ICARDA scientists introduced early-maturing legume varieties that grow within short rice fallow seasons in South Asia, combating regional nutritional deficiencies and increasing farmers’ incomes.
South Asian diets rely heavily on legumes, yet demand outstrips supply further exacerbating regional vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Until recently, a vast area of over fifteen million hectares lays idle (fallow) every year for three months between rice harvests. To take advantage of the fallow land ICARDA developed nutritious legume crops that reach maturity quickly and can be produced within the fallow window. The result was a significant increase in farmers’ incomes, boosting the national economy and better household nutrition and food security.
ICARDA began by developing and bred early maturing varieties of lentil, Kabuli chickpea, and high bio-mass fodder grass pea within their climate-smart breeding program, and then tested their suitability to the South Asian environment through field trials in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. The trials proved that the improved lentil varieties could be successfully produced on the fallow lands between rice crops.
ICARDA and national partners have now released the new crop varieties to farmers across South Asia, within ICARDA’s integrated innovation packages that address other productivity challenges such as water scarcity and the difficulty farmers face in sourcing quality seeds during planting time. ICARDA scientists invited farmers associations to participate in Village Seed Hubs (VSH) and trained farmers on quality seed production, and related agricultural approaches to ensure their availability.
- Six hundred farmers using the fast-maturing lentils reported yields nearly five times higher than conventional lentils while reducing water consumption, and with the added benefit of fitting between rice harvests.
- Higher market prices due to the larger and more nutritional lentils.
- Seventy-six VSHs established across the three countries, producing over 117 tons of certified seeds.
- A total of 23,845 smallholder farmers directly involved, receiving quality seeds and inputs. This number far exceeds the projected attendance of 15,000 farmers. It is estimated that an additional 150,000 farmers indirectly benefitted through farmer-to-farmer seeds and knowledge sharing. Simultaneously, 7,355 women were also trained on value addition, processing, and packaging.
- Ensuring the availability of all required technologies, an estimate of rice-fallow lands in Bangladesh could produce 219,000 tons of bonus legume crops where previously nothing was grown, Nepal, an additional 100,000 tons of legume crops, and India, extra production of 1.05M tons of legume crops.
Ashutosh Sarker – Regional Coordinator of SACRP & Head-FLRP