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Legumes - Chickpeas

Improve chickpea productivity for marginal environments in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (G6010.04; G7010.06.01)

Chickpea pod flower from 'Autumn in Africa' by R okono

This project aims to develop drought-tolerant genotypes. While so doing, this project will develop a Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) population harnessing novel genetic diversity for broadening the genetic base, and it will increase the available genomic resources to better facilitate MABC and MARS activities in this project and for the future. Moreover, through the links with other ongoing projects (including the projects on molecular breeding for biotic stresses and on nodulation biology in chickpea), the chickpea investment to develop markers, tools and MAGIC populations will serve both African and South Asian markets.

Chickpeas are the world’s second-largest cultivated food legume and developing countries account for over 95 percent of its production and consumption. It is an important grain legume in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), especially in Eastern and Southern Africa.

Chickpeas are a dry-season legume that grows well on the residual moisture of the post-rainy season, providing a unique opportunity of enhancing legume production in Africa as it does not compete for area with other major legumes. Indeed, this feature gives farmers a second crop (where only one crop would traditionally be grown), hence increased income and better nutrition.

Chickpeas from 'In the house of life' by R OkonoIt is an excellent source of high-quality protein, with a wide range of essential amino acids. Its potential as both a source of human food as well as animal feed, coupled with its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, is attracting an increasing number of SSA farmers. In Eastern Africa, chickpea acreage has doubled during the past 30 years (from 210,000 heacatares in 1979–1981 to 420,000 hectares in 2006–2008), a trend expected to continue considering the increasing demand of chickpeas in domestic and international markets.There is also the possibility that the soaring fertiliser price may further push farmers, particularly resource-poor farmers, to switch from cereal production to those crops that do not demand fertiliser such as chickpea.

Since major consumers such as India outstrip domestic supply, there are opportunities for SSA countries to exploit a ready-made and guaranteed market. Increase in production and attractive prices in the international market have recently led to substantial increase in the export of chickpea. During 2002 to 2007, the export of chickpea by Eastern Africa ranged between 17 to 42 percent, averaging at 30 percent. This has provided the farmers extra income to buy other essentials and send their children to school. Projections using the IMPACT-WATER model indicate that production will be 562,000t in 2020, and that African net trade will be negative (-103 000t) owing to increased local demand at 662,000t, which strongly supports research for chickpea improvement in Africa.

Similarly, improvement of chickpea in SA will save the revenues spent (representing on average of about 74m USD/year (for 1998–2007) equivalent to 186,000t/year) on chickpea imports as predicted by the trend in chickpea consumption of the ever-growing population in India. Drought is globally the number one constraint for chickpea production, causing yield losses of around 3.7 million tons (out of a total production of 8.6 million tons). In SSA and South Asia, drought stress occurs during the terminal growth stages, as the crop is largely grown rainfed during the post-rainy season on residual soil moisture.

Target countries: Ethiopia, India, Kenya
Lead institute: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Ethiopia: Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EIAR)
Kenya: Egerton University
India: Indian Institute for Pulses Research (IIPR)

 Service provider: National Centre for Genomic Resources (NCGR), USA