United Methodist Committee on Relief

Bringing Improved Seeds to East Darfur

The improved-seed-multiplication farm in Hegliga, about 14 miles from El Daein, capital of East Darfur State. Photo by Hassan YagoubThe improved-seed-multiplication farm in Hegliga, about 14 miles from El Daein, capital of East Darfur State. Photo by Hassan Yagoub

An UMCOR seed-multiplication project helps a farmer double his yield

By Gorfu Degefa Megerssa*

Most households in Sudan’s Darfur region depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods. Seeds are an important catalyst for the development of agriculture, and the availability of quality seeds is the foundation for food production and leads to crop and food diversification. Despite their importance, however, improved seeds are not available in East Darfur State.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), with support from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), is addressing this need through a project of improved-seed multiplication, the first of its kind in East Darfur State.

The project has two phases. In the first phase, which is under way and being implemented by UMCOR and the State Ministry of Agriculture (SMoA), UMCOR is covering the costs of establishing and running an improved-seed farm, including construction of a storehouse. In the second phase, the ministry will take over managing the farm and use the income generated from the sale of seeds to cover overhead costs. With proper management, this approach will allow the state to have improved-seed-multiplication plots in each of its nine localities, or counties, within just five to eight years.

The project began in June 2014, when a14-acre seed-multiplication farm in Hegliga was planted with millet and groundnut seeds, each on seven acres. That August, UMCOR, in collaboration with SMoA, organized a field day with more than 180 farmer representatives and 15 extension workers from seven of the nine localities. Key stakeholders attended, including the state humanitarian aid commissioner; the general director of SMoA; the general director of the Ministry of Animal Resources; the head of the Department of Forestry, and the head of the Agricultural Research Center. UMCOR and SMoA shared with participants the purpose and plan for the improved-seed-multiplication project in a session that was covered by the local radio and television.

In December 2014, 18 sacks (900 kg) of groundnuts per acre were harvested. The total yield of 6,300 kilograms of unshelled groundnuts from the seven acres cultivated was 80 percent higher than previous yields, when farmers harvested only 8-10 sacks per acre from the same area.

In May 2015, a portion of the shelled groundnut seeds (2,584 kg) was sold to 130 farmers in El Fardous and Assalaya localities. The remaining 876 kilograms of seeds were saved for the 2015 cropping season. The total net cash obtained from the sale of the improved seeds was 26,994 Sudanese Pounds ($4,425). UMCOR and the SMoA opened a bank account that they are managing jointly during the initial phase of the project. In the second phase, UMCOR will gradually hand over the project to SMoA.

Farmer doubles his yield

Mohamed Eisa is one of the farmers who benefited from the improved groundnut seeds produced by the Hegliga seed-multiplication project. Eisa, 65, the father of seven children, lives in the village of Alkhatima in Assalaya Locality.

 “I have never used improved seeds before,” Eisa said. “I was using local seeds, which produce about 12 to 15 sacks per Mukhamas [about 1.8 acres]. But during 2015, I obtained improved seeds from UMCOR and sowed them in one Mukhamas [about 1.8 acres]. I harvested 24 sacks — about double the yield.” 

There was another benefit, he explained. “In addition to the high yielding nature, the crop matures early and escaped the current drought. Farmers in my neighbourhood were surprised. It took only two and a half months.”

According to Eisa, the local groundnut seed takes at least three and a half months to mature. He said this prolonged maturity period is hard on farmers. This year, the rain stopped before most of the crops matured. However, the improved groundnut seeds matured early, using the available soil moisture.

“My plan is to sow all the 24 sacks of the improved groundnut seeds on 15 Mukhamas [about 27 acres] of land. I already started shelling the groundnut for the coming season,” Eisa said. “Thank you, UMCOR, for the training and the improved seeds, your support is one weapon to fight hunger.”

In 2015, UMCOR, in collaboration with the SMoA, expanded the seed-multiplication farm to 35 acres, an increase of 21 acres. Of the total, 29.84 acres were used for growing crops and the remaining 5.15 acres were used as pathways between plots.

In December 2015, the harvesting and threshing of groundnut and sorghum seeds were completed. The total yield of improved groundnut seeds was 6,514 kilograms, 58 percent lower compared to 2014, due to the impact of El Niño, but 53 percent higher compared to the productivity of local seeds in the surrounding area.

*Gorfu Degefa Megerssa is programs manager for UMCOR Sudan. 

This story is part of a larger series on Sudan. Read more stories in the series from our feature story