Integrated Striga Control

In partnership with scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, this project, funded by a $5M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addresses food security concerns by increasing productivity of sorghum and enhancing its profitability and thus improving livelihoods of small-scale sorghum farmers in Striga endemic regions of Ethiopia and Tanzania. The Striga problem is severe in Africa that it demands a more lasting solution to assure food security. The objective of the project is to lead, in a participatory approach, stakeholders in each country in the development, promotion, and dissemination of sustainable Striga control technologies along a value chain. The project promotes the dissemination of field-tested, proven integrated Striga management (ISM) technologies in the short-term to provide immediate relief. Near-term solutions to the growing infestation of Striga are being achieved by expanding the use of control technologies that have been previously piloted. These include deployment of Striga resistant cultivars and existing agronomic solutions that offer relief to the Striga problem in a participatory approach with farm communities in selected villages. The project also undertakes a longer term, basic biological research to develop a deeper understanding of the seemingly intractable nature of the problem in the host-parasite association that has worsened the level of infestation of African crops by the parasitic weed, Striga. A pipeline of new research in molecular genetics, breeding, agronomy as well as new integrated technology package and activities for dissemination is vital to the long-term prospects and outcomes of this project.

To achieve these goals, the program establishes linkages among key institutions in each country to build and sustain a country-led program for Striga control. The participation of small and medium enterprises in the production and distribution of improved seed, fertilizers, credit, and other essential inputs is key among such linkages. The project aspires to generate sustained market demand for Striga control technologies by partnering with local institutions and public programs in each country as well as with new private entities that ensures greater synergy. We are seeking out relevant development assistance programs operating in each country to work towards the collective goal of advancing practical science-based solutions to major biological constraints to cereal production in Africa. We partner with lead farmers, farmer cooperatives, and extension services, as well as small private enterprises and input dealers in the community to promote the use of technologies that improve crop productivity and improve livelihood. We place major effort in generating market demand and seeking outlets that can promote the use of new technologies and agronomic inputs to achieve goals of enhanced crop productivity and improved profitability for smallholder farmers.

For a more lasting impact, the project places due emphasis to addressing the needs of human capacity building in discovery as well as translational research that contributes new knowledge and generate technologies. We are strengthening key local institutions that are vital in the development and deployment of improved crop cultivars and products in each country, and in increasing productivity and profitability to improve livelihoods. We are cognizant that sustainable, science-based, transformative changes in a society are only possible with strong human and institutional capacity. We are contributing to new knowledge generation, to enhancing capacity, to building partnerships, and to improving livelihoods. The project targets to increase sorghum farm yields on Striga infested fields by 50% and to extend this benefit to over 1.2 million farmers in the two countries during the first five years. Within ten years, the project aims to benefit over two million households in Tanzania and Ethiopia.