The rapidly growing demand for wheat in Africa, linked to population and income growth and changing food preferences has led to a growing ‘food gap.’ This is being met by imports of over 40 million tons per year costing –close to USD 15 billion in foreign currency. Recent research for development initiatives across Africa indicate that the continent is only producing 10-20% of its potential and through effective application of proven, scalable and transformative wheat technologies, it is physically possible and economically profitable for African countries to grow more wheat and attain greater wheat self-sufficiency in the near future.
1. The challenges
Wheat production in the three hub countries (Sudan, Ethiopia and Nigeria) are generally characterized by low yields, with national average productivity not exceeding 2t/ha. Among the underlying constraints affecting wheat production are lack of improved production and post-harvest technologies, low soil fertility and degradation of natural resources, biotic and abiotic stresses, poor access to inputs, credit and output market, poor infrastructure, weak extension services and inconsistent government policies. The aforementioned challenges are key factors significantly hampering the productivity and competitiveness of domestic wheat production in these countries, necessitating a growing over dependency on imported wheat to satisfy local demand. Consequently in 2012 the annual imports of wheat in Nigeria (4.0 million tons), Sudan (2.0 million tons) and Ethiopia (1.3 million tons) accounted for nearly 98, 78 and 30 percent, respectively.
2. The project interventions
The aim of the SARD-SC wheat project was to achieve transformational impact through a sustainable increase of wheat productivity for enhanced food security, economic growth and poverty alleviation across the project target countries. Enhancing the productivity and competiveness of wheat involved the development and deployment of appropriate technologies for targeted production environments and markets, while providing resilience and adaptation to climate change. The project specifically focused on testing, adapting, and promoting proven wheat based technologies best-fitted to the different wheat growing environments of Africa.
3. Achievements in technology generation - High yielding and heat tolerant varieties
In Sudan, the project released two bread wheat varieties in 2013 with yield of 4.5-6t/ha, twice the country’s average. These varieties have good heat tolerance and are resistant to leaf and stem rust diseases. One of the varieties, ‘Goumria’ is an early maturing wheat with tolerance to intense heat stress prevailing in central regions of Sudan. The second variety ‘Zakia’ is highly valued for its excellent nutritional and baking qualities. Seven additional elite lines, comprising four spring bread and three spring durum have been identified and proposed for release to cover the wide range of agro-ecologies.
In Ethiopia, nine improved wheat varieties were released since 2013. Eight were bread wheat and one durum. Of these ‘Adel-6’ and ‘Nejemah-14’ for irrigated lowlands possess high grain yield of 5-6t/ha good end use quality and tolerant to heat and salinity. The project also released four new high yielding varieties with average of 5-7t/ha for highland rain fed agro-ecology that are also resistant to rusts and septoria.
In Nigeria, release of four heat tolerant wheat varieties with yields of 5 to 7 t/ha was a breakthrough that opened up new opportunities to grow wheat in vast non-traditional hotter and dryer agro-ecologies. The varieties ‘Norman’ ‘Reyna-28’ ‘Pastor’ and ‘Kauz’ released between 2013 and 2016 are suited for the northern irrigated lowlands. Further for the first time in Nigeria, two rain-fed wheat varieties CROW’S’ and Reyna-15 were released for the highlands.
4. Achievements in technology adoption
The SARD-SC wheat adopted the innovation platform (IP) as an effective approach for dissemination and promotion of proven technologies and for linking farmers to input and output markets through active participation and interaction of all concerned stakeholders along the value chain, including farmers, extension officers, inputs providers, seed producers financial institutions, agro processors and policy makers. 4.1 Nigeria In Nigeria, the project established six innovation platforms across 4 states (Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa and Gombe) in order to promote the dissemination and adoption of proven wheat based technologies with management packages and involved over 11,200 farmers and stakeholders. Accordingly, IP participating farmers from four states who adopted the heat tolerant improved technologies increased their farm level wheat productivity to 5-6 t/ha – significantly higher than the 1-2 t/ha average of traditional varieties.
The household income of IP participating wheat farmers increased by 46-105% compared to non-participating farmers.
Wheat farmers in Nigeria are linked to guaranteed output market, with formal Agreement signed between the Nigerian Farmers Association and the Nigerian Millers Association in 2016.
In Kano state alone, number of registered wheat farmers increased from 1,700 in 2012 to 22,000 in 2016.
Wheat area in Nigeria increased by 100%, from 50,000 ha in 2012 to 100,000 in 2016. Wheat production increased by 257% from 70,000 tons in 2012 to 250,000 tons in 2016, and wheat productivity increased by 78%, from 1.4 t/ha in 2012 to 2.5 t/ha in 2016. Key policy impact in Nigeria
The impressive performance of improved and heat-tolerant wheat varieties with yields of 5-6 t/ha– significantly more than 1-2 t/ha average of traditional varieties – convinced policy makers and generated key policy shifts. Wheat has been included as a priority in the Nigeria Government's Agricultural Transformation Agenda, ATA.
Government created a market for domestic wheat – with minimum price guarantees for farmers to promote domestic production Through the ATA program, the Government launched a nation- wide scaling up program to expand the wheat area– from 70,000ha in 2015 ha to 340,000 ha in 2019. Through the ATA program, the Government set a target to reduce Nigeria’s unsustainable import burden by up to 50% in 2019. At current market rates, this reflects a saving of around USD 2 billion each year in import costs.
