Farmers, business leaders, analysts discuss millet, sorghum crop woes in Africa

DuPont Pioneer, Heartland Global and the Agropolis Foundation hosted farmers, researchers and business leaders from around the world at an international forum recently to discuss ways to reverse the decades-long decline in Africa's millet and sorghum production levels.

DuPont officials said the native grains have been central to African agriculture for generations, but in recent decades, production rates for both crops have fallen steadily. Over 30 forum participants concluded that private-public partnerships focused on seed breeding were one potential solution, as current seed varieties are seen as not adaptable enough to changes in climate and yield demands.

"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," Roger Kabore, president of Association Minim Song Panga (AMSP), a farmer-producer association in Burkina Faso, said at the forum. "We also must consider the preferences and the socio-economic conditions of the farmers using them."

In addition to creating a partnership to promote more seed development, the forum also decided to work on creating better connections between small farmers and various markets, particularly the livestock-feed market, which can also be a valuable outlet for millet and sorghum. Yet the systems in place remain small, and the partnering companies said the logistics in joining small farmers and markets might be problematic.

“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,” Heartland Global founder Lloyd Le Page 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.”
The World Bank said Africans are the world's largest consumers of millet, eating approximately 44 lbs. of the grain per capita annually.

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