The purpose of the “Networking4Seed” project is to enhance smallholder farmers’ access to quality and nutritious cereal and legume seed in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger through sustainable, networked, farmer-managed seed cooperatives. Building on the “Seed Systems III” and “Niger Seed” projects, an initial survey will be conducted to assess strengths and weaknesses of the partner farmer-managed seed cooperatives, serving as baseline for Networking4Seed and as impact assessment for the previous project phases. The results will guide the project interventions.
Female and male farmers will evaluate a large set of sorghum, pearl millet, groundnut and cowpea varieties in pure stands or intercrops, through a participatory, large-N trial approach, taking into account the diversity of agro-ecological and socio-economical contexts. In cooperation with the potential CCRP-funded “3F” (“Feeding the soil and feeding the cow to feed the people”) project, the data gained will feed into crop modelling to support matching varieties to contexts in the present and future. The project will use the FRN approach in variety evaluation, seed production, and commercialization. Different options for strengthening local seed systems such as inputs credits, community fields, sale of seed through outlets in remote villages, reducing seed price for cooperatives members, and context-specific communication and marketing tools will be tested with the partner FOs.
The FOs in the three countries are at different stages of development, with some clear successes to build on. The project will ensure experiences are shared through networking. In Mali, farmers are progressively involved in foundation seed production of open pollinated varieties (OPV) and hybrids of sorghum and pearl millet. In Burkina Faso, INERA, the national agricultural research institute, has signed agreements that allow farmers to produce and market foundation seeds of sorghum and pearl millet under the supervision of decentralized agriculture services. In Niger, FOs are making progress on seed cleaning, packaging, processing, data management, and fund raising. The Networking4Seed project will facilitate exchanges among the FOs on these various initiatives and experiences. Furthermore, the project will also study the structure of the gender networks along the seed system value chain and will document their contributions to the FRN. It will also assess and document the role of women in the decision-making process of the FOs. Given the key role of quality seed in agroecological intensification (AEI) of agricultural production systems, this project contributes to achieving CCRP program goals.