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SAFGRAD Phase 1

SAFGRAD Phase 1 (1977-1986)

 

 By 1978, SAFGRAD was fully operational in most of the 26 OAU member states. Over the following eight years, it built up its capacity to coordinate a wide range of activities. By 1986, this coordination encompassed the following activities:

 

•  Research by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on improvements in maize and cowpea production;

•  Research by the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) on improvements in sorghum, millet and groundnut production;

•  Farming systems research by Purdue University , USA ;

•  Strengthening NARS programmes through training, workshops, conferences and other technical meetings;

•  Establishing close links between national agricultural research and extension services.

Major achievements under SAFGRAD Phase 1 can be summarized as:

(a) Generating technologies to meet food grain farmers' needs

SAFGRAD phase 1 focused on characterizing the semi-arid zone ecologies, on identifying the critical factors which constrain food grain production in these ecologies and on regional research to develop crop varieties and technologies relevant to farmers' needs.

The results of SAFGRAD's research coordination efforts can be divided into two main categories:

•  Establishment of effective regional research coordination and collaboration between IITA, ICRISAT and the NARS in the semi-arid areas of Africa ;

•  Coordination of research for improved farmers' grain production by developing improved varieties of maize, sorghum, millet and cowpea adapted to the different agro-ecological conditions.

The improved crop varieties are drought tolerant, early maturing, resistant to the major pests and diseases, and high yielding. SAFGRAD undertook the distribution of these varieties for extensive regional evaluation trials so that NARS could identify and select varieties suitable for use in their country programmes.

SAFGRAD also coordinated research into the development of more efficient water conservation technologies in order to support sustained crop production. Soil fertility in fragile soils has been enhanced through the use of crop residues, animal manures and readily available and fertilizers, especially locally sourced rock phosphates.

To increase farmers' productive capacity, it was necessary to look into ways of reducing their dependence on time-consuming, labour-intensive farming operations. SAFGRAD research collaborators developed several labour-saving devices which were proved to be successful. Among these are animal traction devices such as the mechanical ridge-tier. Tied-ridging is an agronomical and economically effective technology which has been shown to increase cereal production in semi-arid soils.

In a location in Burkina Faso , maize yield increases of up to 100 per cent were achieved by the adoption of this technology. Other benefits of tied-ridging include reduced soil erosion from run-off during rains, risk aversion for the farmer in the use of fertilizers, increased soil moisture which allows the breakdown of local phosphate fertilizers, and reduced losses of organic residues.

SAFGRAD also turned its attention to cropping systems. By using traditional systems, food grain farmers in semi-arid Africa produced low crop yields. Research coordinated by SAFGRAD has resulted in the development of more efficient crop combination techniques, which have helped farmers to increase yields and diversify crop production.

•  Technology transfer

  Lack of effective transfer of new technologies from research stations to farmers in the field was a major constraint to increased food grain production. SAFGRAD responded to this weakness by establishing the Accelerated Crop Production Officers Programme . This programme served as a link between national agricultural research institutions, extension services and farmers.

Extension agents helped the transfer of improved crop varieties and crop production technologies to farmers, and with the provision of information from farmers to researchers concerning production constraints.

•  Training and information exchange

  The training of research scientists and technicians was a major activity during this period. The primary aim of the SAFGRAD training programme was to strengthen NARS by helping to build up the number of appropriately trained researchers and technicians in food grain research. Training activities involving short-term in-service training in the IARCs provided extensive opportunities for trainees to acquire knowledge and improve their competence and skills in food grain research.

Between 1980 and 1985, SAFGRAD organized training for several national scientists at PhD levels in various aspects of food grain research. In addition hundreds of scientists and technicians participated in SAFGRAD-sponsored short term training courses on food grain production techniques.

Information exchange between researchers was facilitated through workshops, seminars, technical meetings and conferences. The publication of technical newsletters, reports, conference proceedings and books such as Food Grain Production in Semi-Arid Africa helped disseminate vital research information to all food grain research scientists working in Africa 's semi-arid regions.

 

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