Land degradation is particularly acute in sub-saharan African regions where long-term overuse of soil and low, unpredictable rainfall are prime reasons for poor food production. The farmers are so poor that they take everything they can out of the soil and are not willing to invest in fertilizer because the growing season is very risky. The failure to replenish the soil fuels an unrelenting, vicious cycle. Unless nutrients are replaced, soils are depleted and yields and crop quality decline, leading to widespread hunger and under nutrition.
Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) is one of the most important food crops grown in eastern and southern Africa. Farmers love this crop for many reasons – tolerance to drought, important source of protein for the family, vital source of scarce cash, and provider of fodder for livestock. Pigeonpea fixes soil nitrogen, allowing the poor farmers to improve soil fertility without expensive chemical fertilizers. Farmers have evolved elaborate intercropping systems allowing them to plant pigeonpeas with maize, sorghum and other cereals making it highly suited to semi-arid, low soil fertility areas.
Sorghum is an extraordinarily robust and reliable crop that grows over a wide range of temperatures and elevations. It performs well in different soil types – from very porous sandy soils that don’t retain water to heavy clay-types that are prone to water logging. It has tremendous resilience in the face of drought and not only survives but still produces grain using only residual moisture. It is resistant to grain mold, giving people and animals protection against the health dangers of contamination by mycotoxins.
The MyPulses project was implemented in Myanmar to develop improved, high-yielding varieties of pigeonpea, groundnut and chickpea through breeding and selection and their widespread adoption by farmers of the Central Dry Zone (CDZ). This was done through the village seed bank (VSB) model implemented in 2015–16 and expanded during 2016–17 and 2017–18. The study examines the benefits that ranged from access to better quality seed and improved crop and seed production knowledge to increased productivity and profitability.