A total of 40 farmers attended the field visit in Wakoro village, Mali. Photo: M. Magassa, ICRISAT

New climate-smart sorghum and millet varieties improve nutrition and incomes of Malian farmers

A total of 40 farmers attended the field visit in Wakoro village, Mali. Photos: M. Magassa, ICRISAT

A total of 40 farmers attended the field visit in Wakoro village, Mali. Photos: M. Magassa, ICRISAT

High-yielding sorghum with grain yield between 1.8 to 2 t/ha and dry fodder yield of 7 to 12t/ha and biofortified pearl millet with yield potential of up to 1.2 to 1.5 t/ha captured the attention of farmers and seed producers from six villages at a farmers’ field day held at Wakoro village in Dioïla region of Mali. These early-maturing varieties and hybrids tolerant to drought and Striga infestation exhibited up to 50% yield advantage compared to the local checks.

Several projects implemented by ICRISAT and partners are helping smallholder farmers achieve food self-sufficiency and better nutrition in the region of Dioïla. The ESPHYV project funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Networking4Seed (N4S), funded by the McKnight Foundation in partnership with ICRISAT and the Union Locale des Producteurs de Céréales (ULPC) of Dioïla has enhanced the adoption of new technologies in over 20 communes in the Dioïla region.


Bourama Fomba (R) and his brother (L) in their field of improved millet variety Missari 1. Photo: M. Magassa, ICRISAT

Bourama Fomba (R) and his brother (L) in their field of improved millet variety Missari 1. Photo: M. Magassa, ICRISAT

Improved varieties and hybrids of sorghum and pearl millet are being increasingly adopted by farmers stated Mr Yalaly Traoré, advisor to ULPC.

Mr Bourama Fomba, ULPC member, who has been producing improved millet and sorghum and has been a champion in disseminating improved varieties in the region, says, “Every year, the project team gives us new improved varieties for testing in our fields. Last year, I tested a couple of them and this year I produced on 6 hectares several of these varieties such as biofortified millet variety Chakti and sorghum varieties Soubatimi and Pablo.”

Chakti pearl millet has over 65mg/kg iron content compared to popular farmer varieties with about 47mg/kg. Breeding efforts continue to make it even more nutritious. In addition to the nutritional benefits for consumers, farmers also appreciate that chakti matures 40 days earlier and has a 30% greater yield than local varieties, as well as resistance to downy mildew disease.

Soubatimi sorghum can yield up to 2 tons of grain per hectare and 10 tons of dry stover per hectare in farmers’ fields.

High yields

Mr Zoumana Coulibaly, a farmer who participated in the project demonstration activities, produced Soubatimi variety on 1 ha. He says, “I made a good choice because I harvested 1.5 tons which is by far the best yield harvested for a crop in my farm this year.”

ICRISAT scientist Dr Baloua Nebié, who has been working with NARS partners to develop these technologies, says, “Several dual-purpose varieties with a grain yield between 1.8-2 t/ha in farmers’ fields, including Seguifa, Soubatimi, Jigikala, Tiandougou coura, Sariaso 15, Sariaso 16 and ICSV 1049 have been released in several countries. Some millet varieties produced by farmers in the demonstration fields are garnering attention from farmers in the region of Dioïla. Chakti, Missari 1 and ICRI-Tabi are some high-yielding Open Pollinated Varieties (OPVs) that can reach up to 1.2 to 1.5 t/ha.”

Early maturity, drought and Striga tolerance

Mr Karim Coulibaly from Wakoro village is a beneficiary of the project in Dioïla.  In his first year as farmer-demonstrator of the project, he was able to raise a demonstration plot of three varieties on 0.04 ha each including two hybrids (Pablo and Sassilon) compared to his best local variety. “The two new hybrids are ready for harvest, while our local variety will mature at the end of the season,” he says. Some OPVs such as like Soubatimi, Jigikala and Seguifa are sought-after by farmers for many reasons. Karim, who also witnessed the Seguifa variety in a friend’s field, says, It is early-maturing and tolerant to drought and Striga and despite the lack of the rain, the variety still produced more than the local one”.

