For years, ICRISAT has been collaborating with Burkina Faso's agricultural research organizations, led by the Environment and Agricultural Research Institute (INERA), focusing on four major themes:
Development economics: Village level studies undertaken in 6 villages in Burkina have helped better understand assets and poverty dynamics and farm risk management and consequently better targeted policies (Lybbert and Carter, 2009). For instance, during a drought or other climate incident, families may not automatically sell assets like livestock in order to maintain their consumption, but possibly the other way around. Families may sharply decrease their consumption - that could lead to dramatic malnutrition - in order to save assets. A recent study assessing poverty dynamics showed that different pathways are associated with different types of cropping systems and soil and water conservation measures. For instance, vegetables and sorghum cropping systems use more fertilizers and water, as well as require soil and water conservation measures (eg stone bunds) compared to millet and cowpea production.
Dryland cereal and grain legume crops research: The development and large-scale adoption of high- yielding, climate- and pest-resilient varieties of dryland cereals and grain legumes is key to boost food security and livelihoods of Burkinabe farmers. It is estimated that no more than 5% of cultivated area of sorghum, pearl millet and groundnut are sown with improved seeds (2011 MIP report).
Sorghum and millet are major staple crops in Burkina Faso. Sorghum is cultivated across more than 1.7 million ha in low input cropping systems. Through collaboration between ICRISAT, Mali and Burkina Faso, Guinea type sorghum hybrids were developed with an average 40% higher on-farm yields compared to best adapted local varieties. Guinea landraces are particularly adapted to the harsh and unpredictable conditions of the sub-Sahelian zone.
Grain legumes are also important food crops in Burkina Faso. They are cultivated each year on about 1.2 million ha, about 20% of the country's estimated 6 million ha of cultivated land. The major grain legumes of Burkina Faso are cowpea, groundnut, Bambara bean, soybean, the first two being the focus of research and development of Tropical Legumes II project.
Groundnut is grown on more than 410,000 ha. Research collaboration focuses on capacity building (eg, groundnut disease management, hybridization, ELISA testing), releasing modern varieties and seed multiplication.
Farmer participation in crop improvement research is essential to make sure farmer preferences are integrated, and therefore improve adoption of improved varieties. A study on sorghum participatory variety selection trials reveals that crop selection criteria (eg, earliness or grain quality) and its priority ranking can differ significantly between farmers and plant breeders, and also between farmers' groups and gender.
A dynamic genepool management approach with large-scale farmer participatory field testing helps develop new farmer-preferred dryland cereal cultivars, adapted to highly variable climate and specific traits like Striga resistance or tolerance to hard-pan soils. Farmer-managed seed systems combined with marketing approaches (small seed packs, culinary testing, etc) help increase the use of better seeds.
Since most farmers have no access to pest control inputs, and knowing the hazardous practices in cotton production, promoting agroecological practices such as biological control of the millet pest Heliocheilus albipunctella is a priority research area.