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close this bookSPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 62 (CTA Spore, 1996, 16 p.)
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View the documentICRISAT Sahelian Center (ISC)
View the documentPRECONS Reforestation and soil conservation in the Sahel

ICRISAT Sahelian Center (ISC)

The Sahelian Centre, in Niamey, Niger, is ICRISAT's principal research base for the Sahelian region of West Africa. The primary areas of focus at ISC are the improvement of pearl millet, the area's principal crop, and the development of farming systems suited to sustainable agriculture in the harsh conditions of the semi-arid tropics (SAT). ISC also serves as an administrative centre for ICRISAT's Western and Central African Region which includes two smaller research stations, in Mali and Nigeria, where research focuses on sorghum and groundnut.

The objectives of ICRISAT's programmes at the Sahelian Center are:

· to serve as a regional center for the improvement of grain yield and quality in pearl millet

· to develop improved and sustainable farming systems that will help to increase and stabilize agricultural production through more effective use of natural and human resources in the Sahelian zone

· to identify constraints to sustainable agriculture in the West African SAT and evaluate means of alleviating them through technological, institutional and policy changes, and

· to assist in the development and transfer of technology to the farmer through cooperation with national and regional research programmes and networks by sponsoring workshops, conferences, and training programmes; and by assisting in extension activities.

Research at ISC

The pearl millet improvement team at ISC is involved in the incorporation of resistances to yieldreducing abiotic and biotic stress factors and the development of adapted varieties and improved genetic material with high and stable yield. The outputs screening techniques, improved genetic material and varieties, integrated pest management techniques, research information, human resource development - are all available to National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS).

The programme to improve the management of farming systems aims to promote more sustainable exploitation of natural resources while satisfying food and feed needs. Part c of this work involves ' identifying constraints to sustainable agriculture and evaluating options for alleviating them through technological, institutional and policy changes. Other activities at ISC include an infrastructure for backstopping research in NARS with modern facilities and internationally recruited experts in statistics, training, and information. ISC scientists have introduced mapping techniques of benefit to the NARS with their work in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and aerial photography using remote control.

Intercenter collaboration

ISC collaborates with several other international research centres with an interest in Sahelian agriculture: the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Live stock Research Institute (ILRI), and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPRGI). In addition, ISC hosts the West and Central African Millet Research Network (WCAMRN) and is the convening centre for the recently formed eco-regional Desert Margins Initiative (DMI). The West and Central African Sorghum Research Network (WCASRN) is located at the ICRISAT Mali office in Samanko. The contributions of these organizations allow an effective integrated approach to research. ISC's field and laboratory facilities include 220 ha of plots suitable for experiments with plants and animals, plant and soil laboratories, crop drying facilities for assessing the feeding values of forages and conducting in-depth investigations on nutrient cycling, short- and long-term seed storage, and a tree nursery

The unique intercenter collaboration at ISC also facilitates: improved zonal research coordination and the identification of research issues of mutual interest through ongoing work with the NARS; training of national technicians and scientists through short- and long-term courses by providing financial assistance, technical guidance, and research facilities for graduate students; information dissemination through conferences, workshops and training courses. ·

ICRlSAT Sahelian Center BP 12404, Niamey NIGER Tel +227 722529, 722626 Fax +227 734329 E-mail ICRISATSC@CGNETCOM

PRECONS Reforestation and soil conservation in the Sahel

PRECONS (Programme regional de reboisement et de conservation des sols au Sahel - The Regional Programme for Reforestation and Soil Conservation in the Sahel) is responsible for strengthening regional cooperation within the Sahel for soil and water conservation. The work, which is carried out under the auspices of the Permanent International Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) has been continuing for five years and is based on experience gained in Cape Verde.

The first phase of the programme was launched when it was felt that there was a suitable level of technical competence available within the services responsible. At the same time public awareness and regional cooperation were such that the programme had a good chance of success. A tree-planting scheme was carried out on 4,700 hectares on three islands of Cape Verde. The first phase, which used anti-soil erosion techniques already proven to be effective in the islands, provided the practical experience for a second phase. This was aimed at transferring soil and water conservation techniques to other countries in the Sahel region. The second phase included the training of 350 officers at a number of courses organized in Cape Verde and in all other CILSS member countries (except Niger), and the production of training and information publications as well as a manual and thirty technical leaflets.

Research shows that a poor level of commitment and participation by rural people can be explained only in part by cultural attitudes and a low level of literacy. The way in which intervention policies are handled, the nature of the relationship between people and institutions, and the appropriateness or otherwise of teaching methods, also have a bearing. It was with this in mind that PRECONS designed its information materials (posters, booklets etc.) and its manual on rural development. The manual, which was published in 1994, is designed for development workers and provides a practical look at all the situations that they may have to cover, including:

· planning a programme of intervention
· preparations for carrying out the programme
· organizing work sessions
· promoting complementary activities
· preparing an evaluation at the end of the programme, and
· establishing follow-up procedures once the programme is complete.

The manual does not pretend to be a definitive work on the subject. It attempts to make a contribution to education within the context of the Sahel and any suggestions for making it more appropriate to Sahelian conditions would be welcomed.

BenoDelaite et Mario
Project PRECONS c/o Delegation UF
CP 122, Praia
CAPE VERDE or Project PRECONS c/o CILSS, 03 BP 7049, Ouagadougou 03, BURKINA FASO