Following the successful adoption of improved wheat technologies at the six project IP sites (Great Wad Medani and Southern Gezira platforms at Gezira State, Ed-Damer in River Nile State, Dongola in Northern State and Dimiat and Deberira sites in New Halfa State) involving 10,700 IP participating farmers, the average productivity of wheat in farmers’ fields increased to 4-6 t/ha- significantly superior to the average yield of 2.0t/ha for non-participating farmers.
The household incomes of IP participating farmers from four states who adopted the heat tolerant improved technologies increased by 55-60% compared to non-beneficiary farmers. After the successful interventions by SARDSC wheat at Gezira IP site, the amount of loan available for wheat farmers by financial institutions increased from USD 771,400 in 2012 to USD 3,241,810 in 2016. Similarly, the amount of loan repayment rate (recovery rate) of wheat farmers increased from 70% in 2012 to 100% in 2016 with no default problems. Wheat acreage in Sudan increased by 23%, from 185,000 ha in 2013 to over 230,000 in 2016. The national wheat production increased by 133%, from 324,000 tons in 2012 to 787,400 tons in 2016 and the national average wheat productivity increased by almost 100% from 1.7 t/ha in 2012 to 3.39 t/ha in 2016. As a result of the surge in domestic wheat production and productivity over the past four years, wheat importation in Sudan has reduced from 78% in 2013 to 64% in 2016. After the project intervention, there has been a surge in the establishment of milling companies and rehabilitation of other grain mills. Likewise the number of new private seed companies engaged in seed production increased across the country.
Key policy impact in Sudan
The successful experiences of SARD-SC wheat in promoting wheat technologies at 6 innovation platforms (IPs) with yields ranging from 4.0 t/ha to 6.5t/ha is shifting opinion of policymakers and has generated the following key policy impacts. The government of Sudan has; Officially adopted the IP approach as its national agricultural technology extension program throughout the country for wheat and other major food security crops. Created a market for domestic wheat – with minimum price guarantees for farmers and incentives for millers to buy domestic wheat. Launched a national target for expanding wheat acreage from 214,000 ha in 2015 to 500,000 ha in 2019 and then progressively to 600,000 ha over subsequent three years to boost domestic production and to significantly reduce and eventually stop importation.
As a result of the successful adoption of proven wheat technologies at the six project IP sites (Sinana and Gololcha IP sites in Oromia region, Bichena and Shebel Berenta IP sites in Amhara region, Gedebano IP site in SNNP region; and Ofla IP site in Tigray region) of Ethiopia involving 10,500 farmers and stakeholders, the farm level wheat productivity of IP participating farmers increased to 4-7 t/ha, when compared to the non-beneficiary wheat farmers whose yield is not exceeding 2 t/ha.
The project impact assessment revealed that the household incomes of IP participating farmers from four regions who adopted the improved technologies, increased by 55% over the non-beneficiary wheat farmers. Wheat farmers at the project intervention sites across the four regions are directly linked to the output market, with a formal agreement signed between the farmers’ Association and the wheat flour Millers since 2015.
In Ethiopia, the national wheat production increased by 45% from 2.92 million tons in 2012 to 4.23 million tons in 2016. Wheat acreage increased by 16% from 1.43 million ha in 2012 to 1.66 million ha in 2016, and the national average wheat productivity increased by 21% from 2.1 t/ha in 2012 to 2.54 t/ha in 2016.
Key policy impact in Ethiopia
The successful experiences of SARD-SC wheat in promoting proven wheat technologies across the 6 innovation platforms (IPs) in Ethiopia generated the following key policy impacts. The government of Ethiopia adopted the IP approach for clustering wheat farmers to provide better extension services, improved access to inputs and mechanized equipment for field operation and harvest, and for developing integrated corridor-based wheat production and milling/ processing zones across the country.
Government also launched a national target for expanding domestic wheat production by developing 300,000 ha of irrigated land in the lowland areas of the country to achieve a national wheat self-sufficiency over the coming 5-10 years. Future wheat potential expansion areas
In addition to the 1.66 million hectares that are currently devoted to rain-fed wheat production in the highlands of the Ethiopia, the country has the potential of 300,000 ha for irrigated wheat production in the lowlands. The regional states suitable for irrigated wheat production include Oromia region, Afar region, Amhara region and Ethiopian Somali region. Sudan has about 1 million hectares suitable for the expansion of irrigated wheat production. These are found in the regional states of Gezira, River Nile, Northern State, Kassala State (New Halfa) White Nile State and Blue Nile/ Rahad/ Khartoum. In Nigeria, wheat currently occupies 21.4% of the developed irrigation areas but at the same time more than 650,000 hectares of suitable land are available for expansion of irrigated wheat. Expansion of wheat production to new frontiers includes the traditional 10 wheat growing states of Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi and the non-traditional five new states of Adamawa, Kaduna, Nasarawa, FCT and Ogun states, which can be developed and utilized for domestic wheat production so that Nigeria attains wheat self-sufficiency within the coming few years.