Hyderabad, India and Bamako, Mali (28 January 2014) – An inclusive, science-based, resilient and market-oriented agriculture is the key to addressing key challenges hampering agricultural growth in West and Central Africa (WCA), and in attaining food and nutrition security, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability in the region.

Tackling the question of how agricultural research can make smallholder farming more profitable and sustainable, scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics’ (ICRISAT) regional and country offices in WCA and from its headquarters in India, convened in Bamako for a regional planning meeting to map out its research agenda.

On the challenge of improving the livelihoods of the poorest in the context of climate change, Dr William Dar, ICRISAT Director General, stressed that “Working with our partners, we can deliver on our mission to lift the people out of poverty and ensure food security for the present and future generations without compromising environmental integrity.” 

“Inclusiveness means that the very purpose of our research work is to help smallholder farmers out of poverty to self-sufficiency and prosperity,” Dr Dar added. “Smallholder farmers must be given access to scientific innovations designed for the poor, to help them connect to markets, but in a way that builds their own resilience rather than creating dependency.”

“Partnerships and collaboration are crucial in a holistic approach to research for development that covers all aspects of crop improvement, economics, socio-economics, strategic soil research, policy development and harmonization,” noted Dr CCL Gowda, Deputy Director General for Research, ICRISAT.

The planning meeting consisted of a review of the research activities being conducted by ICRISAT scientists based in WCA in the context of contributing to the CGIAR Research Programs, primarily on Dryland Cereals (millet and sorghum) and Grain Legumes (groundnuts). Progress reports were presented by Research Program Directors, all putting emphasis on climate change adaptation and mitigation, and on the need for an Inclusive, Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach.

Some successful cases of IMOD presented by WCA-based scientists include: the cluster-based approach used in Niger and in Mali to empower women; and formation of farmers’ and women’s groups in Niger to produce good quality seed, and training them on small-scale business skills and marketing.

While in Mali for the regional planning meeting, Dr Dar met with Dr Bocary Téréta, Malian Minister of Rural Development, where he expressed “ICRISAT’s commitment to strengthen its research partnership with national institutes in critical areas of research such as resilience, up-scaling of improved technologies, processing and soil health.”

“We believe that all stakeholders need to come together and work towards a positive transformation in the agriculture sector. Public-Private Partnerships are a vital component of IMOD, especially in up-scaling technology interventions and science-based solutions for millions of smallholder farmers in the region” Dr Dar emphasized.

“I am delighted that ICRISAT interventions in Mali focus on the improvement of millet and sorghum which are staple crops and form the base of the country’s national food security stock of 35,000 tons per year. Increasing millet and sorghum production and yield would mean reaching food security and raising this national cereals stock to prevent food issues. Therefore, we have great interest in whatever technologies are available for resilient farming,” said Minister Téréta.

The Minister also thanked ICRISAT for the ongoing research on climate change adaptation for millet and sorghum. “As we improve technologies for smallholder farmers to cope with climate change, we should take into account a value-chain approach, providing capacity building where needed for processing and access to markets to enable farmers to increase their revenues and improve their livelihoods,” the Minister added.

As a result of the meeting, an up-scaling strategy will be drawn together by Mali’s Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER) and ICRISAT, an initiative that could be extended to partners in Niger and Nigeria.

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics (ICRISAT) is a non-profit, non-political organization that conducts agricultural research for development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with a wide array of partners throughout the world. Covering 6.5 million square kilometers of land in 55 countries, the semi-arid tropics have over 2 billion people, and 644 million of these are the poorest of the poor. ICRISAT innovations help the dryland poor move from poverty to prosperity by harnessing markets while managing risks – a strategy called Inclusive Market- Oriented Development (lMOD).

ICRISAT is headquartered in Patancheru near Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, with two regional hubs and five country offices in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. About ICRISAT: www.icrisat.org For scientific information:http://EXPLOREit.icrisat.org

CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by 15 research Centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. www.cgiar.org