International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
Farmers organizations AMSP and UGCPA in Burkina Faso, ULPC and COOPROSEM in Mali, and FUMA GASKIYA and MOORIBEN in Niger; National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS) INERA in Burkina Faso, IER in Mali, and INRAN in Niger; and CCRP projects
Sorghum and pearl millet are staple food crops for most Sahel countries, including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, representing approximately half the total area for these crops in West Africa (FAOSTAT, 2020).
Over the past two decades, improved cultivars were co-developed and -evaluated by research and farmer organizations (FOs) to ensure adaptation to agroecological zones, local management practices, and value chain actors’ differing needs. FO involvement in selecting varieties for their production areas is key. According to Christinck et al. (2017), varietal traits may vary for different groups of farmers depending on their production goals and access to resources.
FOs have been trained and monitored on cereals and legumes seed management (Christinck et al., 2014; McKnight, 2016). Participatory research of sorghum in Burkina Faso revealed that high-performing varieties reduce hunger and increase revenue for farmers involved in seed production (Vom Brocke et al., 2020). This transformed the national seed sector, too: Farmer unions now play an important role in national legislation. FOs’ implication in seed production and marketing contributed to increased new varietal adoption rates. Farmers hadn’t been familiar with purchasing seed; now, given their FOs’ involvement, there’s trust (Weltzien et al., 2020).
Research and FO collaboration supported by several projects, especially those funded by McKnight, enabled the development of farmer research networks (FRNs) along the seed value chain. FOs have experience in seed production and the locally adapted means to boost seed marketing and reach farmers in remote villages. Despite this progress, the system needs to be strengthened through:
diversification of varieties with priority traits for yield and adaptation,
consideration of system approach in variety evaluation,
continual capacity strengthening of seed value chain actors, and
implication of policymakers in the design and implementation of integrated approaches for seed systems in West Africa.
Additionally, the community seed system approach will be tested for new varieties with potential but not yet well known to be included in national planning. This also serves marginal social groups who have difficulty accessing large plots per the formal recommendations. Farmers’ unions Maddaben of Falwel and Hareyben of Tera, belonging to Mooriben, have solid agroecology experience and won the UNDP Equator Prize 2021. Their experience will be integrated into project activities and shared with stakeholders.
The overall goal is to enhance smallholder farmers’ food and nutrition security through FRNs around seed production and agroecology approaches.
Specifically, Networking4Seed II seeks to:
Diversify crops and varieties grown and consumed by farmers to contribute to an agroecological transition for food and nutrition security.
Enhance seed availability and accessibility to farmers in their respective zones.
Strengthen seed marketing and linkages at local, national, and regional levels.
Influence the formulation and adoption of local policy on the use of improved seeds and agroecological approaches.
Outputs and Outcomes:
A diversity of crops (legumes contributing to nitrogen fixation for cereals) and varieties (resistant/tolerant to drought, striga, midge, anthracnose for sorghum, head miner and mildew for millet, and leaves diseases for groundnut) formed for trials to enhance resilience to climate change and reduce production risks
Dual-purpose varieties targeted for better integrating crop and livestock systems
Farmers’ capacity reinforced to ensure empowerment of local communities in implementation of agroecological options
Production of different classes of seeds connected to help plan and limit stockpiles of unsold seeds; use of digital tool 4CAST developed by ICRISAT and partners for planning exercises between research FOs and seed companies
Co-created social innovations to facilitate seed access to resource-poor farmers and enhance sales; experimentation within community seed system to consider context, emphasizing varieties selected/preferred in specific zone but not popular at national level; system to address equity among farmers, especially women, with small pieces of land
Seed outlets developed during previous phase of Networking4Seed reinforced through training of focal points and each FO encouraged to continue implementing new outlets where necessary
Marketing options and communication tools for seed commercialization developed to better reach farmers in their respective zones; efficiency of marketing strategies evaluated with focus on targeting and reaching women and resource-poor farmers’ access to quality and timely seeds
FO seed systems and AEI success stories in West Africa documented and shared with policymakers
Cereals and legumes production systems diversified and sustained: new sorghum, pearl millet, cowpea, groundnut, and other crop cultivars identified through participatory selection with focus on improved availability of functional diversity and other farmer-preferred traits
At least five to 12 new cultivars for each crop evaluated every two years in at least 10 locations/farmers’ fields under different cropping and management systems
At least 400 individuals from FOs, seed companies, and extension services trained annually on different topics identified jointly with stakeholders
Efficient seed system sustained in West Africa: Breeder, foundation, and certified seed of sorghum, pearl millet, groundnut, and cowpea varieties identified through participatory evaluation and registered in regional seed catalogue, produced on demand with local sale prioritized
At least 120 seed outlets established and strengthened in project intervention zones during first phase
At least two farmer field days per FO organized yearly to share information about cultivar performance and sell seeds
At least 1,000 leaflets in French and local languages on key performance of varieties produced and shared with clients as marketing tools
Agroecological options integrated in policy briefs at national levels in West Africa: Information and awareness meetings organized at local level with policymakers, community leaders, and other stakeholders; FO success stories documented and made available to policymakers for strategy documents at local and national levels
At least one multi-stakeholder platform per zone upgraded and used as a field school to share experience on seeds and also on agroecological options and benefit for the population and environment