During a site visit in April 2023, members of the SMIL team from Kansas State University and Dr. Alemu Tirfessa from the national sorghum program in Ethiopia joined the in-country team in Madagascar to review progress on current short-term projects and identify long-term opportunities for further planning.

In-the-Field Learning and Collaboration Key to Evolving Madagascar Sorghum Growth

Adaptation to climate change is critical to overall food security in Madagascar. Sorghum, pearl millet and groundnut food systems are well-suited to Madagascar and are growing in demand across Africa due to their resilience to extreme conditions of heat, drought, climate variability and poor soils.

At the request of USAID-Madagascar, an initial sorghum value chain assessment was completed in 2022. Key entry points to improve smallholder and commercial sector performance were identified including increased access to improved sorghum and pearl millet seed varieties and hybrids, identification of optimal planting dates and seeding rates, and the development of value-added products for food and feed and overall development of the value chain. 

A field-level survey in six regions was carried out to better define production challenges, market and food security gaps and identification of key partners by region.

The Global Collaboration on Sorghum and Millet (GCSM) has been engaged to enhance sorghum production, strengthen markets and support national coordination in close partnership with both public and private partners in Madagascar.  

During a site visit in April 2023, members of the SMIL team from Kansas State University and Dr. Alemu Tirfessa from the national sorghum program in Ethiopia joined the in-country team in Madagascar to review progress on current short-term projects and identify long-term opportunities for further planning.

The team has been incredibly excited to see the willingness and interest of public and private stakeholders across the industry and the national interest in collaboration. These efforts have the potential to enhance biodiversity, grow seed systems and increase sorghum value for various upstream industries, including human and livestock consumption.

The team focused on continuing cross-learning with Dr. Tirfessa, who leads the sorghum research program under the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). The research team in Madagascar is working across many sorghum parental lines and varieties, and they appreciated the opportunity to strengthen their understanding of sorghum through support visits from Dr. Alemu and cross-learning field visits to Ethiopia. The hands-on, in-the-field approach is unbeatable and priceless, making the in-person visit a worthy investment in this program to make a difference quickly for sorghum improvement.

To further enhance the seed availability and development of the open-

pollinated varieties in Madagascar, the team has focused on a Pan-African approach to seed sharing. This approach provides the opportunity for advanced open-pollinated varieties that have been developed across Africa and have great potential for adaptation to Madagascar to support grain and forage production. When shared, the research provides maximum value and return on investment while helping more producers and consumers. 

A strong network of public and private partners is collaborating on initial adaptation studies, seed multiplication, and food/feed product development. Six regional field sites have been identified for adaptation trials for the seed shared by our PanAfrica partners and U.S.-based seed companies. 

First, the sorghum seed will undergo adaptation trials with FOFIFA and local industry partners. After the open-pollinated varieties and hybrids are deemed appropriate for the local environments, the seed will go into the seed system for multiplication. Then, the focus will shift to delivery to large mechanized and smallholder farmers to support increased production levels.  

Market development in partnership with large feed companies is also underway where there is a growing need to replace up to 25% of maize with sorghum in poultry feed formulations.  

The GCSM and the Feed the Future Lab for Peanut will be implementing a two-year USAID-funded project to rapidly develop these value chains.