A dryland cereals improvement project ‘HOPE Phase 2’ aimed at improving productivity of sorghum, pearl millet and finger millet was launched by ICRISAT and the Gates Foundation.
Photo: © ICRISAT

ICRISAT: Success in increasing production of sorghum and millets

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in cooperation with the Bill-and-Melinda-Gates Foundation announced the second phase of the project “Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets”. In the first phase, production of sorghum and millets could be increased by up to 150 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

More than 180,000 households were reached with new technologies that increased the production of sorghum and millets by up to 150 per cent, at the end of a six-year project to boost food security in the dryland areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The final report for the HOPE project was recently completed. HOPE stands for Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets.

The initiative, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was carried out by 50 partners led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) from 2009-2015.

The project spanned eleven countries with a focus on developing improved varieties and crop management practices that would help smallholder farmers increase productivity under harsh, dry production environments in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
“The project provided 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 organisations, development partners, private sector, and farmers organisations, HOPE developed, promoted and diffused excellent technology packages that provide a 50 per cent increase in net benefits, while enhancing the capacity of the partner countries on two continents,” said Dr Stefania Grando, Director – Science Quality and Strategy, ICRISAT, who led the project.

Objectives of phase 2 of HOPE

The success has led to phase-2 of HOPE, which had its launch recently 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.

“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 of 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 the release of varieties and seed legislation in three project countries, namely Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria,” he added.

According to Dr Bergvinson, Director General of ICRISAT; “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 realise their full economic potential will be key in realising the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The demand for dryland crops in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, such as sorghum and millets, is growing as a number of major global issues continue to impact the world’s food security. Trends include: extreme climate variabilities and increasing drought; the rise in global demand for livestock feed; the growing use of smart foods with high levels of iron, fibre and calcium for weaning children, nursing mothers, and the gluten intolerant; and an increasing global population requiring more food.
The countries involved in the HOPE project are: Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria in West and Central Africa; Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Tanzania in East Africa; and in India in the states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat and Maharashtra.

(ICRISAT/wi)