Fostering women’s leadership in seed productions systems in Niger
Women make up over a quarter of the 2400 farmers trained on improved crop production and seed systems by the HOPE Project in Niger. Some 631 women have benefited over the last three years through varietal testing, demonstration trials and, farmers’ field schools. Kouli Djibo, a millet producer in Falwel, Niger, participated in the Integrated Genetic and Natural Resource Management (IGNRM) demonstration trials conducted by scientists in the HOPE Project. Here she tells us her story.
I am Kouli Djibo. I grow millet, cowpea and sesame in Falwel and am a member of the Falwel Union of producers. By taking part in the HOPE project trials, I have learnt to improve my grain yields. I gained a lot of knowledge on field clearing, planting, applying fertilizer according to a specific timetable, as well as monitoring the plants in the field until harvest.
I also learnt about the correct application of organic manure. Before the training, I could barely get 50 sheaves of millet, but thanks to the knowledge acquired during field schools and IGNRM testing trials, I am now able to harvest 100-120 millet sheaves per hectare.
These high yields have improved my household food security and revenue. I produced ICRI-Tabi, because it is particularly resistant to pest borer attacks. Also it is a short growing cycle millet containing iron, which is good for the body. The training has changed my life. Before, I did not even have enough to eat but now I am able to produce enough to feed my family and sell part of the production to pay school fees for my two children in the capital city Niamey.
I am certain that the HOPE project training will have a lasting impact. Like me, producers who participated in the demonstration trials and training activities will continue to use what they learnt to improve the way they cultivate their farms and produce grain. I expect that many women famers will take benefit from the project activities. I gained a lot of knowledge about farming techniques through the training. Now I am even teaching men quality millet production so this has also changed my status in the village.
Background on how the HOPE project is working with farmers in Falwel
Falwel, which lies 197 kilometers from Niger’s capital city Niamey, is home to about 40,600 farming households. The region’s heavy dependence on agriculture has, however, been severely tested by several decades of severe drought. Poor soils, low rainfall and limited access to agricultural inputs have long made farming very difficult, inefficient and less attractive. Access to improved seeds has been a major problem and farmers grew one single and not well-adapted variety, which they called “mil tardif” or “late maturing millet”, which has a long growth cycle that is unsuitable for their region’s rainfall.
HOPE project intervention has been changing the situation in this region.The Falwel producers union is growing rapidly thanks to the support of ICRISAT, McKnight Seeds and now the HOPE Project. Training and capacity building on crop production and Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISSFM) has attracted new members to join and today the union boasts of 3,167 members, including 1,692 women. Improved pearl millet varieties (e.g. ICMV-IS 89305, Mil de Siaka and SOSAT-C88) were tested and are currently produced. Input shops were created to facilitate direct access to improved millet seed. The union also created grain banks to prevent food crises in those villages found to be most vulnerable to food insecurity.
By Agathe Diama & Alina Paul-Bossuet