Newsflash August 2018

Sorghum and pearl millet in spate irrigation

Sorghum and pearl millet are relatively forgotten miracle crops that need more attention. They are superpower crops with a lot of potential, especially in spate irrigated areas. On the 31st of July and 1st of August 2018, ICRISAT and the FBLNF organized a stakeholder workshop in Nairobi supported by NWO. The workshop was about enhancing sorghum and pearl millet through improved seed delivery systems in spate irrigated areas of Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

Researchers, breeders, seed suppliers/companies and farmers from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and The Netherlands were present. It were two intensive and inspiring days full of brainstorming and knowledge-sharing including presentations and discussions on gender involvement, youth involvement, M&E, communication, theory of change, stakeholder analysis and mapping of opportunities (click here for a summary video of the workshop). During the workshop, participants were interviewed to share their experiences and ideas on the opportunities of sorghum and pearl millet in spate irrigated areas. Click here for a video on this.

Not yet convinced about the opportunities of these crops? Read this blog about sorghum superpower on The Water Channel and read the infographics. If any suggestions on this topic, don’t hesitate to share them with us via sending an email to


Improved Flood Water Management Doubles Sorghum Yield in Gash Delta, Sudan

The Gash River is the main source of life for millions of people in the plains of Eastern Sudan. Over 80% of the Gash people depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, being irrigated agriculture, or livestock keeping. Other than the little rainfall of less than 200 mm/year, the Gash river is the only source of water in the area. The arable land in the Gash reaches more than 80,000 ha, while the actually cropped every year hardly exceeds 30,000 ha due to a combination of poor field water management and distribution, and over irrigation in some sections.
Under current practice, the Gash farmers adopt standard irrigation duration of 15 to 20 days for a 1000 feddan or 420 ha mesga (field) irrespective of the crop type. Water is supplied through a single inlet from a secondary canal and left to travel on its own throughout the large irrigation field often with undulating topography. The improvement interventions undertaken in one mesga combined two measures: a) dividing the mesga into two equal parts, and (b) constructing a 3.5 km tertiary canal with a weir to abstract water from an existing secondary canal and irrigate the downstream half of the mesga. These interventions resulted in doubling of the yield of Aklomoy, a local sorghum variety used for food and fodder, from 0.8 to 2 ton/ha.
The water management improvement intervention was praised by the donor (IFAD) mission in February 2018 as a pioneer research programme with high promise for informing a real impact on the ground. With the support of the IFAD, 60,000 Euros has been allocated for 2018 – HRC and MetaMeta are replicating the field experiment in collaboration with Plan International, a local NGO engaged in varied food security improvement programmes in Eastern Sudan. Plan International will lead the Upscaling effort in the following years. the impact of such field-level improved water management intervention is huge if up-scaled to the 80,000 ha currently annually irrigated in Gash delta. The average copped area can be increased by 20 to 30 % with the same amount of water, while at the same time doubling the production of the Aklamoy and growing high-value crops such as watermelon, green beans, and potatoes among others, with the residual moisture.

Digging a 3.5 km-long tertiary canal

More details can be appreciated at:

Gene bank for semi-arid crops

The ICRISAT Gene bank serves as a world repository for the collection of germplasm of the six mandate crops: sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeon pea, groundnut, finger millet; and five small millets: foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet, proso millet and barnyard millet. With over 126,830 germplasm accessions assembled from 144 countries through donations and collection missions, it is one of the largest international gene banks. Click here for a video. For more information visit the ICRISAT gene bank website.