Mama Manneh

Ashoka Fellow
Njawara, The Gambia
Fellow Since 2011

Citation

This profile was prepared when Mama Manneh was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2011.
The New Idea
Manneh saw an opportunity in the testing protocols of very promising “early yield” seed varieties (i.e. seeds that had been successfully used on other continents). These protocols routinely mandated a testing period on research farms, under ideal conditions, of four years. Leveraging his recognized expertise and reputation as a thoughtful, careful field researcher, Manneh convinced the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), to sell him several promising F1 (early yielding) seed varieties of corn, groundnut, and millet.

Manneh then organized a “real farming world test” of these seeds—effectively running a parallel real world test, using women farmers. He taught the women to organize themselves into sections, with certain areas set aside for cultivation, and others for harvesting seed. Manneh taught them how to segregate the planting of the various seeds, one from the other, and from local species. Apart from a small control plot that Manneh maintained, the women’s groups took ownership and decided how the produce and the seed stock were to be managed.

This decision to invest the seed fully with the farmers put the farmers in a position to build up their seed stocks when the first harvest was successful, and it also provided an opportunity to be sellers of the high-quality seeds when news of their success attracted the attention of other farmer groups.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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