5) Smallholder farmers to benefit from second phase of tropical legumes project (23 Feb 2012)

Hyderabad, India 23 February 2012. A second phase of an agricultural research for development project aimed at improving the livelihoods of poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has been recently agreed on. This is one of seven grants which Bill Gates announced today in Rome at the 35th Session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This announcement, nearly $200 million in grants, brings the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s total commitment to agriculture to more than $2 billion since the program began in 2006.

The three-year, US$21 million project known as Tropical Legumes II (TL II), is part of a ten year plan which seeks to improve the livelihoods of 60 million smallholder farmers and their families in 15 countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It is also expected to bring about US$ 1.3 billion in added value to the productivity of the target crops, namely: chickpea, common bean, cowpea, groundnut, pigeonpea and soybean.

Grain legumes contribute to the livelihoods, health and nutrition of more than 700 million poor people in the dryland tropics of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The project will help smallholder farmers overcome productivity constraints such as drought, pest and disease problems, and unavailability and lack of access to quality seed of improved legume varieties.

With this additional support from the foundation, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and sister Centers, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), together with several national program, private sector, and NGO partners work closely with smallholder farmers to ensure that seed of improved varieties from the project reach farmers’ fields.

“If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation. “Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated and focused to really be effective in helping poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering, and build self-sufficiency.”

The first phase of the project has already made valuable impact. More than 60 new varieties of tropical legumes have been released in several countries and 93,000 metric tons of seeds of improved legume varieties produced have reached 240,000 smallholder farmers, who together with extension workers, have been trained on improved farming practices.

In particular, the role of women in producing food and making decisions about family nutrition needs has been recognized. Likewise, the project has strengthened the capacities of national agricultural research systems in partner countries.

The next phase of the project will focus on gender specific aspects of tropical legume production, marketing and consumption. Moreover, particular emphasis will be given to location-specific monitoring and evaluation, impact assessment, data management and increased seed production and delivery. The project will also emphasize sustained capacity strengthening of national agricultural research systems in the two regions.

ICRISAT Director General, William Dar highlighted that the second phase, spread over three years, is a very important step to share economic and nutritional benefits to poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

“By the end of 2014, we will have reached an additional 10 million smallholder farmer households. This is a very significant achievement, and we appreciate the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for our work and that of our partners,” Dar stressed.

ICRISAT, CIAT and IITA belong to the Consortium of Centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Video on “Changing Chickpea Culture in Ethiopia”, an impact story of the Tropical Legumes II project,
can be found here: http://youtu.be/FDJYeaZygf0

Tsedeke Abate t.d.abate@cgiar.org
CLL Gowda c.gowda@cgiar.org  


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