Sorghum, millet essential to African farming

The culture and farms of Africa depend on sorghum and millet, but there has been a steady decline in productivity for decades. 

DuPont Pioneer, Agropolis Foundation and Heartland Global hosted an international summit at the end of October for more than 30 experts to discuss how to turn around the productivity of the two vital crops. They concluded that it is important for a new public-private collaboration to strengthen the product and seed system development.

“Sorghum and millet are vital to the diets, incomes and farming systems of millions of smallholder farmers in the more arid regions of Africa that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa,” Pascal Kosuth, director of Montpellier-based Agropolis Fondation, said.

The meeting in October was the first step in sharing ideas and coming up with solutions to fix the sorghum and millet problem in Africa. 

“As a farmer-producer, it is important to improve sorghum and millet seed varieties, including how they are marketed and distributed, because millions of people depend on it. We also must consider the preferences and the socio-economic conditions of the farmers using them,” Roger Kabore, president of Association Minim Song Panga (AMSP), a farmer-producer association in Burkina Faso, said during the meeting.

The Agropolis Foundation, Heartland Global and DuPont Pioneer plan to continue their efforts to help the productivity problems in Africa with the Partnership for the Development of Sorghum and Millet Production in Africa. 

“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," Lloyd Le Page, founder of Heartland Global, said. "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.

“Improving the quantity and quality of grain is critical for small farmer household food and income security. We also are excited about the critical role that sorghum and millet can play in livestock feed value-chains in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa where pastoral communities are particularly vulnerable to drought, and where livelihood options are few.”

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