It started with just three women farmers who were part of a pilot from Pagou village, Burkina Faso, who were trained on improved groundnut seed production in 2015. The three women brought in 180 new members to three multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs). These numbers are expected to grow to 540 by the end of 2018, creating an increasing community of women seed producers. Currently, there are 23 such trained women farmers in Pagou.
The improved varieties introduced were SH 470P, an early-maturing variety of 90 days that is large-seeded, and QH 243C which has a high pod yield (1,500–2,500 kg/ha) and haulm yield (3,500 kg/ha) coupled with a good seed shelling ratio (68-70%). The amount of seed produced by these women is about 8 tons and the price of 1 kg seed is about US$1 (500 FCFA). A woman can earn up to US$ 200 from her groundnut production. The target of the Tropical Legumes III project is to cover the entire Eastern Centre Region with the new varieties and these women are the channel of seed dissemination.
“The initial foundation seed was provided by the project to the first three pilot women farmers. Each member then had the responsibility of producing enough seed for her own production and for sharing and expanding with two new members. That’s how we aim at reaching our target,” says Dr Amos Miningou, Groundnut Breeder at the Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles du Burkina Faso (INERA).
Doubled yields and better seed
Ms Bambara Alizeta, one of the pioneer seed producers, says, “I used to grow a local variety which yielded very little. With SH 470P, I harvested two bags (200 kg) in over a quarter of a hectare, where I could barely harvest a bag. The seeds of the local variety were also too small and difficult to decorticate.” Alizeta attributes the increased yields to both improved varieties and good agronomic practices. “I have adopted row planting and many other improved practices that I have been trained in. I even applied fertilizer to my groundnut field!” she says. Fertilizer is a scarce commodity in these regions.
Ms Zombra Maimouna, another pilot woman of the project, says, “When I and two other women started in 2016, it was for the first time that this type of seed (SH 470P) was produced in our community. In my first year, I produced 63 kg of seed on a quarter hectare. In the following year, I produced 90 kg. It is an important breakthrough for me.”
Madam Clarisse, a pioneer community groundnut seed producer of QH 243C from To in the Western Centre Region, earned about US$ 300 from her production during that year. She had shared the seed with three new members and introduced them to community seed production in 2016. In return, these women will share their produce with three other women.
The entire community gets involved
“The project has involved not only women but our entire community in the production of quality declared seeds. There are many others who can’t wait to start groundnut production,” says Alizeta.
Following the success of the women participating in community seed production, men in the community have also started showing an interest in the practice. “When I saw the quantity of harvest that my wife got from her improved groundnut seed production plot in 2016, it was far better compared to what we get from our local variety. I said to myself, why is this project investing in just women? If only I could get this improved variety, I could compete with my wife,” says Biyen Gaston, whose wife is a community seed producer in To, Burkina Faso.
Madam Cécile Belem, mother of six children, is a member of the Zondoma MSP. Inspired by the success of cowpea varietal testing organized by the Tropical Legumes project in 2016, she undertook seed production and harvested 1,250 kg of Tiligré and Komcallé (improved cowpea varieties) from over a hectare-and-a-half. Like many producers in the region, her preference is clearly for Tiligré which she says produces better yield and is tastier when compared to the local varieties and many other improved cowpea varieties. “Also, in case of less rainfall, Tiligré seeds yield better and they do not blacken like other varieties of cowpea,” she adds. Cécile has already sold nearly 200 kg of her produce and says, “This money will be used not to expand my farm size but to intensify production in the same plot.”
MSPs for cowpea
The community seed system is effective not just for groundnut but is being used by women for other crops such as cowpea.
Groundnut and cowpea are important food-and-feed crops in Africa and also an important source of income for producers, especially women. Several efforts to introduce improved varieties and increase adoption of these varieties have been made under the Tropical Legumes project, with the intent of helping smallholder farmers improve yields and ensure better incomes with varieties that are drought tolerant and resistant to leaf spot diseases and aflatoxin contamination.
Within innovation platforms, researchers from several partner organizations are responsible for the introduction and dissemination of new high-yielding groundnut and cowpea varieties. The platforms allow farmers to access best varieties that are suitable for their use, thus facilitating better adoption and success of these interventions. The role of local partners such as INERA and extension workers who are constantly in touch with producers is crucial for selection of varieties adapted to the socio-economic condition of producers.
This work was carried out as part of the Tropical Legumes III project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) Grain Legumes till 2016 and CRP Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals from 2018 onwards.