As a sign of continued partnership, a delegation from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Mali paid a visit to ICRISAT on October 5, 2023, to deepen their understanding of the organization's activities and explore avenues for enhanced cooperation.
Head of Communications and Smart Food Program Coordinator (ICRISAT-West and Central Africa), Ms. Agathe Diama, presented ICRISAT and its activities in the region, highlighting the positive impact of the organization's work in crop enhancement, integrated crop management, and value chain development—with a particular focus on millet, sorghum, and peanuts.
These initiatives are integral to the Smart Food program, promoting biofortification practices, transforming local products for healthier and sustainable nutrition, and enhancing the livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
In West Africa, the Kingdom of the Netherlands has established a robust partnership with ICRISAT under the Integrated Seed Sector Development in the Sahel (ISSD/Sahel) project. This multi-year project, which runs from 2020 to 2024 and is financed by the Netherlands, has a primary objective of strengthening the seed sector, with a significant emphasis on Mali and Niger.
Within the ISSD/Sahel project, ICRISAT is tasked with producing first-generation seeds for priority crops, ultimately fostering a stable and self-sustaining agricultural sector geared towards commercialization.
To date, more than twenty (20) farmer cooperatives have already been trained in basic seed production, and over 97,000 first-generation seeds have been produced. Additionally, twelve (12) seed production units from the Rural Economy Institute of Mali and eight (8) from the National Institute of Agronomic Research in Niger have been engaged and fortified to produce basic and pre-basic seeds for the project's target crops.
"Over 130 agricultural jobs (short and medium term) have been created. Twenty-one (21) contracts, including thirteen (13) in Mali and eight (8) in Niger, have been signed for pre-ordering first-generation seeds to be produced during the 2024 winter campaign," said Mr. Sidi Touré, the ICRISAT focal point within the ISSD/Sahel project.
Acknowledging the successes of the partnership thus far, Mr. Moumouni Damango, Sustainable Development Advisor at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Mali, highlighted the importance of capacity-building programs to secure the project's long-term success.
"Beyond food security, it is crucial to implement capacity-building programs for youth and women who play a central role in product transformation and commercialization. The goal is to create a positive ripple effect. However, there are many challenges to address, including the presence of aflatoxins in products. ICRISAT is actively working on these challenges, and we are confident that we can overcome them in the Sahel region. Our objective is to ensure food security for the population, even in the context of climate change, by adapting and enhancing our resilience," Mr. Damango shared.
He further expressed his aspiration to see the knowledge and insights generated in West Africa reach farmers and producers, thereby promoting responsible consumption and regional prosperity.
The visit continued with a tour of ICRISAT's millet, sorghum, and peanut trial fields, as well as the pathology laboratory and the seed storage room for millet, sorghum, and peanuts.
In closing, Dr. Mohamed Riyazuddin, Millet Breeder at ICRISAT, thanked the delegation for the Kingdom of the Netherlands' support to ICRISAT and its partners' research activities.
"In the face of increasingly complex agricultural and food security challenges, collaboration becomes our most powerful tool. This partnership with the Kingdom of the Netherlands exemplifies our shared commitment to sustainable development and food security in the region."
The team from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands comprised Mr. Moumouni Damango, Sustainable Development Advisor; Mr. Konimba Doumbia, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager for the ISSD/Sahel project at the Embassy of the Netherlands; Ms. Astrid Mastenbroek, First Secretary in charge of water and food security at the Embassy of the Netherlands; and Ms. Marion Janse, Policy Officer for food security and nutrition at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.