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July 12, 2011

Nigerian project aims to boost sorghum and millet Production

by Isyaku Ahmed

ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) aims to improve yields of millet in northern Nigeria.

"Now, due to the introduction of new farming technology, I double what I use to get," explained farmer Ahmed Abubakar Maidu. "For example, this year I planted one and half acres only, but I have 30 bags of pearl millet, 15 bags of sesame and three bags of cowpea."

He said the harvested crops are split; some are used for home consumption and the rest are sold to earn cash for the family. The seeds are kept for the next farming season.

Maidu said ICRISAT and its partners have introduced him to new markets for his produce. He now sells his farm produce at Maigatari and Babura markets on the border of Niger, and to the agro-food processing campany in Kano, Dala Foods, Limited.

Bashir Alhaji Baba is market specialist at Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, funded by the Nigerian government. He said to increase yield and income, farmers are introduced to new varieties of pearl surghum and millet.

Dr. Hakeem Ajeigbe is ICRISAT country representative and system agronomist working with the project. He said farmers are taught to use a technique called microdosing, or applying small amounts of fertilizer with the seed at planting time.

"Taking the [technique] of microdosing for surghum and millet…was developed elsewhere in [Niger] and other West Africa countries, but we have adopted it," he said.

Ajeigbe said farmers are also trained in improved management options and are linked to seed companies.

George Okwach is project manager specializing in sorghum and millet. He said the primary objective of the project is to improve yields for household consumption of up 40%. That’s good news to households in northern Nigeria, where millet is used for making a thick dough called“fura” and as an additive to fresh cow milk for the popular drink “fura da nunnu.” It is also used for making millet juice, or “kunnun zaki” and for preparing a custard-like food called “kwoko.”

The effort in northern Nigeria is part of an ICRISAT project called HOPE, or Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The four-year project, which is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is providing support to 110,000 households in 10 countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

ICRISAT is a non-profit organization devoted to science-based agricultural development. It is one of 15 research institutes in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a network of centers funded by United Nations.


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