The farmer organization FUMA Gaskiya, a leading farmer research network in Niger, has 13,000 farmer members (of whom 53 percent are women) who are organized into 21 district-level unions and 420 village-level farmer groups. FUMA joined the 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 to prevent millet seed from germinating with early “false rains,” which often leads to crop loss. To make seed balls, farmers mix millet seed with sand, clay, wood ash or other fertilizer, and water, and form the mixture into small spheres. Dried and then sown wet or dry, the seed balls are either buried or placed on the soil surface. The seed germinates in the protective ball only after the real rains have begun, the nourishing environment of the ball enhancing crop vigor and yield.