Strengthening Sorghum and Millet Production in Africa

Sorghum_webIn October, DuPont Pioneer, Heartland Global and the Agropolis Foundation convened more than 30 experts from around the world to discuss solutions for sorghum and millet production systems in Africa. These two cereal crops, which are deeply rooted in African culture and farming practices, have suffered declining productivity for decades. Meeting participants concluded that a new public-private collaboration among participants could bring unique value to efforts to strengthen product and seed system development for sorghum and millet.

The international meeting, which was held in Montpelier, France on Oct. 27-29, involved research institutes, NGOs, farmers, and businesses from more than a dozen countries. This marked a first step in gathering diverse perspectives about how to develop sorghum and millet production in Africa, improve food security, nutrition and sustainable agricultural production while supporting prosperity among smallholder farmers.

The urgent need for improved rate gain in African sorghum and millet

While in recent years some progress has been made in improving African agricultural productivity, much still needs to be accomplished. Dated hybrids and open-pollinated varieties of sorghum and millet are not maintaining pace with the shocks of changing climate, food demand and nutritional needs of people who rely on these grains.

In discussing issues such as these at the global meeting, leaders highlighted the strong interdependence between the capacities of smallholder farmers to drive their production systems beyond subsistence. Three key areas emerged as the critical strategies to generate the most impact for farmers, their families and local food production systems:

  • Strengthen seed systems that more effectively engage smallholder farmers,
  • Improve the capacity of research organizations and local seed companies to develop new products designed to promote farmer productivity in the midst of evolving challenges (for example, climate change, malnutrition, food security),
  • and strengthen smallholder farmers’ connection to markets and related value chains such as food products and livestock feeding.

 

“Getting quality seed out of research labs and test plots into the hands of millions of farmers in remote areas remains one of the largest challenges facing us today. Scaling up from a handful of breeder seeds to the reliable volumes and distribution required to reach even the most remote areas, requires a holistic approach across all sectors including local seed companies, dealers and national governments,” said Lloyd Le Page, founder of Heartland Global.

Sorghum and millet are African native dryland cereals that show an exceptional resistance capacity in arid climate conditions. While the last decade has seen some moderate improvements in the yield of rice and maize, national sorghum and millet yields have on average remained flat. The substantial agronomic, food and feed potential of sorghum and millet has been described in previous research, but is yet to be fully exploited. Investing in seed systems and new product development for improving yields and nutritional quality of both crops is key to providing farmers alternatives to maize and rice as well as for developing sound strategies to face climate change in Africa.

Looking forward

During the next few weeks, the Agropolis Fondation, Heartland Global, and Pioneer will focus on finalizing the framework for the emerging Partnership for the Development of Sorghum and Millet Production in Africa. A summary of the meeting will also be made available.

Marc Albertsen, Research Director-Ag Traits, and Jim Gaffney, Global Biotech Affairs & Regulatory Lead-Ag Traits, spearheaded the involvement from a Pioneer perspective and attended the meeting in France.

This entry was posted on Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition & Health, Sustainability, Africa, Food Security, millet, sorghum, DuPont Pioneer, Africa,

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