The Equator Prize 2021 was presented to two farmer unions of Niger – Maddaben of Falwel and Hareyben of Tera – for contributing to improved food security, local livelihoods, and community adaptation to climate change through the promotion of agrobiodiversity in participatory research, etc. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and partners award the Equator Prize to recognize local and Indigenous communities from around the world that demonstrate exceptional achievements in nature-based solutions for local sustainable development.
As a long-time partner of Maddaben and Hareyben farmer unions, ICRISAT has collaborated on several activities with them, among which were the participatory selection of pearl millet varieties to test available improved varieties. ICRISAT germplasm was also introduced to the farmers’ local conditions to identify superior materials for direct adoption as well as for use in our breeding program. This initiative has led to the development of two new pearl millet varieties PPBV-Falwel and PPBV-Tera which were released in 2016. These two varieties, in addition to four other varieties, were the first pearl millet varieties to be released in Niger after 15 years. Simultaneously, the two unions learnt how to produce certified seeds of improved varieties of pearl millet, sorghum and cowpea.
One of the awardees, the Maddaben union at Falwel has been particularly successful. “Although business of seed production is dominated by the private sector in Niger, the Falwel Maddaben union has managed to become a national reference for seed production,” said Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative of ICRISAT in Niger. “Moreover, the Maddaben and Hareyben farmer unions in Falwel and Tera respectively engaged with researchers to learn about biological control of the millet head miner, which is one of the most devastating insect pests of pearl millet in the region.”
“Initially, communities learnt how to release a beneficial insect (a parasitic wasp called Habrobracon hebetor) to control the insect pests. Next, they learnt how to raise the beneficial insect. Finally, supported by researchers, the communities established their own cottage production and learnt how to run the business and to supply the community,” said Dr Ba. “Both unions were able to raise the parasitic wasps themselves and supply neighboring communities and development projects. Especially in the Hareyben union at Tera, women are leading this process and are the most successful union in Niger, and have managed to maintain the business since its establishment in 2017.”
“When I started working as pearl millet breeder at ICRISAT in Niger in 2005, I had sound knowledge about breeding methodologies, but I would not know what ‘a good pearl millet variety’ actually means for Nigerien farmers. Therefore, there was a need to partner with farmer unions that were willing to share their knowledge with me and to help selecting varieties that correspond to the needs and preferences of different types of Nigerien farmers,” said Dr Bettina Haussmann, former millet breeder at ICRISAT in Niger (on behalf of the McKnight Foundation).
“The Mooriben Unions Hareyben in Tera and Maddaben in Falwel (in addition to the Farmer Federation FUMA Gaskiya in the Maradi region of Niger), were very generous in sharing their knowledge about pearl millet. Together, we engaged in participatory on-farm variety selection and participatory pearl millet breeding programs, as well as seed production activities. I am very thankful for these partnerships, which enabled us to complement our skills and to advance together. Our joint progress is reflected in the successful diversification of the pearl millet-based production systems on the ground and in this great recognition by the UNDP ” continued Dr. Haussmann.
Both the farmer unions were nominated by Dr Bettina Haussmann, former millet breeder at ICRISAT in Niger, on behalf of the McKnight Foundation. This is the 12th year of the Equator Prize, and the winners were selected from more than 600 nominations from 126 countries. According to the Equator Initiative website, “Equator Prize winners will receive US$ 10,000 and the opportunity to take part in a series of special virtual events associated with the UN General Assembly and the Nature for Life Hub later this year. They will join a network of 255 communities from over 80 countries that have received the Equator Prize since its inception in 2002. The Equator Prize 2021 Award Ceremony will take place virtually on 4 October 2021.”
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Reported by Ms Agathe Diama, Head Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA with inputs from
Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative-Niger, ICRISAT and
Dr Bettina Haussmann, McKnight Foundation.