The adoption of improved, high-yielding varieties of pigeonpea, groundnut and chickpea has resulted in over 40% higher grain yields and significant profitability gains for farmers in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar. This is the key conclusion of an impact assessment study undertaken as part the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals.

Timely access to good quality seed plays a vital role in enhancing product quality and achieving better yields for smallholder farmers. Superior cultivars with the ability to withstand diseases and environmental shocks like droughts and floods can further help them adapt to climate change and improve their overall livelihoods and food security.

The study titled “Impact Assessment of the Village Seed Bank (VSB) program for chickpea, groundnut and pigeonpea in the Central Dry Zone of Myanmar, focusing on the production, distribution, productivity and profitability of seed of improved cultivars” analyses as to what extent the VSB program has facilitated the spread and adoption of new, improved legume cultivars as well as the productivity and economic benefits of those cultivars.

Dr Pooran Gaur (ICRISAT) monitors chickpea Farmer’s Participatory Varietal Selection (FPVS) trials in Myanmar Photo: D Kumara Charyulu, ICRISAT

Dr Pooran Gaur (ICRISAT) monitors chickpea Farmer’s Participatory Varietal Selection (FPVS) trials in Myanmar Photo: D Kumara Charyulu, ICRISAT

Funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the MyPusles project (2014-17) focused on developing improved, high-yielding varieties of pigeonpea, groundnut and chickpea through breeding and selection. Adopting a VSB model for the timely production and distribution of quality seed of high-yielding varieties, Myanmar’s Department of Agriculture (DoA) distributed these seed to over 1,300 chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut farmers from 495 villages during these three years.

To assess the efficacy and impact of the village seed bank approach, the research team randomly selected 182 participating VSB farmers from 41 villages for a survey. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to generate data on the volume of formal or direct (DoA-VSB farmer-DoA) and informal or indirect (VSB farmer-other farmer) spread of seed of improved cultivars, technology dissemination, seed production training programs and impacts on productivity enhancement.

On average, the surveyed VSB farmers used around 50% of their land for legume cultivation. The results show that the area grown to improved VSB cultivars increased from 154 acres in 2015-16 to 460 acres in 2017-18. Assuming that the surveyed farmers were representative of all the 1,343 VSB farmers who received seed from the DoA, it would be an equivalent of 3,400 acres in 2017-18.

Key highlights of the study include:

  • Benefits of the VSB program ranged from access to better quality seed and improved crop and seed production knowledge to increased productivity and profitability
  • 96% of the surveyed farmers rated the improved cultivars as satisfactory, good or excellent
  • Seed production training programs were effective and beneficial to the surveyed farmers
  • Grain yields from improved VSB cultivars were 34% and 43% higher for sole and intercropped pigeonpea, 55% higher for groundnut and 52% higher for chickpea
  • 87% of surveyed VSB farmers indicated their willingness to continue in the program

The study also identified some areas of concerns that need improvement, including the lack of seed storage facilities, limited coverage and an underdeveloped marketing program for VSB-produced seed. Further investments and efforts in addressing these obstacles may lead to even better incomes and yields for legume farmers in Myanmar.

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