The main objective of this project is to contribute to the development of sustainable seed dissemination mechanisms for new varieties of staple crops with a high level of varietal diversity in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The project targets strengthening farmers’ organizations for seed commercialization, production and quality control. As the agro-climatic and institutional environment differ between the three countries, as well between the different sites in each country, the project produces a series of cases for comparison, and joint analysis.
The first objective of the project is to strengthen the capacity of farmer organizations, or cooperatives to produce and disseminate high quality seed of several varieties to a large number of farmers. The second objective is to develop quality standards, and quality control mechanisms that work for both the producers, as well as the buyers of this seed. The third objective is related to monitoring the effects of the seed dissemination in the target area.
In each country researchers and two or three different farmer organizations work together to achieve progress towards these objectives. As the conditions in each country differ substantially the report for this project is presented by country. Within each country section the report is organized according to the objectives of the project.
The Team in Mali works at three sites, two of which focus on sorghum in Soudanian zone, and one focuses on the northern Sahelian region, where pearl millet is the only cereal that can be grown successfully in rain-fed conditions. The variety testing tools, for identification of new varieties for dissemination is now well established for sorghum, and starts to receive new lines that come from the farmers’ selection efforts as well the first locally bred hybrid. In one region the newly established seed cooperative is steadily moving forward. Seed marketing in the local area is proving more difficult than expected, and the group has made significant changes in their strategy: New varieties are under production, increased contacts with input dealers outside the project zone, and with projects. The Group in the cotton growing area has made good progress in working towards more of a grain market driven seed demand, with one variety that has specific grain characteristics. Both groups have opted for certification of the seeds produced, to facilitate sales outside the areas of the project. The pearl millet group has made a concerted effort during the past year to increase seed of three new varieties that farmers had chosen from trials conducted over the previous two years. Farmers were trained in seed production, and the pearl millet researchers could visit at key times during the growing season. The Mali team has decided to put forth more diverse efforts of linking seed production with different grain marketing options. As cereal prices are high at present, there is much interest among farmers to produce more cereal surplus for marketing. The two sorghum groups have decided to invest more efforts into testing also pearl millet varieties, for future seed production.
The group in Burkina Faso works at two different sites on sorghum, Kaya, on the centeal plateau, were rainfall is lower, and soils are very poor, and the Boucle du Mouhoum area, part of the Burkina Faso cotton belt. The team has made specific effort at training the farmers’ organizations, so that they can manage variety trials, and seed production more independently. Farmers were highly appreciative of these efforts, and have invested themselves in moving the project activities forward with much energy. The project team has also made a considerable effort at conducting a more detailed diagnostic study about seed dissemination and marketing in particular. These studies are still ongoing. Seed marketing in Burkina Faso is being affected by the new legislation that has come into force a year ago. The team has made specific efforts to discuss with the farmer organizations, as well as with the respective Government services, the difficulties that arise for farmers’ seed commercialization and marketing. The government officials seem to ready to make adjustments to the procedures, so that farmers can continue to invest in seed production, with a reasonable chance of achieving good profits.