Success in increasing production of sorghum and millets by up to 150%

 Pearl millet farmer in India.

Pearl millet farmer in India.

More than 180,000 households were reached with new technologies that increased the production of sorghum and millets by up to 150% across 11 countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The recently concluded Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets project, supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, involved 50 partners led by ICRISAT from 2009-2015.

Some of the major milestones include:

  • 49 cultivars released by the project countries (25 sorghum; 13 pearl millet; and 11 finger millet)
  • 183,421 farm households reached with new production technologies
  • 8,579 tons of seed produced under the program (6,251 tons of sorghum; 2,084 tons of pearl millet; and 244 tons of finger millet)
  • 178,447 mini-packs of seed distributed initially at no cost, but at the beginning of the second year a partial cost recovery approach was implemented. The packs were sold to farmers primarily through field days, seed-producing farmers and local agro-dealers
  • 50 researchers received advanced degree training with HOPE support (15 PhD and 35 MSc degrees completed)
  • 3,280 National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) scientists took part in HOPE-sponsored short courses

“The project provided additional evidence that it is indeed possible to increase production of sorghum and millets in some of the most resource-poor areas of sub-Saharan Africa and India. Working with a number of national and regional research organizations, development partners, private sector, and farmers organizations, HOPE developed, promoted and diffused excellent technology packages that provide a 50% increase in net benefits, while enhancing the capacity of 11 partner countries on two continents,” said Dr Stefania Grando, Director – Science Quality and Strategy, ICRISAT, who led the project.

Country specific outputs:

In Eastern and Southern Africa there was a 83% adoption rate of improved sorghum cultivars in Ethiopia. There was also a 45% yield advantage from improved varieties by using microdosing and tied ridges and five sorghum cultivars and seven finger millet varieties were released by partners in Ethiopia. In Eritrea, there was a 60% sorghum productivity gain from the package of improved practices. In Kenya, U-15 finger millet variety was released by a partner and two sorghum cultivars were released by partners in South Sudan. Also 17% productivity gains were registered in finger millet in Tanzania and 25 finger millet lines with drought potential were selected for regional trial and evaluation in Uganda.

For West and Central Africa, Mali recorded productivity gains of 129% in sorghum and 50% in pearl millet from the package of improved practices. Also 4,000 farmers were involved in Integrated Striga and soil fertility/water management Farmer Field Schools. In Burkina Faso 13 farmer organizations were trained in seed marketing, and in Niger pearl millet varieties ICRI-Tabi, Mil de Siaka and ICMV-IS 89305 were selected for wider dissemination and testing.  Nigeria recorded productivity gains from package of improved practices  of 21% in sorghum and 150% in  pearl millet.

In South Asia seven pearl millet cultivars were released by partners in India (three each in the states of Rajasthan and Haryana and one in Gujarat). Also 220 kg of breeder seed of preferred open pollinated varieties were produced. Seeds of four released sorghum varieties were distributed for cultivation over 10,180 ha, benefiting 25,200 Indian farmers. In addition, identified farmers preferred pearl millet hybrids (nine for Rajasthan, four for Gujarat and four for Haryana) for dissemination.

“Using integrated value chain interventions we were able to achieve our goals to help thousands of smallholder farmers in the harsh drylands of sub-Saharan Africa and four Indian states. Not only was the project able to deliver improved crop varieties but also increased farmers’ access to markets to buy what they need and to sell their produce at competitive market prices,” said Dr David Bergvinson, Director General of ICRISAT.

“Sorghum and pearl millet are major staple food crops in many countries of West and Central Africa. Several technologies including improved varieties of sorghum and pearl millet along with the associated crop management and agronomic practices were generated during the first phase of the project. During the second phase, intensification of research and development activities, and a more in-depth understanding and tackling major obstacles to the uptake of these technologies will be explored for a wider scaling-up,” said Dr Ramadjita Tabo, ICRISAT Regional Director West and Central Africa.

“Farmers access to improved varieties will be enhanced through a more effective and efficient national registration and release of varieties and seed legislation in the three project countries, namely Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria,” he added.

According to Dr Bergvinson, “The project has proved that with the right information, farmers are able to make more informed choices, which lead to increased incomes and improved livelihoods. Demand-driven research that empowers farmers to realize their full economic potential will be key in realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

The success has led to the second phase of the project which was recently launched in Ethiopia. There will be more focused attention on helping farmers in six sub-Saharan Africa countries – Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda, cope with the effects of drought, and reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition. There will be a strong focus on further building the pipeline of improved varieties as well as strengthening the seed systems.

The countries involved in the first phase of the HOPE project are: Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria in West and Central Africa focused on increasing farm-level productivity of two staple crops of the region, sorghum and pearl millet; Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda where sorghum and finger millet were the focus; and in India the focus was on raising the productivity of pearl millet in the states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat and improving post-rainy season sorghum in Maharashtra.

Project: Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) Investor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Partners: HOPE, led by ICRISAT works with a lot of  partners who are listed here: CGIAR Research Program: Dryland cereals

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