Heat-tolerant wheat thrives in Sub-Saharan Africa

With funding from the African Development Bank, SARD-SC has raised the wheat production of farmers in Kano, Nigeria

In 2016 the performance of improved heat-tolerant wheat varieties continued to impress policymakers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The varieties offer a solution to the region’s rising dependence on costly wheat imports, which currently account for 80% of its needs.

The climate-resilient wheat varieties were disseminated as part of a multi-national CGIAR-led project funded by the African Development Bank - Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC). ICARDA leads the initiative’s wheat component, working with national partners across 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa to boost production, enhance food and nutrition security, and reduce poverty.

SARD-SC combines the dissemination of improved wheat varieties with an integrated package of interventions: fast-track seed multiplication programs; the dissemination of proven technologies and farming practices; and value chain approaches to support domestic producers. The testing, validation, and promotion of proven technologies is first initiated in three ‘hub’ countries – Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Sudan – and then applied in other participating countries.

In 2016, some varieties yielded up to 4-6 t/ha, a significant improvement on the average 1-2 t/ha generated by existing commercial varieties. Average yields were also higher among participating farmers: 2.5 t/ha in Nigeria, 3.39 t/ha in Sudan, and 2.54 t/ha in Ethiopia.

In all three countries the land devoted to wheat expanded: reaching 1.6 million ha in Ethiopia, 230,000 ha in Sudan, and 100,000 ha in Nigeria. There were also increases in the amount of wheat produced: 787,000 metric tons in Sudan, 4.23 million in Ethiopia, and 250,000 tons in Nigeria.

These successes have translated into policy impact. There have been national commitments to raise production, Nigeria and Sudan have guaranteed minimum price guarantees for wheat farmers, and Sudan and Ethiopia have adopted the SARD-SC extension model to enhance technology transfer.