The farmers’ organization FUMA Gaskiya is leading a farmer research network (FRN) in Niger. FUMA’s 13,000 farmer members (of whom 53% are women) are organized into 21 district-level unions and 420 village-level farmers groups. FUMA joined CCRP in 2007 through projects on breeding and seed systems. In 2012, FUMA Gaskiya took leadership of research on a suite of agroecological practices that collectively reduce climate risk, including crop diversification; the use of sanitized human urine as a fertilizer; partial weeding to reduce sandstorm damage and the burden on women’s time; and seed balls to cope with climate challenges that lead to early-season crop failure.
The seed-ball innovation was identified as a way of preventing millet seed from germinating with the early “false rains”, as this often leads to crop loss. To make seed balls, farmers mix their millet seed with sand, clay, wood ash or other fertilizer, and water and make this mixture into small spheres. The seed balls are dried and then sown wet or dry, either buried or on the soil surface. In the protective ball, the seed germinates only after the real rains have begun, and the nourishing environment of the ball enhances crop vigor and yield.