From Magnificent, Terraced Rice Paddies in Madagascar to the Splendid Hilltop Maize Canopies in Togo

Seed Systems Group is excited to announce that it has received support from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IRDC) to conduct farmer participatory research to identify and extend improved, climate-resilient crop varieties among farming communities in Madagascar and Togo.

The beauty and tranquility depicted by the above pictures belies a precarious situation which requires urgent and sustainable intervention. The percentage of people living below the poverty line is 75% in Madagascar.  In Togo it is 58%. The average rate of child malnutrition in Madagascar is 50%, while in Togo it stands at 32%. The percentage of people who earn their living from agriculture in both countries is over 60%.

Climate change, with its attendant droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events, as well as new crop pest and disease complexes, is having a negative impact on food systems development in many countries of Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused increased hunger and food shortages across much of Africa, with a large portion of the fallout from failing agricultural systems being absorbed by women.

Broad experience in Africa has shown that adoption of high-quality certified seed results in increased yields and incomes for smallholder farmers. Crop breeding programs of the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) and leading national agricultural research institutes in Africa have developed hundreds of improved crop varieties of Africa’s major food crops.  However, with some exceptions, these varieties have not been tested for release in the two target countries, and as result are not available to farmers. With a combined population of 36 million, Madagascar and Togo represent promising scenarios for conducting this research and quickly extending the results to smallholder farmers in the form of new seed.

Madagascar and Togo have the basic research facilities and trained personnel required for conducting analyses of crop varietal performance, but due to lack of funds to support these activities they have failed to access and test the most promising recent varieties. The main crops grown in Madagascar include rice, maize, sorghum, cassava, beans, cowpea, Bambara nut, and vegetables.  In Togo, the main crops are maize, cowpea, rice, soybean, sorghum, groundnut, and vegetables.

Premised on the strong belief that the development of input supply systems should be an organic process, based on farmer needs and the ability of local initiatives to supply those needs on a regular, dependable basis, the initiative will seek to avoid prescriptive solutions by employing farmer-led methodologies of conducting the assessments.  The initiative will study local farming systems and the roles of women and youth in rural communities to identify which crops, crop traits, and seed supply systems are likely to provide the greatest benefit to the broader farming population.  

SSG will work closely with Madagascar’s National Center for Applied Research on Rural Development (FOFIFA) and the Togolese Institute of Agronomic Research,  ITRA (Institut Togolais de Recherche Agricole) in conducting effective evaluations in both on-station and on-farm environments.

“The distribution of small sample packs of improved varieties, an extension technique that SSG has mastered well, for testing by smallholder farmers in Madagascar’s Great South and Vakinankaratra region, will help to increase their production and their incomes, improving their livelihoods”, said Mbosa RABENASOLO, an experienced Malgasy agronomist and seed systems specialist.

Noudifoulè TCHALA, the national leader of ITRA’s maize program, added, “The Togolese seed sector is well poised to play its role in agricultural development. The support from IDRC through the comes at the right time to help consolidate the government’s efforts in restructuring this sector to improving agricultural productivity through the adoption of quality seeds of improved varieties by small farmers”.

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