This is a sector wide project which serves to provide rural farmers with the seed of improved varieties of field crop species developed by ISRA, the Senegalese agricultural research organization. In my first year I have givens small amounts of seed to 15 farmers in my village and surrounding villages. From seeding to harvest and storage I have monitored the plot of land on which the seed I provided was sown, offering advice and recommended practices along the way. The seed given was non-GMO synthetic corn, millet, sorghum, and cowpea (beans). I visited each field about every ten days throughout the growing season. At harvest, farmers are required to return twice the amount of seed I gave them. I have taught them to select prime grain to be stored as seed to be planted next year. This seed will retain some of the improved traits for up to four years (depending on the species). If the farmer liked the performance of the seed it is in their interest to store their seed well. Seed only one generation old can be sold as improved seed to other farmers. I have also worked with each of them to store their seed so it will be safe from pests and other damage until the next seeding time.
I have calculated the yield of the fields planted with improved seed as best I could and this information will lend to the field research databank for these improved varieties. Now that I have seen a fall rainy season I have a better understanding of the local cropping systems and will be able to more accurately monitor these fields next year. I have gathered considerable qualitative information from the farmers involved regarding how they liked the performance of the seed; the phenotype of the plant and grain, flavor, input requirements, yield, labor requirements, etc. I have also inquired into whether or not they would be willing to pay for this seed versus the seed they previously purchased (assuming the price would be higher). This is so I can loosely assess my work partners’ willingness to change their behavior and adopt this new technology. This is necessary to make this project sustainable since it is necessary to buy this seed new every 3 or 4 years in order to maintain the improved performance. We are working to make the Master Farm site a source to buy this seed.
I feel my role as an extensionist is to lend support to farmers so they can improve their cropping systems themselves, not simple to hand out seed. By giving them small amounts to try my hope is they can decide for themselves if the purchase of such improved seed would be beneficial to their livelihoods. In my first year I have put a lot of emphasis on seed storage methods. In January of 2012 I held a village wide training teaching various seed storage methods and followed up with farmers who asked for assistance on implementing these. I have worked individually with farmers to whom I have provided inputs to store their seeds this year.
Next year (2013) my counterpart and I will utilize the improved seed to create a conservation agriculture demonstration. I will also be using this seed to implement my SRI pilot project, which farmers will be required to follow specific techniques. In my first year of this project, farmers cropped the seed using their own techniques taking some advice from me, but without rigid implementation requirements from me. Their local knowledge of this area is superior to mine and I was learning along with them this first year. One of the reasons I have chosen to doo an SRI pilot project is that most farmers are lacking knowledge of rice cropping systems but interest in the crop is high. This was made even clearer to me when many farmers excitedly requested rice seed from me but did not follow up on preparing fields. Most farmers expected I would tell them what to do every step of the way, something I didn’t have enough knowledge to do. For June 2013 I will have a system planned out step by step and standardized for testing purposes. I will have conducted an in depth survey on local systems and will be prepared to execute these demonstrations with willing work partners.