Project partners meet in Koutiala
From 19 to 23 April 2010, 40 representatives of partner organizations working on the ICRISAT-Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project met in Koutiala in southeast Mali for a training program to facilitate the implementation of farmer participatory trials. The project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
The sorghum and pearl millet programs of the three national agricultural research systems, the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles and National Research Institute for Food and Nutrition, were represented. Similarly, farmers’ organizations from all the countries were present. The host was the Mali NGO, L’Association Malienne d’Eveil au Développement Durable (AMEDD), which will be implementing the project activities in Koutiala.
The AMEDD Director, Bougouna Sogoba, also served as the facilitator of this training program. He was widely appreciated for his good sense of humor and his ability to keep everyone involved and
focused. The training got off to a good start with a welcome dinner hosted in the yard of the Sinyege center in Koutiala.
The course started with a brainstorming session to identify changes required to ensure that farmers can produce 35-40% higher yields of sorghum and pearl millet in the target areas, based on partners’ experiences. The wide range of suggestions helped to shape the discussions
during the week in a constructive manner.
The group then moved on to discussing issues, methods, tools and record keeping for identifying villages, cropping systems and growing conditions in which yield increase would be targeted. Options of identifying appropriate fields and plots for experimentation were also discussed. The selection of farmers, who would conduct the trials on behalf of specific farmers’ organizations, or the village as a whole, was elaborated, especially in view of the sharing of responsibilities among researchers, local facilitators and farmers themselves.
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group worked on key methods to gather farmers’ evaluation and feedback on new varieties and other yield improving technologies.
The last day was dedicated to developing agreed procedures for seed exchange between partners and planning the preparation and sale of seed mini-packs. Plans for field demonstrations, and farmer managed mini-trials were also talked about.
The group agreed that seed producing agencies (private sector, farmer cooperatives and other initiatives) are responsible for seed production and marketing. All other mini variety trials will be conducted with a set of best bet agronomic practices, focusing on those that are easily adoptable by small-scale and women farmers.
The group reverted to their areas of work with a detailed plan of activities. The focus will be on the training of their colleagues and local partners, which is necessary to achieve the large-scale dissemination of technologies intended
by the project.