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Farmers and other players in Sudan’s agricultural sector are celebrating the success of new heat-resistant wheat varieties which could transform the food landscape in Sudan. The country has been hard hit by a severe bread shortage and sharp price increases last year.
Locals blamed the bread shortage on a lack of foreign currency, which deepened a crisis that was triggered after the government halted wheat import subsidies. Extreme heat has in recent years also affected wheat yields.
Thanks to the new cultivars such as Imam, Zakia and Bohain, Sudan’s wheat-growing areas saw a rise in production to around 303,000 ha, up from 230,000 ha in 2017. The high productivity and wheat area expansion witnessed during this season would lead to a record high production expectation of around 0.85 million tons of wheat, covering up to 45% of the national demand, the nation’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Nahar Osman Nahar, announced.
Nahar was speaking at a national Farmers’ Field Day event, one of several held between 26 and 29 March 2019 to showcase the achievements of the wheat project, developed under the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme. The project has led to the roll out of technologically enhanced wheat varieties, in line with one of the Bank’s top High Five Priorities - Feed Africa.
TAAT’s wheat programme has already yielded significant results in Sudan.
The field days, which received widespread media coverage, were attended by a broad range of stakeholders in the wheat value chain. The events promoted the success of the cultivars, released in the past five years.
Policy makers, the private sector, credit institutions, input providers, processors, NGOs, youth and women’s associations and thousands of farmers showed up to witness the success of the project.
In addition, four members from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) shared their experiences and promised future collaboration with different partners in Sudan.
During the field day, seed production farms were visited, along with farmers’ fields involved in scaling-up activities. Youth and women’s groups were trained in wheat production, value addition and farm machinery maintenance services at the Basatna, Wad Elbur and Mukashfi innovation platform (IP) sites. IP sites are selected by the TAAT wheat team for scaling up and widely promoting the impact of proven wheat technologies to farmers and stakeholders along the value chain.
At another field day event, technology-adopting farmers expressed their happiness with the impressive performance of heat-tolerant wheat varieties, and said they were expecting to realize yields of 4-6 t/ha this season, compared to 2t/ha before joining the Project. At Wadelneim village, a group of innovative farmers who adopted the heat-tolerant varieties Zakia and Imam, said they expected to achieve yields of 6-7 t/ha. They attributed their success to the hands-on training they received at the TAAT farm school.
Between 2012 and 2016, Sudan only produced 24% of the country’s national wheat demand, leaving it heavily reliant on imports of over 1.5 million tons of wheat each year.
Heat stress in sub-Saharan Africa is a major constraint to wheat production. In places like Sudan temperatures often exceed 38°C. Climate change is expected to worsen the situation.
In response to the food crunch, the African Development Bank decided to intervene to boost one of the most vital food sources in Sudan.
Nahar said the growing partnership between the private and public sectors engaged in seed production could result in a record amount of certified seed, enough to cultivate around 420,000 hectares of wheat next season.