SATG is open and dedicated to expanding its network of practitioners and professionals devoted to the building of sustainable agriculture in Somalia. With the help of information technology SATG has been able to bring together stakeholders from all over the world interested in improving agricultural processes in Somalia. SATG facilitates these online discussions, and documents the results and outcomes.
Through this network we have managed to tap into expertise from various parts of the world and adapt or facilitate solutions pertinent to the Somali agricultural industry.
This network continues to provide historic documentation of plant genetic resources, best production practices, soil and water conservation, post harvest and storage practices as well as policies and regulations on agriculture practices.
Identification and repatriation of a lost treasure
Filsan is a superior variety of mungbean which is characterized by high yield potential, larger seed size, early maturity, and better cooking qualities compared to local varieties. It was originally introduced and tested at the Bonkaay Dry Land Agriculture Research Station, but after the collapse of the government in 1991 and the attendant collapse of those national institutions providing agricultural services, the plans for the introduction of Filsan at scale level were shelved. Filsan seed became mixed with local varieties and planting of the pure variety was no longer possible.
In 2002, SATG became involved in identifying the Filsan seed pedigree and tracing it back to its origins. SATG obtained a small amount of Filsan breeder seed from the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC) in Taiwan, which was then increased at an experimental station in Minnesota, USA. The seed was sent to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Nairobi, Kenya, for further seed multiplication. In August 2005, with the help of the Somali Agronomist’s Association (SAGRA), 110 Kg of the seed was distributed to several farmers in the Middle and Lower Shebelle regions. More than 1 ton of seed was produced and distributed to many more famers who continue to grow the crop.
Phosphorus as the Most Important Factor Limiting Crop Production
Identifying the key to increased crop yields
A study by SATG members has confirmed the role of soil phosphorus deficiency in limiting crop yields. Phosphorus was found to be the single most important factor determining crop yields in the Bay Region of Somalia. Experimental results obtained from sorghum and mungbean trials showed that crop growth and yield significantly increased between 100% and 400% when Triple Super-Phosphate (TSP) was properly applied. Similar results were obtained when animal manure was incorporated into the soil during land preparation. Phosphorus fertilizers were shown to promote early seedling vigour and crop maturity of both sorghum and mungbeans.
The subsistence nature of farming in the Dryland Agriculture of the Bay region is based upon the exploitation of soil nutrients using a sorghum monocropping system. The effect of this type of farming on soil degradation and nutrient depletion is widely reflected in the poor yields of both sorghum (the main crop) and other crops grown in the region.
Post-harvest and Grain Storage Losses
Research and innovative solutions to reduce grain losses
Agricultural production in Somalia suffers greatly from post-harvest and storage grain losses: average grain losses in Southern Somalia are estimated at 20 to 30% of the total harvest, and may exceed this figure in some cases. This loss is on the order of 50,000 to 80,000 tonnes per year, which translates to an economic loss of between US $15 million and $20 million. In addition to the economic loss, poor grain storage and handling practices can constitute a health risk, as improperly stored grain is vulnerable to moulds containing Aflatoxins, highly poisonous chemical compounds. These are losses and risks which the poverty-stricken agricultural communities of Southern Somalia cannot sustain.
Sorghum, a staple food crop in Somalia, is badly affected by grain losses of this kind. Sorghum growing farmers traditionally store grain retained for future consumption or trade in simple underground storage pits. Pests, rodents and other micro-organisms attack the grains in storage leading to depletion and deterioration in the grain quantity and quality. Moisture penetrates into the storage pits, resulting in fungus growth and Aflatoxin contamination. The resultant losses contribute to food shortages, and the Aflatoxin contamination represents a potentially fatal health risk.
In order to ascertain the exact causes of the losses, SATG conducted a baseline survey in the Bay Region to study the two grain loss high-risk areas: post-harvest handling practices and traditional storage systems. The survey reveals that grain losses associated with the traditional storage systems (underground pits) are significantly higher than those associated with post-harvest techniques (harvesting, transportation, and drying), at an estimated 40% and 20% respectively.
SATG has generated several solutions for the grain loss problems affecting Somali agriculture.
Rehabilitation of the old system: SATG has trained local farmers in fortifying the inner walls and floors of the traditional pit with cement, and using plastic lining to prevent moisture damage.
Introduction of a new system: SATG has adapted the design of a locally popular metal water-storage tank to create a metal grain silo which can easily be manufactured within the target communities.
Post-harvest and grain storage loss reduction is the target of an on-going project being implemented by SATG in collaboration with FAO.
Improvement and Sustainable Utilisation for Plant Genetic Resources in Somalia
Overcoming food insecurity through the introduction of superior genetic varieties
Food insecurity and food shortages are crippling consequences of civil unrest and the lack of governance institutions in Somalia. Agriculture-dependent communities in Somalia are in dire need of more productive crop varieties which can make up the shortfall.
Over the two decades since the governmental collapse, organizations interested in alleviating poverty and improving nutrition in Somalia have introduced several new varieties of key crops. However, none of these varieties were adopted by local farmers because they proved insufficiently adapted to Somali climactic conditions.
SATG has embarked on a project aimed at isolating those varieties which will perform best in Somalia. SATG cooperates with crop research centres and breeders to source the superior varieties, and then tests them in Somalia.
In the Gu season of 2009, SATG introduced several varieties of key crop species, including maize, sorghum, mungbean and groundnuts, from ICRISAT, CIMMYT,AVRDC and Western Seed-Kenya, and tested them for yield and agronomic performance. All new introduced varieties were compared to the locally-grown varieties by the farmers.
The variety trials for the evaluation of the new varieties and demonstration plots were conducted in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions of Somalia, and were carried out in collaboration with partners such as WFL, CEFA, and SAGRA. The outcome of these trials has been very encouraging, suggesting a role for these varieties in overcoming food insecurity in Somalia.