Stress Tolerant Orphan Legumes (STOL)
Seed diversity of the STOL crops. Field day organised in Burkina Faso, 2020. Photo by Mr Felicien Zida.
Roughly 2.5 billion people (30% of the world’s population) live in semi-arid regions of the world, and approximately a third of these people depend on agriculture for their food and livelihood security.
Challenges to crop production in the semi-arid regions include excess heat, drought, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, limited access to technology, poor market linkages, weak institutional support and lack of national and international partnerships. Climate change is making matters worse.
Map showing the world regions expected to be most impacted by the effects of climate change in 2050 (shown in red). Source: the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
Map showing the world regions expected to have in 2030 high climate similarity (depicted in red) to Kaffrine, Senegal, in terms of monthly average atmospheric temperatures and precipitation. Source: the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
One strategy to adapt to climate change is to increase the number of crops and crop varieties planted: some may fail due to harsh climatic conditions, but some will survive. This lessens the risk farmers would take if they just planted one variety of one crop. The Stress Tolerant Orphan Legumes (STOL) programme, under the scientific leadership of Dr Prem Mathur, was established in 2018 to facilitate the introduction and exchange of stress tolerant orphan legume varieties among Indian and African institutions to address climate change and nutrition security. The STOL programme was conceived to have a relatively broad focus to start with, both in terms of the number of species to be tested and the number of partner countries. The focus should progressively narrow down to fewer crops and test locations as the activities progressed.
Under the Promoting India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation initiative, the Kirkhouse Trust, launched a collaborative programme entitled "Evaluation of Stress Tolerant Orphan Legumes (STOL) in partnership with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
The project developed a protocol to facilitate the free exchange of crops germplasm identified for STOL under Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) among nine African countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda) and India, who agreed on the following activities:
Identify promising varieties of each STOL species.
Multiply and exchange seed to partners for evaluation.
Carry out farmer field trials of the best performing crops and varieties.
Increase the capacity of scientists, extension workers and farmers for promoting and growing STOL crops.
Strengthen local seed systems.
A drone flies over a field of Dolichos bean at Agriculture University, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. Video taken on 18th September 2020, by Dr Mamta Nehra.
Eleven legume crops were initially selected: moth bean (Vigna aconitifolia), mung bean (Vigna radiata), horsegram (Macrotyloma uniflorum), dolichos (Lablab purpureus), bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), marama bean (Tylosema esculentum), tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius), rice bean (Vigna umbellata), pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan), lima bean (Phaseolus lunatus), and adzuki bean (Vigna angularis). Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) and common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) were to provide "checks": two widely grown legumes to outperform in terms of resilience to climate change.