The case for dryland cereals:
Dryland cereal crops provide the food, feed and fodder essential to the health and prosperity of millions of farming families in dryland areas. With few other options, subsistence farmers and their families rely on hardy dryland cereals for the majority of their calories. These cereals include sorghum (grown on 33.6 million hectares), pearl millet (32.4 million hectares) and finger millet (0.9 million hectares).
Dryland cereal environments range from the dry savannas, where sorghum, barley and finger millet are found, to the desert margins, where pearl millet predominates. Food and feed resources often dwindle to critically low levels during the long dry seasons that characterize such areas.
Rural poverty: The annual value of dryland cereals, including barley, in Low Income Food Deficit Countries is estimated at US$ 27.3 billion, an amount that exceeds the value of maize (US$21 billion) and is roughly the same as wheat. Economists estimate that during the period 2000-2020, the demand for pearl millet and sorghum will grow 39% and 48%, respectively. Demand is being driven up for three primary reasons:
- Population growth in dryland areas – the grain consumed by people accounts for about 40% of total crop farm-gate value;
- Growing demand for dryland feed and fodder to service the rising demand for meat and dairy products; and
- Mounting interest in the use of dryland crops to produce specialty products and for industrial purposes such as malting and convenience foods.
The CGIAR’s Dryland Cereals program, which includes barley, projects that research innovations will lead to an increase in production of at least 16% over ten years, generating US$2.7 billion in additional value and benefitting about 34 million people who live and work on 5.8 million smallholder farms.