Feeding the Forgotten Poor
Nearly a billion poor people live in the harsh dryland environments that cover much of Africa and Asia. Due to scarcity of water and high costs of delivering it from elsewhere, as well as environmental risks such as salinity, irrigating these areas on a large scale for staple food grain crops has not been practical. As a consequence, these areas were unable to benefit from the Green Revolution that capitalized on water and fertilizer-responsive crops grown in more favorable environments.
The forgotten poor of these drylands still await their green revolution. But it will have to be different. Instead of applying costly inputs to create uniform, favorable environments, they will need dryland crops that can adapt to the diverse environments that they encounter. Millets, sorghum, and barley are the hardy crops that these dryland families and their livestock mostly depend on, and thus form the focus of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals. Demand for these crops will increase by nearly 50 per cent by 2020 compared to the beginning of the millennium. Impending climate change compounds this challenge; it has been projected to reduce sorghum and pearl millet yields by almost 17 per cent by 2050 in Africa alone.
The research challenge is to raise the productivity of these crops to meet this growing demand, while retaining or even increasing their resilience against stresses. To meet these challenges, Dryland Cereals will increase our understanding of the mechanisms of stress tolerance and adaptation to diverse environments, the genetic control of these traits, and the potential of novel genes found within germplasm collections to enhance them. Dryland Cereals will use this knowledge to create and deliver higher yielding varieties ideally adapted to diverse agro-ecosystems, accompanied by crop management techniques custom-tuned to get the most out of those varieties. Seed systems will receive special emphasis to maximize the delivery and impact of these innovations. Techniques to reduce post-harvest losses and add value for farm families through processing innovations will also be developed.
Dryland Cereals is a global partnership between two members of the CGIAR Consortium (the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas – ICARDA and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics ICRISAT, the Lead Center), the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme, the French institutes CIRAD and IRD, key national programs (EMBRAPA-Brazil, AREEO-Iran and ICAR-India), and the USAID-supported Feed the Future initiative called the Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab (supplants the former INTSORMIL).
Dryland Cereals will pursue the following seven Product Lines:
PL1. Sorghum – West Africa: Supporting farmers’ transition from subsistence to market orientation with productive, nutritious, photoperiod-sensitive sorghum production packages for multiple uses in West Africa
PL2. Pearl millet – Africa: Improving food security for subsistence smallholder farmers in East and West Africa with productive and nutritious pearl millet food and fodder production technologies
PL3. Sorghum – East Africa: Drought tolerant, highly productive multi-use sorghum varieties for food and processing uses in the dry lowlands of East Africa
PL4. Finger millet – Eastern/Southern Africa: Improving nutritional security with productive and nutritious finger millet production technologies for East and Southern Africa
PL5. Barley – Africa, Asia: Multi-purpose barley production technologies to meet food, feed and fodder demands in the driest regions of Africa and Asia
PL6. Pearl millet hybrids – East Africa, South Asia: Improving food security and incomes with productive and nutritious multi-purpose pearl millet hybrid production technologies for East Africa and South Asia
PL7. Post-rainy sorghum – South Asia: Multi-purpose post-rainy season sorghum hybrid production technologies for improving food and fodder availability in the driest regions of South Asia