The seedball technology is a proven success in the Sahel region of Niger, one of the world's harshest cropping environments. The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet (SMIL) at Kansas State University initiated a research project in 2013 to help smallholder farmers increase pearl millet yield through better seedling establishment. The project, Seedballs - Enhancing the Yield Effect in Pearl Millet and Sorghum and Disseminating the Technology in West Africa, is a great success with over 6,000 farmers evaluating and adopting the innovation.
To stimulate adoption outside of initial target research-to-development villages, a novel dissemination strategy was pursued. Four vehicles each targeted 20 villages and, in each village, 10 test farmers were chosen, five men and five women. Follow-up visits were conducted by trainers to ensure that the seedballs were constructed according to best practice and planted at the best possible depth to stimulate germination and seedling establishment.
The caravan reached over 1,000 farmers in three regions of Niger. One of those farmers, Oumarou Adamou, said “I noticed a clear difference between the two ‘ball’ and ‘no ball’ plots at the level of emergence and during plant development. From the beginning of plant growth until maturity, the plants in the ‘ball’ plot keep their greenery until maturity. In terms of yield, the ‘ball’ plot gives a good yield compared to the ‘no ball’ plot.” In addition, 65% of farmers understood the method of technology, which led to 50-70% germination and yields that were 25% to more than 50% of the conventional sowing method.
Open Field Day Visit
The Open Field Day Visit was organized near the Waraou village situated east of Maradi in the Tibiri district. In attendance were over 100 government officials, researchers, farmer union leaders and farmers.
Abdoul-Rachid Maman Sani, FUMA Gaskiya technician in Maradi, said, “Producers enjoyed the Open Day Visit very much and were delighted with the experience and the exchange of information.”
Another Open Field Day Visit participant, Madina Alassan, a farmer who tested the seedball technology provided by the caravan, said, “This technology deserves to be applied on a large scale and I am ready to conduct its trials even next year. We thank you very much for the welcome and for the Open Field Day Visit, which allowed me to discover new innovations. I suggest increasing the number of participants in the day and the continuity of this project in my village and the training of producers on the seedball [technology].”
Overall, the project is considered a success, with many local farmers and officials saying they saw better yields and growth from the seedballs. Dr. Hannatou Moussa Oumaro, a researcher at the National Institute of Agronomic Research of Niger (l’Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger - INRAN) and member of the SMIL team said, “Adoption of technology is such an important part of our research. Our goal is to see lives improved by the work we do, and getting reports from farmers that they have increased yield and income proves we are doing just that.”
"Adoption of technology is such an important part of our research. Our goal is to see lives improved by the work we do, and getting reports from farmers that they have increased yield and income proves we are doing just that."
Furthermore, building local interest and trust has played a key part in stimulating farmer interest in experimentation on this technology across the region and the development of new variations with locally available inputs. SMIL Director, Dr. Timothy Dalton said, “The team developed a great innovation network to adapt the seedballs to local conditions. Through the caravan project, we took a proven technology one step further, and spread it to strategic locations to stimulate diffusion to a wider population.”
For more information about the seedball technology and other SMIL projects, please visit https://smil.k-state.edu/seedballs.