$225m research to boost dry land cereals production

Saturday February 16 2013

By LILIAN OCHIENG Special Correspondent

A research programme geared towards boosting neglected crops to increase food security in sub-Saharan Africa has been launched, with a budget of $225 million.

The Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals Programme, which is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) situated in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, is geared towards reducing world hunger, malnutrition and poverty while ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources.

The researchers have begun their first study on millet, sorghum and barley to achieve an increase in farm-level crop productivity and total crop production of at least 16 per cent within a period of 10 years.

Chief executive officer at the CGIAR consortium Frank Rijsberman said that with increased research on neglected crops, grain production is expected to rise by a total of 11 million metric tonnes to reach a total value of $20 billion, along with increases in animal feed and fodder with a value of about $10 billion.

“Our target is to benefit about 5.8 million smallholder farmers and around 34 million total beneficiaries by way of improved food quantity, quality and security,” said Mr Rijsberman.

According to William Dar, director general at International Crops Research Institute grain legumes are crucial for ending child malnutrition.

“The reason why the research is concentrating on dry land cereals is because they provide food security to the poor. They are vital for the sustainability of mixed crop and livestock farming and provide generic resources for adaptation to harsh environments,” said Dr Dar.

The 10-year CGIAR Research Programme on Grain Legumes focuses on improving chickpea, common bean, cowpea, groundnut, faba bean, lentil, pigeonpea and soybean crops grown by poor smallholder families in five target regions.