The Center for the Improvement of the Adaptation to Drought (CERAAS) recently earned regional recognition for their efforts to help dry cereal farmers overcome challenges like drought and climate change. Named a Regional Center of Excellence (RCoS) by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Senegalese research center’s expanded programming includes developing drylands cereals-related technologies for farmers across West and Central Africa.
CERAAS develops technology that may help dry cereal farmers adapt to the effects of climate change. Acknowledging their responsibility to diverse farmers, the RCoS aims “to make the technology understandable and accessible to all people,” through testing and knowledge sharing, says Ndiaga Cissé, Director of CERAAS and Coordinator of the RCoS on dry cereals.
The RCoS helps dry cereal farmers in West and Central Africa overcome challenges such as the regional shortage of seeds and poor access to crop markets. “That is a big issue for farmers: how to get seed,” says Cissé. “There is not enough seed for them to acquire [what they need] and the quality of seed is a problem. That is the first challenge for farmers at the beginning of the season.”
Cissé notes developing technology that enables farmers to withstand droughts from anywhere in the region will require ingenuity and quick-thinking. “Approaching the different droughts is not simple. Finding a good approach for each one is the biggest challenge we have in working,” says Cissé. “One thing you think might be a solution might not be from year to year.”
To develop the most effective technologies for farmers, CERAAS seeks to supply countries with future researchers by training young professionals in the field. “We supported over 250 PhD and Masters students over the last five or six years,” says Cissé. While their studies vary in concentrations such as plant breeding and crop management, CERAAS notes that their research contributions will strengthen research teams, facilitate transfers of knowledge, and develop a multidisciplinary approach to food security.
CERAAS also supports young entrepreneurs by helping them start businesses with their climate adapting technologies such as improved varieties of dry cereals, grain processing machines, and striga weed fighting technology. “If someone is interested in starting a start-up or being an entrepreneur, they have something they want to do and, with us, somewhere to start,” says Cissé.
The Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) created CERAAS in 1989. Initially a National Center of Specialization (NCoS) on dry cereals, the shift to RCoS indicates widening responsibility to all farmers in the region. “What we have been doing is trying to answer the need of the region in terms of technology and knowledge,” says Cissé. “All the countries have some level of interest in dry cereals,” she adds, “we will try to have a coordinated effort in solving problems together.”
The upgrade to RCoS is part of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP): an initiative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and CORAF to transform food and nutrition security. After nine years, WAAPP released over 200 technologies and reached almost 4.5 million food producers. According to WAAPP, the research of NCoS and RCoS institutions increased farmer incomes by 34 percent and decreased their hunger periods by 28–55 percent.
Photo courtesy of CORAF.