No. 1380 18 September 2009

Governing Board meets at Bamako

ICRISAT’s Governing Board (GB) met for the 61st time this week at Bamako, Mali. Attending the meeting were the 10 members (except AP Chief Secretary Ramakanth Reddy) with the new Chair, Nigel Poole at the helm.

A highlight of this event was the visit of the Director General William Dar to the President of Mali, His Excellency Amadou Toumani Toure. With him were Nigel Poole, GB Member Gry Synnevag and ICRISAT-WCA Director Farid Waliyar. During the visit, President Toure stressed that Mali needs to develop its agriculture sector through science-based approaches. Along with this, he recognized ICRISAT’s efforts in increasing the productivity of sorghum, groundnut and pearl millet.

GB members with the Malian Minister of Agriculture The President of Mali, His Excellency Amadou Toumani Toure (beside Nigel Poole and Gry Synnevag) with Director General William Dar, ICRISAT-WCA Director Farid Waliyar, Country Representative Bonny Ntare and NARS partners.

The GB meeting was officially opened on Tuesday by the Minister of Agriculture of Mali Aghatam Ag Akhassane, GB Chair Dr Nigel Poole and Director General Dar. In the presence of the national media, Dr Dar underlined the importance of the collaboration between ICRISAT and Mali and thanked the Minister of Agriculture for gracing the occasion.

In his welcome message, the Minister emphasized, “If we want to change the world for the better, then it is with science.” He added that food security in Mali relies on the revitalization of agricultural research, especially with climate change ahead.

In his remarks, Dr Nigel Poole made reference to the fact that Mali is one of the strongholds of ICRISAT’s performance in West and Central Africa.

The opening session of the GB meeting The opening session of the GB meeting.

The first four days were devoted to the GB retreat and meetings of the Program Committee, Executive Committee, Nominations Committee and Audit Committee. A visit to the Samanko station was also done on Thursday. The plenary meeting was held today (Friday).

During the GB retreat, important items were taken up, such as the CGIAR change management process, trends in development assistance and world financial outlook including crop productivity and production in the semi-arid tropics, and major factors affecting them.

Discussions on the CGIAR change management process focused on: (1) critical points for ICRISAT, including the role of the GB, and how to manage them; (2) Consortium agreement and the formation of the Consortium; and (3) strategic results framework and mega-programs.

GB and MG members Field visit at Samanko station.

Discussions on trends focused on: (1) development assistance and world financial outlook as they affect ICRISAT’s mission and mandate and the new CGIAR Consortium, and (2) crop productivity and production in the semi-arid tropics and major factors affecting these, especially climate change and water availability, and the seed industry especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

A dialogue with key partners and stakeholders was conducted immediately after the opening on Tuesday. Participants in this dialogue were ICRISAT’s Management Group (MG), Research Committee (RC) and senior scientists based in Bamako. With them were the heads of major NARS partners, which include: Institut d’ Economie Rural (IER), National Council of Agricultural Research (CNRA), Institut du Sahel (INSAH), the private sector (Faso Kaba, a seed company) and civil society organizations (Association of Professional Farmers, European Cooperative for Rural Development and the Helen Keller Foundation).

During the GB retreat, the proposed framework for ICRISAT’s strategic planning exercise was discussed and focused on how to ensure a comprehensive process, including research directions, partnerships, financing, administration and infrastructure.

During the Program Committee (PC) meeting on Wednesday, major items taken up were: (1) an update on the Medium-Term Plan for 2010-2012; (2) ICRISAT’s standing in the 2008 Performance Measurement Indicators; (3) Plans of action for research for the 6th EPMR recommendations; (3) proposal for blue sky research on developing crops with high productivity at high temperatures; (4) ICRISAT’s climate change risk management strategy “Hypothesis of Hope”; and (5) the report on West and Central Africa.

After the PC, the Executive Committee also met to take up ICRISAT’s financial standing in 2009 and budget in 2010; plans of action on governance and management out of the 6th EPMR recommendations; goals on gender and diversity; and review of the delegation of authority to the Director General.

On Thursday, GB and MG members together with the national media visited the Samanko station. During the visit, participants were briefed about ICRISAT’s main projects on sweet sorghum, hybrid sorghum, groundnut breeding, pearl millet, jatropha and marker-assisted selection for Striga resistance in sorghum. Likewise, collaborative research projects were also presented by AVRDC and ILRI.

After the visit to Samanko, the Nominations Committee met to discuss the selection of a new GB Member in place of Margaret Mwanakatwe. Likewise, the Audit Committee also met to take up the various audit reports done during the last five months.

A major issue that emerged during the GB retreat was the positioning of ICRISAT in the emerging task environment. Towards this, the MG and selected GB Members had brainstorming sessions to map out action points on how to bring this forward.

The foregoing issues taken up in the Committee meetings will be decided by the GB in the plenary meeting today, and will be reported in the next issue of Happenings.

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VDS Field Investigators get oriented

Twenty field investigators including two women recruited for implementation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project on “Tracking change in rural poverty in village and household economies in South Asia”, called Village Dynamics Studies or VDS for short, underwent training in ICRISAT-Patancheru from 2 to 11 September. Director General Dr William D Dar inaugurated the training program.

