How We Do It
The SMIL research network is a consortium of in-country teams linked to USDA, U.S. universities, and other higher education institutions around the world that leverages the expertise of the private sector.
Our focus countries are Ethiopia, Haiti, Niger and Senegal, with global and regional benefits to Burkina Faso, Togo, Haiti, and the U.S.A.
Our portfolio of research projects and technology delivery is based on engaging actors at the inception. This “first mile and last mile” approach supports a co-creation process of research and technologies that lead to higher adoption rates. With SMIL, the inclusion of local capacity development and early career researchers encourages solution providers to think about current challenges, sustainability, and adoption of technology for long-term impact.
SMIL Technologies provide solutions widely researched in the countries’ natural environments and adopted by the local communities.
A technology pipeline is in place with a continuous development and feedback of technologies moving to scalable uptake from Phase 1 under research (ideation) to Phase 4 demonstrated uptake (commercialization/scaling).
Ethiopia has a unique and ancient heritage and is considered by some to be one of the world’s oldest countries. Its enormous and rich agro ecologies supported a birthplace and evolution of thousands of landrace sorghum lines. This has provided the source of modern global sorghum plant breeding across the globe. Ethiopia is considered the center of origin and diversity of sorghum.
What started as a project focused on genomics-assisted sorghum breeding has evolved into a larger project in Haiti, focused on durable adaptation to sugarcane aphid and drought for smallholder sorghum breeders. The project in Haiti aims to develop genomic approaches from within a National Agricultural Research System (NARS) breeding program to reduce barriers for adoption.
Niger was historically positioned along the trading crossroads of multi-ancient empires and is now a part of the larger West African community and Sahelian agro ecology climate zone. Niger is one center of genetic origin of pearl millet and many traditional food dishes are based on pearl millet as a nutritious, ancient grain. Pearl millet has adapted in the harsh Sahelian climates to become one of the most heat- and drought-tolerant cereal crops in the world.
Senegal is located on the western coast of Africa and is a vibrant commercial, tourism and cultural hub for West Africa. Pearl millet and sorghum are key staple crops in rural communities and there is a demand for food products based on these ancient grains on the modern food tables of the capital Dakar and other urban centers. Senegal hosts the regional Center of Excellence for Research on adaptation to drought and heat stress for dryland cereals and legumes.