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THE CHALLENGE

Sorghum and Millet InnovationsSorghum and finger millet have been essential
staple foods in the semi-arid tropics of Africa for centuries. In eastern Africa, they form an important part of diets of people in Ethiopia, southern Sudan, northern Kenya and Uganda. Nutritionally, the grains are equal or superior to other staple cereals as they are a good source of quality Protein and various minerals. Yet the yields of sorghum and finger millet remain very low – well below their genetic potential – partly due to the low research investment to address present productivity challenges including climate change compared to other mainstream crops. There is a need for more drought tolerant, disease and pest resistant varieties adoptable to low inputs in marginal lands.

This consortium is working to deliver sorghum and finger millet technologies that minimize the effects of climate change, raise productivity and increase income of sorghum and finger millet for farmers through development-oriented research and innovation activities in eastern Africa. The project proposes an approach that will employ both upstream and downstream technologies to enable development of new
tools for improvement of sorghum and finger millet productivity leading to the adoption of improved, disease- and drought- tolerant sorghum and finger millet varieties by the smallholder famers. The project will employ diverse research
approaches ranging from comparative genomic tools to field experiments and participatory onfarm activities. Specifically the project aims to:

  1. Identity, develop and deliver sorghum and millet technologies that improve productivity and mitigate the negative effects of climate change;
  2. Develop, promote and apply molecular tools to compliment conventional breeding activities for sorghum and finger millet in partner countriesincluding;
    • Assessment of regional genetic diversity of existing and new collections and identifying genes with drought tolerance and blast resistance in finger millet.
    • Mapping novel stay green quantitative trait locus (QTL) in sorghum
    • Develop molecular markers to compliment breeding for drought and disease resistance in sorghum and finger millet;
  3. Develop and promote value addition to sorghum and finger millet in partnership with the private sector as market for produce;

Application of biosciences to develop early maturing, drought and blast resistant finger millet and drought and disease resistant sorghum seeds suitable for different agro-ecological zones in eastern Africa.

  1.  A new cultivar of finger millet that is extra early maturing – matures in 80 days
    compared to typical 120 days – and that can grow in drier areas has been identified and currently undergoing regulatory validation in Kenya.
  2.  Finger millet genotypes evaluated and characterized for blast tolerance at
    molecular level.
  3.  Drought and disease tolerant novel sorghum and finger millet genotypes identified and evaluated on-farm.
  4. Genetic factors contributing to stay-green trait located in the sorghum genome for use in marker-assisted selection.
  5.  Modern tools including molecular markers and candidate genes that will help reduce the breeding process for the two crops demonstrated and transferred to national breeding programs in participating countries.
  6. Capacity of breeders to apply genomic tools in breeding programs in the region enhanced.

The next phase of the project will ensure taking the innovations to scale for impact. This will entail supporting and strengthening the already established innovation platform for sorghum and finger millet that assembles the right partners along the value chain, at least in the initial stages. The scientists in the consortium will  continuously apply biosciences to generate superior sorghum and finger millet lines
using modern genomic tools and address other productivity challenges. The varieties developed will be commercialized and promoted with the right partners including seed companies and community based organizations to ensure farmers
have access to these varieties. The consortium is actively engaging a food processor for value addition on sorghum and finger millet to establish a market and improve agribusiness opportunities for smallholder famers.

“This program is a vital ingredient to making sure small scale farmers across eastern Africa feel the security and potential of growing millets and also providing a reliable supply for private sector industries.”

Nirav Patel, Director Simple Foods Limited

sorghum-millet

Participating countries, institutions and organizations

Research Institutions

  1. Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
  2. Makerere University, Uganda
  3. Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research , Ethiopia
  4. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid-Tropics ICRISAT)
  5. Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institution (MARI)
  6. Maseno University, Kenya
  7. Moi University, Kenya
  8. University of Georgia (UGA-USA)

Research Institutes

 

 

Community based organizations

Community Rehabilitation and Environmental Protection Programme (CREP Programme)

CREP-LOGO

Private sector

Simple Foods Limited

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