Leveraging Synergies Between Innovation Labs For Sustainable Food Systems: Improved Cowpea in Senegal
You may find Dr. Aliou Faye enjoying “Ndambe,” the Senegalese sauce made from cowpeas that can be mixed with just about any food base or eaten just as it is. It is one of Aliou’s favorite legume dishes. Besides holding a position with the Center of Excellence on Dry Cereal and their cropping system of Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute (ISRA), Dr. Faye is the co-principle investigator of the “Enhancing Resilience and Nutrition in the Peanut Basin of Senegal through Increased Integration of Newly Released, Improved Cowpea Varieties” project led by Kanas State University (KSU) and managed by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research at Michigan State University (MSU). In addition, Aliou is the Senegalese Country Coordinator of the Feed the Future Innovation lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification managed by KSU.
The two innovation labs have successfully collaborated on cowpea varietal release trials in Senegal using sustainable intensification indicators. This cross-pollination of research efforts created synergies allowing for efficiencies of scale and scope in legume cropping system decision approaches. Both the Innovation Labs and farmers have benefitted from this cross inter-lab collaboration of people and skills. “I would like (to) work as long as possible with the Legume Systems Innovation Lab which allows looking for synergies and tradeoffs with other innovation Labs to strengthen the collaboration for better impacts for the great benefits of smallholder farmers in Senegal and beyond,” says Faye of his unique position.
Participating farmers are seeing the benefits of the improved varieties and the synergies of the collaborative project management approach. Fatou Thiam lives in Keur Bassirou Thiam village; Darou Mousty Commune in the Louga Region in Senegal. “I am extremely happy with the project and the new cowpea varieties on dissemination because here in our region of Louga the rainy season is very short and the rainfall amount small. Here, crop(s) like peanut have difficulties for maturing and then, as women we preferably grow cowpea. The new variety grows faster with higher yields and nutrient denser compared to the one we had before. I am also happy because of these varieties here in the middle of the rainy season, you can harvest and cook for your family or get some kg to sell in the market and solve your own problems or your kids or family ones,” says Fatou.
She is encouraged by the new opportunities the new varieties offer. “We are happy also because it looks like the new varieties are more productive then the varieties we have, we hope (to) have more money for ourselves and for our family. We wish the project (to) grow so that other parts of the region benefit from (the program). I am therefore encouraging other women to consider this project,” shares Thaim.