drought and disease) are important reveals their preference for varieties that can recover from mid-season drought spells commonly experienced in July. The rainfall pattern in this area has been erratic, with mid-season drought, early season and disease pressure on pearl millet.
The exercise suggested that in addition to yields that have traditionally dominated policy discussions, crop breeders should incorporate food quality, taste and traditional knowledge in their breeding programs in order to facilitate adoption and fast-track commercialization of released varieties.
Participants also assisted in the participatory selection of 30 varieties in a regional trial. Their contributions will help in the evaluation of varieties, as well as influence selection of traits in millet breeding programs in the future.