Breeding for enhanced nutrition

In their demonstration fields, Mr Bourama Coulibaly and Moumouni Coulibaly have produced different improved varieties of sorghum (Dougouyiriwa, Saba nafate and Jigikala) which are also rich in iron, zinc and proteins. “Thanks to their nutrition value, these varieties are well appreciated particularly by pregnant and lactating women. Iron and zinc rich varieties can help us also fight child malnutrition,” says Ms Djeneba Coulibaly, mom and seed producer. Rural women who lack access to health centers are of the view that these varieties rich in iron and zinc can help supplement their diet and keep them and their children out of hospital for iron deficiency related ailments.  Ms Djeneba initiated three other women to take up improved seed production who are now registered seed producers.

Seed production and distribution

Within a few years of its implementation, the project has supported sorghum and millet demonstrations in farmers’ fields and in the scaling of these improved varieties in about 410 locations. The project distributed several mini packs of improved seed varieties in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. “In 2021 i.e. the second year of the project, we distributed a total of 23,000 mini-packs of 200g of sorghum and 16,000 mini-packs of 200g of pearl millet seed in three target zones,” says Dr Baloua Nebié, coordinator of the project.

ESPHYV has contributed to broadening and sustaining the scaling activities, including seed production in response to target zones’ needs by setting up and running innovation platforms involving different actors in the sorghum and millet value chain. “The project has initiated training sessions for demonstrator farmers on techniques for setting up plots, monitoring and collecting information on the demonstration plots. Other training sessions have been offered on seed production, especially for the hybrids,” says Mr Yalaly Traoré.

Local media engaged for scaling of improved technologies

Local media partners participate in a group session at the training program. Photo: M. Magassa, ICRISAT

Local media partners participate in a group session at the training program. Photo: M. Magassa, ICRISAT

One of the objectives of the project is to build the capacity of local media partners in order to improve their knowledge of the technologies for better communication of project activities in the target zones in collaboration with field partners and farmers’ organizations.  “The majority of these partners are not involved in agriculture. So, they need to be better informed about what we do and to know the technical words used in agriculture,” explained Mr Yalaly Traoré during an exchange meeting organized by ULPC with 10 local media personnel. “I started taking pictures and posting them on Facebook. I could see from the comments that a lot of people were interested in being informed directly online. I made it my job,” said Mr Soumaila Sangaré, who curates the Facebook page “Dioïla 24”.

The interactions have helped to identify the needs of the local media partners: 1) Need to be better informed about agriculture in general, especially on technical themes focused on demonstrations and seed production. 2) Need to know the rules and ethics of professional media for processing and dissemination of information, and 3) Strengthening the capacity of these partners on the use of online communication tools such as social media.

The main goal of the ESPHYV project is to improve food and nutrition security of 120,000 smallholder households, including 70,000 direct beneficiaries and 50,000 indirect beneficiaries in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Reported by Mr Moussa Magassa, Executive Communication, with inputs from Ms Agathe Diama, Senior Manager, Regional Communications and Information and Dr Baloua Nebie, Senior-Scientist Sorghum Breeding, and coordinator of the ESPHYV and Networking4Seed projects, ICRISAT-WCA.

Main project: Improving productivity and food security for smallholder farmers in West Africa through the use of high-yielding and nutritious varieties and hybrids of sorghum and millet (ESPHYV) Funder: German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ)
Other project: Networking4Seed (N4S): Growing sustainable seed systems by learning from experiences across Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger
Funder: CCRP McKnight Foundation
Partners: ICRISAT, IER/Mali, INERA/Burkina Faso, INRAN/Niger, AMSP, Burkina Faso; UGCPA/BM, Burkina Faso; ULPC, Mali; COOPROSEM/AOPP, Mali; MOORIBEN, Niger and FUMA GASKIYA, Niger. CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)
This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger good-health 7-decent-work 8-industry-innovation 13-climate-action 15-life-onland 17-partnerships-goals 

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