A millet variety is conquering the world

There is too little of everything: water, food, seed, fertile fields, even trees. This is typical of Abala region in the Sahel country of Niger. Local millet seed is the bringer of hope – the seed is appetising for humans, but the birds avoid it.

In Abala, hunger is part of daily life like snow in winter in other regions. There are multiple causes: on the one hand, the depleted soil doesn’t yield enough, because the soil is not nourished with compost and modern organic farming methods. On the other hand, there is not enough water to irrigate the fields during the dry season.

What is “Dan Tiguezefan”?

The local seed is the bringer of hope – at least since several farmers supervised by SWISSAID decided to propagate resilient millet from local varieties. This seed is subtly flavoursome and fast growing.

The “miracle variety” is known as “Dan Tiguezefan”; it is reputed to be one of the best varieties in the whole of Niger. “The entire world should know and be able to use our millet!”, says Yahaya Assoumane, President of the local farmers’ association.

Currently, the farmers’ association is campaigning to raise awareness and increase the quantities of the high-yield millet variety. They store seed in safe grain stores, which the farmers built with the support of SWISSAID, and distribute it to other farmers. The store is used like a bank: it accepts incoming and makes outgoing payments.

Reforestation

“The last harvest surpassed all expectations”, says Yahaya Assoumane with great satisfaction. It’s an important step to ensure that everyone has full stomachs. Millet panicles were large and full. The key factor was not only the grain’s mentioned qualities or care and nurturing by the farmers. “The birds stayed off our fields.”

In some places in earlier years the birds completely emptied the farmers’ fields just before the harvest. They had to watch helplessly as the animals devoured their ripe millet. In desperation, many farmers took an axe and felled the last trees where the birds were nesting.

SWISSAID educated the farmers and organised campaigns for reforestation and to plant saplings. Yet, despite this, as soon as the birds arrived, many farmers preferred to resort to the axe. “Until today, we haven’t been able to solve this problem”, says the President of the farmers’ association.

It is assumed that the birds simply prefer to eat other millet varieties. However, this finding is not definite. It’s certain that a new, refined, high-yield and local millet variety, which is available to the farmers, forms an initial and crucial step out of poverty and hunger.

 

  • Project code: NI 2/15/10
  • Project costs: 149,503.00 Swiss francs
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Beneficiaries: 14,136 women, men and children from 44 villages