Under the AVISA project funded by the Gates Foundation and USAID, supported by CRP-GLDC

Dr Jummai O Yila, Gender Scientist and main organizer of the event, making a point during the workshop. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s Gender Research Program recently brought together breeders, value chain stakeholders and social scientists from Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria to define priority traits of cultivars of sorghum, millet and groundnut during a 4-day workshop. Prior to the workshop, studies were carried out with the national agricultural research systems (NARS) partners in the above countries, to examine and assess the trait preferences of key stakeholders, especially taking into account the specificity of traits with respect to gender-related needs. The results of these studies were presented during the workshop. The expected output is priority trait demands translated into new market-driven and gender-responsive product profiles for the breeding programs at ICRISAT and NARS.

Highlights of the workshop

“Production, nutrition and market attributes must be taken into account for breeding improved cereal and legume varieties,” almost all participants strongly agreed on this one point. Particular emphasis was placed on nutrition security and gender equity as outcomes of strategic plans of ICRISAT and national programs. It was agreed that high productivity must be accompanied by the nutritional traits added in the cultivars and that they are adaptable to marginal production conditions (poor fertile soils that generally used by women for their own fields). For example, the northern states of Nigeria, Sahelian regions of Mali and the northern regions of Burkina Faso, which are the largest producers of millet, sorghum and groundnuts, are suffering from food insecurity due to the security crisis and terrorist attacks. As a result, women and children suffer from chronic malnutrition because the little millet and sorghum produced are often deficient in iron, zinc, and vitamin A. For this proportion of the population, the new varieties of millet to be developed must be on the one hand, rich in iron, zinc and vitamin A, and on the other hand, adapted to marginal production conditions and able to be used for multiple purposes (human and animal food, processing).

ICRISAT, through its crop improvement programs, has been working to develop crop varieties keeping in mind the priority needs of the farmers and other value chain actors, as these products are intended for users with different needs and preferences. At the workshop, ICRISAT’s gender research team brought together multidisciplinary research teams and various actors in the cereal-legume value chains such as traders, processors, producers, seed company managers and aggregators, who deliberated and exchanged information, data and learnings to define the priority traits of sorghum, millet and groundnut cultivars.

Dr Jummai O Yila, Gender Scientist, ICRISAT–West and Central Africa (WCA), who had examined and assessed the trait preferences of key stakeholders in the value chains of the above crops as part of the studies with NARS partners, said that a shift towards gender-responsiveness requires the understanding of needs and choices of both male and female key value chain actors and mainstreaming these into the crops’ breeding pipeline. While emphasizing the significance of collaboration, she noted, “Solutions to complex problems today often require a collaborative engagement with others, which will generate the best solution.”

Dr Aboubacar Toure, Sorghum Breeder, representing Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-WCA, said, “The findings of these studies are aimed at informing the development of product profiles to achieve market-driven and gender-driven product development. This workshop is held to improve our common understanding of the basics of product profiles and market segmentation principles.”

What the participants said

As a seed processor, I was able to share my concerns with breeders and other stakeholders, especially what we are looking for in terms of seed quality, size and color. These characteristics are very important, because our main objective is to get good quality products, process them and make profit. Mrs Kabore ClariceSeed Processor, Burkina Faso

We mainly discussed yield rate, quality and seed- and grain-saving approaches. These are some of the concerns that producers typically have. This workshop allowed us to learn more about the characteristics requested by our farmer and women communities as well their customers. The idea is to improve and adapt our production system based on external demands. Mr Yalali Traoré ULPC Dioila, Mali

Our mission is to promote the activities implemented by all actors of this meeting. Now that we have exchanged problems and defined product profiles for each crop and country, we will work to strengthen the collaborative links between all actors in the cereal-legume value chains. At AMASSA we are ready to contribute in developing new varieties that meet the needs of all stakeholders. Mrs Sogoba Yah Diakité AMASSA Afrique Verte, Mali

The purpose of this workshop is to change the way we do things. This means that we save time and make efficient use of the funds allocated for breeding. Knowing the characteristics requested by the users and stakeholders is a step forward that helps us to not worry about the adoption of the varieties we develop because they will already be expected by the different segments in the market. We have heard all the requests and are now better informed to meet everyone’s demand in terms of seeds and grains.Dr Inoussa Drabo Millet breeder, INERA, Burkina Faso

The world is a global village and seed production needs to go outside the immediate area. As a seed producer from Ghana, I can see that we need to develop our business with people involved in all the processes of the value chains. During this workshop, I met different stakeholders from several countries and I was able to discuss my expectations as a seed producer in Ghana. I am convinced that our concerns are taken into account by the researchers and I am happy I have developed my network.Mr Alidu Abdul-Razak Seed Producer, Ghana

The problem of malnutrition remains unresolved in our populations, especially in the rural areas. The problem being transversal, it is important for the researchers to integrate the nutrition aspect in the development of seed varieties. Such nutritional value could include vitamin A, protein, iron and zinc. During this workshop, we insisted on the need to strongly consider nutrition and to develop and make available seeds with high nutritional values. Dr Fatoumata Hama BahNutritionist, IRSAT, Burkina Faso

We are in production, processing and marketing of different type of crops. We came to this meeting to profile millet-, sorghum- and groundnut-based products. We are here to tell the breeders and even the socio-economists our real situation as an enterprise and how they, as scientists, can come out with very good varieties that will suit our purpose which is based on what our farmers need. Farmers have different needs and they come to us for particular varieties of crops. We are aware of several problems that each of these crops have and there are many inputs that we give to breeders on what they should look into in order to come out with varieties that will go a long way towards improving production and satisfying the needs of our farmers. We are an enterprise and everything that sells well is what we are looking for. Mr Balarabe Shehu Managing Director & Executive Director, Greenspore Agri Limited, Nigeria

The workshop on “Demand Driven and Gender Responsive Product Profile Development” was held during 21–24 June 2021 at the ICRISAT research station at Samanko in Mali.

Authored by Mr Moussa Magassa, Communication Assistant, AVISA project in West Africa, ICRISAT WCA.

Contributors: Ms Agathe Diama, Head Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA; Dr Jummai Yila, Gender Scientist, ICRISAT-WCA; and Dr Hailemichael Desmae, Regional Breeding Lead, ICRISAT-WCA.

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