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International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

First cycle of Treaty Benefit-sharing Fund projects teams farmers with scientists and fields with labs

14/03/2011

Stories have been harvested from the first cycle of Treaty Benefit-sharing Fund projects and are presented in a series of fact sheets now available online at the Treaty Web site. The 11 grants were announced at GB3 and the two-year projects are now reaching their halfway points. In addition to their critical field work that includes the world’s major crops, as well as some lesser known but still vital varieties and their crop wild relatives, the projects have opened opportunities for dialogue by teaming farmers and scientists and encouraging them to compare and share what they know – bringing together the best practices of both farmers’ traditional knowledge and researchers’ modern techniques. The following highlights two of the projects.

Kenya: Improving finger millet, then returning it to farmers’ fields

Although a traditional staple in West Africa, finger millet has faced declining productivity over the last 50 years, mainly because farmers are still using unimproved local varieties and traditional sowing methods. The Treaty Benefit-sharing Fund Project has conducted a baseline survey on finger millet production in the area and established experimental plots across western Kenya to identify and cross finger millet genotypes. In just the first year of the projects, one of the project’s crosses has been found resistant to witch weed (Striga hermontheca) and two of the crosses have proven resistant to lodging and disease and have higher yields than unimproved varieties.

India: Women’s group completes food chain from field to market

A women’s self help group established by the Treaty Benefit-sharing Project in India not only improved family nutrition and food security through adopting and producing high-yielding and drought-resistant local varieties of cassava identified by the project, they also have managed to complete the food chain from field to market. The group members have worked together to develop new cassava products for the market such as cassava breads and cakes and in some cases, incomes have quadrupled. They also have propagated and shared planting materials with neighbours. In addition to the women’s group, planting materials and seeds of improved varieties have been distributed to local farmers who are studying the varieties’ adaptability to their respective farms.

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