Context Global Development (CGD) partnered with four organizations to implement the sorghum and millet in the Sahel (SMS) pilot program. The Realizing Agricultural Productivity Gains in the Sahel was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and was aimed at realizing agricultural productivity gains for smallholder farmers growing sorghum and pearl millet in the Sahelian zones of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria.
The majority of households in The Sahelian region of West Africa depend on sorghum & millet for their food security. These crops play a pivotal role in the lives of subsistence and smallholder farmers because of their relative drought resistance in a region that has among the highest rainfall variability in the world. Sahelian farmers are informed about sorghum & millet’s utility and rely on them to hedge against other crops, including maize, that are more sensitive to rainfall. Despite the importance of sorghum and millet in food security, they are characterized as orphan crops and have received limited support and research to date.
There are a number of potential solutions and interventions that could increase the value farmers get from the cultivation of these crops. These range from improved access to high-quality inputs and professional services to the development of formal linkages between farmer organizations and large buyers. But, because relatively little is understood about how the production of these crops feature into farmers’ livelihoods, and what that means for the investment choices they make, there is not a clear path forward.
The dual objectives of the two-year program were to 1) understand the most effective approaches to increase sorghum and millet productivity for smallholder farmers and 2) distill insights gained from the four pilot programs to inform future investment. This program set out to better understand how the production of these crops features into farmers’ livelihoods, and what that means for the investment choices they make.
By testing intervention hypotheses with farming households in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nigeria, the program sought to better understand how sorghum and millet features in smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and what investment choices they make regarding these crops.