For 30 years, the Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains/International Sorghum and Millet Collaborative Research Support Program, or SMOG/INTSORMIL CRSP, worked in some of the most impoverished areas in the world and contributed to alleviating poverty through technological innovation and human capacity development. The Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab will continue this tradition but will refocus attention on the West African nations of Senegal and Niger, and the East African nation of Ethiopia.
Multiple criteria were utilized in the selection of the Lab's three focus countries, which include:
- The current supply of sorghum and millet as compared against projected future demand in 2020,
- The number of impoverished sorghum and millet farmers in each country, the role of sorghum and millet within the national agricultural economies, and opportunities for broad-based farm impact.
- Opportunities for local progress in added-value product development to stimulate demand for sorghum and millet in order to sustain a production revolution and to generate broader impact to consumers,
- Determination of which countries would benefit the most from Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab programming by considering where there exists a critical mass of scientists that may capitalize on this support.
In all countries of interest, the prevalence of children younger than 5 years old who are underweight exceeds 20 percent and, in areas where sorghum and millet are commonly grown, this rate can approach 50 percent. The nutritional needs for intervention are high in all countries.*Map arrows indicate research activity locations.
- Ethiopia is one of the most important sorghum-producing nations in East Africa. It has the largest acreage of sorghum in East Africa after Sudan.
- Ethiopia is estimated to have 12.3 million sorghum farmers who live on less than $2 a day. In addition to helping the country's farmers, Ethiopia is one of the centers of genetic origin for sorghum.
- Senegal grows a large area of pearl millet, which is the most widely grown subspecies of millet. Pearl millet has adapted to the harsh semiarid environment in West Africa, especially in areas where few other cereal crops can thrive.
- Researchers are working to improve productivity and add value to pearl millet crops and sorghum. Doing so can help Senegal's 3.5 million millet producers who are economically classified as "ultra poor."
- Niger is one of the largest sorghum- and pearl millet-producing countries in West Africa, with the roughly 8.4 million sorghum and 9.8 million millet farmers in Niger living on less than $2 a day.
- Niger neighbors several other important sorghum-producing countries in the region, which are expected to economically benefit from the advancements made in Niger.