The Tropical Legumes II project (spread over two phases beginning in August 2007, ending Feb. 2015) was led by ICRISAT (chickpea, groundnut, pigeonpea) with major partners CIAT (common bean) and IITA (cowpea and soybean) and 15 NARS. The focus of TL-II was to support development and delivery of improved legume varieties. Under the TL-II, a total of 163 farmer-preferred legume varieties/hybrids were released in 15 countries between 2007 and 2014 through farmer participatory varietal selection (FPVS) and national performance trials. TL-II trials and farmer training efforts reached more than 280,000 farmers over the course of the two phases of the project. The released varieties typically show >20% boost in yield in Farmer Participatory Variety Trials. Adoption studies revealed that farmers embraced the new varieties in target locations and that adoption occurred rapidly through farmer-to-farmer seed exchange, a strong indication that their value was recognized within rural communities. Inadequate seed production systems and the lack of access to seed by distant smallholder producers are particular bottlenecks to the adoption of improved varieties (David et al 2002). Despite demand, the private-sector seed industry has been reluctant to invest heavily in grain legumes due to the lower margins and lower and more erratic sales volumes (largely because farmers have the option of using saved seed) and other constraints. Institutional and technical innovations to overcome these obstacles have shown promise following the seed system work of the TL-II and seed is beginning to be delivered at scale in some geographies. To get the improved seed of the new varieties to farmers, more than ten seed production and delivery models for selected crops were tested during Phase II of the TL-II. Several models proved highly efficient in supplying smallholders. For example, the ‘small seed packs’ model (Rubyogo et al 2010) provided small-holders with the opportunity to experiment with improved cultivars at an affordable price. It also serves to widely distribute the benefits of the improved genetics-and helps create seed and grain markets for the improved varieties. This approach alone was used to reach more than 1.2 million small-holders during each of the last two project years.
It allowed private seed companies to expand seed business opportunities targeting hard to reach farmers. In Kenya for example, Dry-land Seed Company Ltd (DLSC Ltd) and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organizations (KALRO Seed Unit) packed and sold 134 tons of seed of drought tolerant bean varieties in 0.1 kg, 0.5 kg, 1 kg and 2 kg packs . The approach allowed DLSC Ltd to expand its agro-dealers network from 60 to 117 and expand from the beans to other legumes e.g. cowpea, green gram and pigeonpea. The viability study carried out DLSC Ltd /KALRO and CIAT indicated that 0.5 and 1.5 kg are commercially viable sizes, while 0.1 and 0.250 kg packets are promotional tools that are an effective means of reaching many farmers with affordable quantities of seed and a wide range of preferred varieties. In the case of India, a total of 115,232 tons of assorted legume crops were distributed in different pack sizes ranging from 2 kg to 20 kg. Since 2012, the approach has now been expanded in several countries e.g. Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and several other countries under various seed systems initiatives e.g. PABRA, AGRA etc.
In total, the TL-II project was able to produce and distribute (through partnerships) more than 655,543 tons of seed to small-holder farmers over the projects lifespan (TL-II Seed Delivery Achievements). Though total amounts from 2014 are not complete, already we know that between 2011 and 2014, alone more than 434,008 tons of seed of different classes was produced and disseminated for the six legumes and the original ten year (2007-2017) Tropical Legume goal of 20% coverage with improved seed was met three years early for chickpea in India and Ethiopia, bean in Ethiopia and Uganda, and groundnut and pigeon pea in Tanzania and Malawi. Baseline assessments and adoption studies were completed that showed cumulatively, as a result of improved seed availability and accessibility for farmers, that about 27% of the area under legumes in Mali, 38% in Niger, 57% in Malawi, 35% in Tanzania, 59% in selected districts of Uganda, and 22% in Nigeria have adopted improved legume varieties developed or released by the TL-II. Extrapolation of these data suggest that since 2007, project varieties have been grown on at least 2,007,889 ha and generated >US$513 million giving an estimated ROI of 11:1. Considering the leveraged outputs of seed from our seed delivery partners supported by others, the project generated more than $978 million giving an ROI of 39:1.