Impact of Legume Improvement Research in the CGIAR, 2011-2012

Legumes are an under-evaluated crop group, and yet it is suggested legume improvement could have impacts on gender equity, nutrition, and sustainable soil management. SPIA worked with scientists at ICARDA, ICRISAT, CIAT and IITA, as well as looked into potential partnerships with external agencies, research centres, and consultants to document the most important cases of adoption and impact of legume technologies.

A scoping study for the initiative was completed by Rob Tripp in February 2011. An overview of global and regional trends in production, trade and consumption of food legume crops by Sitou Akinbode and Mywish Maredia was completed in March 2011. In September 2013, Douglas Pachico was recruited as consultant to write the final report on this study - Impact Brief No. 44 with key findings on adoption outcomes is now available. Synthesis Report with SPIA foreword is also available.



SPIA, in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) East Africa, recently undertook a study to develop and test a varietal identification protocol for pigeonpea. Such a protocol, once validated through field testing, has the potential to increase the accuracy of varietal adoption estimates. Breeders working with economists developed a simple 10-question survey (protocol) to administer to pigeonpea growing households in northern Tanzania. The protocol relies on a combination of distinguishing characteristics of pigeonpea varieties – related to maturity, growth habit, flower color, and pod shape – to identify traditional and specific improved varieties. The protocol survey was tested on over 700 rural households, with photographs taken of each pigeonpea plant included in the survey. The photographs were used in a verification exercise in which pigeonpea breeders (experts) were asked to identify the variety of pigeonpea based on the photographs. Low rates of convergence between expert classifications and the protocol’s classifications suggest that there is substantial room for improvement in the original protocol. Moreover, significant discrepancies between expert classifications suggest that classifying varieties of pigeonpea may be more complex than originally anticipated. Scaling up of the protocol is not recommended at this time, and next steps should include reevaluation of the protocol by breeders and other experts to assess where improvements can be.


Working with IITA scientists, SPIA helped develop a simple protocol for identifying cowpea improved varieties as a class, based on phenotypic characteristics. This protocol has been included in the 2012/13 round of the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Surveys-Integrated Surveys of Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) for Nigeria. Nationally representative data from this protocol, on the adoption of improved varieties, and how this correlates with farm and farmer characteristics, will be available in late 2013.

Outputs include:

  • Scoping study titled "The Impacts of Food Legume Research in the CGIAR: A Scoping Study" by Rob Tripp, February 2011 (PDF)
  • Global and Regional Trends in Production, Trade and Consumption of Food Legume Crops by Sitou Akibode and Mywish Maredia, March 2011 (PDF)
  • Results of Pilot Testing of a Varietal Identification Protocol for Pigeonpea in Tanzania's Northern Zone by Sarah Mine, October 2012 (PDF)
  • Impact Brief No. 44 with key results on legumes adoption outcomes (PDF)
  • Legumes Synthesis Report by Douglas Pachico with key results on legumes adoption outcomes (PDF)

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