CIWA’s regional approach to enhancing agricultural resilience in West Africa

By April 4, 2024 April 11th, 2024 No Comments

Smallholder farmers in West Africa are confronting a mounting array of challenges, ranging from climate change and malnutrition to drought and soil degradation, and these issues are particularly acute in the Sahel – the semi-arid region running along the Sahara Desert’s southern edge. Crop Innovation in West Africa (CIWA), a center of innovation supported by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement, is adopting a regionally coordinated strategy to develop and disseminate crop innovations crucial to the region’s smallholder farmers and rural communities.

A newly released video showcases the collaborative work led by CIWA, integrating input from farmers and researchers to expedite the development of climate-smart varieties of sorghum, pearl millet and cowpea. CIWA, based at the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA) in Senegal, collaborates with partners across the Sahel, including the Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) in Burkina Faso and the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN) in Niger.

CIWA is actively gathering information across the crop value chain to discern perceptions of varieties and specific preferences and needs, according to Marème Niang Belko, principal investor for CIWA. She emphasized ways CIWA uses the data to enhance ISRA’s breeding program.

Ababacar Sy Diallo, an agricultural advisor for the Cooperative for the Development of Sibassor in Senegal, stressed the fundamental role of crop improvement for enhancing agriculture and livelihoods in West Africa.

“We work in perfect harmony with the researchers to provide producers with high-performance varieties that will enable them to have satisfactory yields, which will contribute to the improvement of their living conditions,” Diallo said.

Mame Bineta Niasse, president of the Taiba Niassene Farmers’ Centre, underscored the significant impacts of such processes on the lives and livelihoods of people in West Africa.

“The millet grains are bigger and easier to process, they are rich in iron and good for the nutrition of pregnant women and children,” she said.

CIWA is actively undertaking a range of activities across the region. Belko outlined initiatives in Burkina Faso to speed up breeding programs aimed at developing pearl millet varieties with increased resistance to striga, an economically devastating plant parasite, and using genotyping to optimize pearl millet breeding programs. In Niger, researchers are conducting mildew screening and seed collection.

CIWA is one of four Centers of Innovation established through the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement, housed at Cornell University. The other three centers are based in Costa Rica and Haiti, Malawi and Uganda. Centers of Innovation are regional hubs for crop improvement that target crops essential for food- and nutritional security. Each is led by national agricultural research institutes, seeking sustainable, climate-smart, equitable and effective crop improvement programs.

Learn more about ILCI Centers of Innovation