Pearl millet is the staple food for smallholder farmers and rural populations and provides important forage for ruminant and livestock production the Maradi and Tillabery regions of Niger. Current pearl millet yields in these regions are low, especially in women’s fields due to women’s lower access to fertilizer/manure and required transport means, poor soil management practices and consequently lower soil fertility in women’s compared to men’s fields, insufficient system’s diversification strategies, highly variable onset and distribution of rainfall and frequent dry spells during the growing season, and finally also relatively less time devoted to agricultural activities due to women’s higher responsibilities to manage the family and prepare food. But because women usually use the harvest and earnings from their fields to complement and diversify the diets of their families, enhancing the productivity of women’s fields is expected to benefit the well-being of the whole families, and especially of the children. Therefore, the farmer organization leading this project, FUMA Gaskiya, decided to focus on women’s production systems in this project.
This project aims at improving productivity of women’s fields through better crop-tree-livestock integration, more sustainable land use management and ecological restoration using fast growing legume shrubs and trees, and improved crop and soil fertility management practices including better nutrient cycling within the systems. Targeting two contrasting pilot sites in Niger, specific project objectives include:Understand current and evaluate potential agricultural and environmental uses of fast growing legume trees, shrubs and crops within cereal production systems and develop options for system diversification in small-holder women agricultural fields.Enhance diversification and improve integration of the crop-tree-soil system to promote long-term soil fertility and increase productivity of current cereal-based production systems.Test new technologies to increase crop yields in women’s fields by integration of traditional or new cereal-legume intercropping systems with current animal raising strategies that enable better soil nutrient cycling in the systems.Produce a field guide for multiplication and use of legume trees, shrubs and crops for sustainable and improved crop production.Understand and enhance the socioeconomic and cultural elements that will promote women’s land accessibility, capacity to acquire agricultural inputs, interest and skills to plant trees and independence to manage the land.Promote women’s group networks that enhance information exchange and market accessibility through regular meetings, women to women exchange visits and knowledge sharing.The expected outcomes from this project include: More productive, diverse, resilient and sustainable farming options based on agro-ecological farming principles widely adopted by women farmers in the two pilot regions of Maradi and Tillabery in Niger; consequently improved wellbeing and economy of families through increased women income as a result of greater crop and livestock production to sustain self-consumption and excess sold in the market; and enhanced information exchange and knowledge exchange among female farmers in Niger.
Outputs and Outcomes:
Sanitized human urine was identified as easily accessible, easily applicable, low-cost fertilization option with generally very promising results on different crops. The technique was especially appreciated by women. Communities did not mention any cultural concerns regarding human urine application. Urine collection, storage and application techniques need further refinement. Partial weeding (only at the first weeding date, leaving young weeds either between the rows or around the hill, and removing them only at the second or this weeding before they set seed) has been shown advantageous in terms of time gains and protection of young seedlings against early season sand storms (resulting into higher yield in case of sand storms early in the season). A four plot pearl millet fertilization trial was conducted to test fertilization options which do not only improve the soil fertility, but which are also cheap and affordable by women farmers. The trial was conducted in 3 villages by 27 women per village. The women represented different social status (old ladies without help; old ladies with help; young ladies with kids) and tested the options of different soil types (Guezami-Guezami, Jigawa, Gueza). Preliminary analysis for Serkin Haoussa village indicated that the treatment with the combination of organic manure/urine and partial weeding was highest yielding followed by that of organic manure/urine and complete weeding for all villages, soil types and social classes. Guezami-Guezami was the highest yielding soil type; and old ladies without help obtained the highest yield for all treatments followed by old ladies with help. The reasons for the yield differences between social status of the women might be that young ladies with kids cannot focus properly on their farm land but have other duties and also have to work some days (about 2 to 3 days) in their husband farms. For old ladies with help, the work may not be properly done by the helpers who are not well supervised. Old ladies without help take all the care to work well and hard since they are depending on their harvest. Deeper analyses to identify option by context interactions are underway.Combine experiment of soil fertility and intercropping treatments tested on farm and on station in Serkin Houssa: The crop association millet-sesame was added to the three associations of farmers’ field (millet-groundnut, millet-okra and millet-potato). The millet-sesame association performed best (736 kg/ha grain weight), followed by millet-okra (708 kg/ha; but worst performance in two of three villages on farmers’ field), millet-potato (514 kg/ha) and millet-groundnut (417 kg/ha; but best performance in two of three villages on farmers’ field). The crop associations were compared among each other after the same fertilization treatment (Soaking + 200g FO + Urine). Four plots (fertilization treatments) trials, Serkin Houssa: No significant effect of the soil types (Gueza, Guezami-guezami, Jigawa) or between social classes of women farmers was found on millet grain weight. Differences were found between villages and between fertilization treatments: The treatment with the combination of organic manure/urine and partial wedding is higher followed by that of organic manure/urine and complete wedding. The interaction effect of social classes and soil types is also significant. The best millet grain weight means on the Gueza soil type were achieved of old ladies with help, followed by young ladies. This is because Gueza is generally situated far from the village and has high clay content, thus much effort is needed to work on this soil type. For Guezami-guezami the mean of old ladies without help is almost two times that of old ladies with help, because this soil type is not far from the village and easy to work. On Jigawa though the mean of old ladies with help is higher, the difference with that of young ladies is low.Four plots trials, Serkin Houssa: In the participatory evaluation of the four fertilization treatments, significant differences between treatments and for treatment x villages interaction were found of both women and men farmers for the farmer preference index for the evaluation just before harvest. Differences between villages were not significant. Both women and men preferred the treatment with the combination organic manure/urine and partial weeding, followed by the treatment with organic manure/urine and complete weeding for men and the treatment with complete weeding and farmers’ practices by women. Women who conducted the trial said that with partial weeding they spend 2-3 times less time compared to complete weeding. They liked the urine technology because it is easier to get (without spending money). After the first application some have not recognized their farms because of the stage of plants development (very fast growth), some who have lost the hope to harvest something because of the worm attack have regained their confidence after urine application.Four plots (fertilization) trials, Bokki Site: Significant differences in millet grain weight have been found between fertilization treatments, villages and soil types. The treatment with application of organic manure, wood ash and urine and partial weeding had the highest means of millet grain weight, followed the complete weeding and farmer’s practice treatment, the application of organic manure, wood ash and urine and complete weeding and the lowest mean values were observed for the farmer’s practice and partial weeding treatment. So, for weeding options complete weeding had higher millet grain weight than partial weeding for farmers’ practices while partial weeding is superior where urine and organic matter were applied. Within the Bokki Site the village Djangoré had the highest means, followed by Tchéla and Bokki (village). Four plots (fertilization) trials, Farmers’ participatory evaluation, Bokki Site: There is a significant difference in the evaluation of treatments and the combination treatments per villages for both women, men and the cumulative preference index. There is no difference between villages for women, men and the cumulative.Culinary test, participatory farmer evaluation, Dan Banga (Serkin Haoussa): Millet grown with two different fertilizer options (Urine fertilization and farmer practices) were each used to prepare the two local popular meals Towo and Kunu (porridge). The dishes were tested by different social groups the same day and after staying overnight.For both fertilization options, taste, color and consistency of Towo were well appreciated by old ladies, young ladies, old men and young men at testing on the same day. The same result was found for testing after Towo had stayed overnight, except for the group of old men whose appreciation for taste and consistency was low. For Kunu only taste was evaluated. The taste of Kunu was well appreciated across the fertilization options, the time of testing and all social groups. The results show that there is no taboo in the consumption of millet that was fertilized with urine.