The CROPS4HD program takes place in four SWISSAID countries. In Niger, it revalorizes forgotten traditional crops that hold great nutritional potential for peasant families. Resistant and adapted to the climate, they are a real solution to the problems faced by Nigerien families.
This project responds to the call for proposals launched by the SDC ‘s Global Food Security Program and is prepared by the consortium consisting of SWISSAID, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). It has the following objectives:
- Make traditional crops and varieties more attractive by demonstrating their nutritional benefits
- Support family farmers to improve their farming techniques
- Strengthen farmers’ seed systems and protect their rights to disseminate, exchange and sell their own seed
Vandzou, Fonio, Lablab, Niébé, Taro, Yams…if you have never heard of these species, it is not necessarily because you do not have a vegetable garden or have never been to Africa. The answer lies in our ignorance of hundreds of ancient varieties of cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables. This is not surprising, since in recent decades more common crops such as corn, rice and wheat have invaded fields around the world and supplanted traditional crops that are thousands of years old.
If these new crops promised to feed the entire population at lower cost and with unparalleled yields, it was without taking into account climate change and a long-term vision. Over time, these monocultures impoverish the soil and prove to be unsuitable for the changing and capricious climate. As a result, in Niger, for example, 49% of children under the age of 5 suffer from food insecurity, with an increasing trend since 2014 . “Our country is regularly faced with food insecurity and the malnutrition rate is very high. We have local foods with high nutritional value and low cost that could save us from hunger, but they are not sufficiently exploited, neither in production nor in consumption,” explains Sahadatou Saley, coordinator of the NGO Kundji Kondo.
This NGO works with SWISSAID Niger on the CROPS4HD project (Consumption of Resilient Orphan Crops & Products for Healthier Diets). In collaboration with FIBL (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture) and AFSA (Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa), and supported by the SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), the project aims to revalorize and promote the dissemination of forgotten or underused seeds.
The project in video
The project encourages the population to plant high potential seeds. This is done by making these seeds and small agricultural equipment available, training in agroecological techniques, promoting the properties of these plants through technical sheets, setting up seed fairs bringing together all the actors in the production chain and advocating for the right to produce one’s own seeds. “The goal is to develop the market around these neglected crops and to create synergy between actors, consumers, traders, transporters and producers. It is also a challenge to revalue the so-called neglected crops that are produced in healthy conditions and that can improve food security”, explains Ibrahim Hamadou, SWISSAID Niger collaborator and responsible for the CROPS project in Africa.
A farmer in the project now grows moringa and millet in his fields. He plants them during the rainy season and can then sell them at the market in the dry season. The farmer says that moringa leaves sell very easily and at a good price on the market and that the yield is clearly superior to monocultures.
The program, which is being carried out in 4 countries, is attracting local enthusiasm. Especially among farmers who are in the front line of the disastrous consequences of climate change.
These seeds are real solutions, inexpensive and accessible to all. And they allow us to see the future with hope. “There is potential in Niger, and this is what we must promote, this is our identity, this is our culture as Sahelians, and this is what we must change in the future,” says Ibrahim Hamadou with pride. And this is precisely what the CROPS project intends to initiate.
A useful experience
SWISSAID has been able to draw on its long experience in agroecology. By experimenting and working hand in hand with the populations for decades, we have acquired an experience that benefits our future and ambitious projects. Moreover, our presence being well established, we benefit from the network for the implementation of the project and this contributes to its good conduct.