Inspiring the field investigators, Dr Dar elaborated on the “Science with a Human Face” mantra. He emphasized the importance of team building exercises and urged the participants to make the best use of the program through these inspiring words:

MCS Bantilan speaks
MCS Bantilan speaks, while Director General Dar, H Hernandez and V Kiresur look on.

Carry a heart that never hates but a heart that loves,

Carry a smile that never fades but a smile that cares,

Carry a touch that never hurts but a touch that heals,

Carry a voice that never stings but a voice that inspires, and

Carry a science with a human face that never destroys but one that works for and with the poor.

Recruited by GT-IMPI the investigators will be located in selected villages to collect quality household data. The 10-day Induction-cum-Orientation Program organized jointly by GT-IMPI and HR was to enhance capacities and motivate the field investigators to start their project with enthusiasm.

In her opening remarks, Dr Cynthia Bantilan, GTL-IMPI, highlighted the significance of quality data in research and the role of Field Investigators in collecting quality data, and stated that this program would help the investigators improve their skills to achieve the desired goal. The program included classroom sessions, village visits and team building exercises.

During the classroom sessions, the participants were rigorously trained on various quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques and instruments, and in the usage of GPS, CAPI, VLS website and email.

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ICRISAT remembers Norman Borlaug

Father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, died at his home in Dallas, Texas on 12 September at the age of 95. An American agricultural scientist, Dr Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work to stop world hunger. As the Father of the Green Revolution, his efforts to increase crop yields has been credited with saving millions of people from starvation. Norman Borlaug was a marvel, continuing to work on agricultural projects and academic pursuits even as he reached the age of 95. He resided in Dallas, but taught classes during the fall semester at Texas A and M University in College Station, where an institute was established in his name.

Father of green revolution Norman Borlaug (center) during his visit to ICRISAT on 5 February 1996.

In a condolence message sent to the bereaved family, Director General Dr William Dar on behalf of the Institute and partners of ICRISAT described Borlaug as a true humanitarian, and said that his legacy will continue to inspire generations of scientists, development workers and farmers around the world. “He will always be our inspiration and our guiding light in helping the poor, and making poverty and hunger a thing of the past. His unequalled work in global agricultural research will always be remembered by all of us”, stated Dr Dar.

Borlaug, during his last visit to ICRISAT in 1996 wrote in the visitors book, “It is wonderful to revisit ICRISAT and see the progress you have made in improving the agriculture for the dryland tropical areas. Congratulations. Keep up the good work.”

Dr Norman Borlaug has left the world a richer place. Team ICRISAT fervently prays for his family to have strength and comfort at this time, and for his soul to enjoy everlasting peace.

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ICRISAT signs Copenhagen Communiqué on climate change

ICRISAT is one of the signatories of the high-profile Copenhagen Communiqué on Climate Change, thus joining a host of leading global institutions to endorse the initiative. Other signatories include the Adidas Group, Cable & Wireless plc, Cathay Pacific Airways, HSBC, Procter & Gamble and Swiss Re, amongst over 350 companies of all sizes and background.

The communiqué is an initiative of HRH the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group (CLG) on Climate Change, University of Cambridge program for sustainability leadership. It is set to become the definitive statement from the international business community ahead of the crucial United Nations negotiations on climate change in Copenhagen this December.

ICRISAT is delighted to be a signatory of the communiqué, as the geographical area where ICRISAT works is the semi-arid tropics of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa where the world’s poorest people live. Dr Dar affirms, “ICRISAT is well placed to respond to this challenge. Along with our partners, we recognize the importance of the issue and firmly believe that our approach will benefit the livelihoods of communities who are the most vulnerable to climate change”.

The communiqué, which is being issued by a large number of global institutions, calls for an ambitious, robust and equitable global deal on climate change that responds credibly to the scale and urgency of the crises facing the world today. The CLG will launch the communiqué to the international media in the week commencing 21 September, and the Group aims to hand it personally to Mr Ban Ki-moon (Secretary General of the United Nations) at a public event in New York in advance of the Copenhagen Summit.

The UN’s Copenhagen Summit seeks to establish an effective, consistent set of climate goals, by integrating the insights of policy makers, academics, business leaders and environmentalists alike, following similar talks in Bali in 2007 and Poznan in 2008.

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Tropical Legumes II progress in ESA

The Tropical Legumes II (TL II) annual review and planning meetings of the ESA sub-region for the 2008-09 crop season expressed satisfaction over the progress of the project. The meetings were held in Nampula, Mozambique, and Morogoro, Tanzania, in late August.

Participants of the TL II meeting Participants of the TL II meeting at Morogoro.

The meeting in Nampula took place on 20-21 August, and dealt with progress made in Objective 3 (cowpea) and Objective 7 (soybean), and their associated components of seed systems. The Director General of Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique, Dr Calisto ALF Bias, gave the opening remarks. In all, 19 delegates from Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, and TL II Advisory Board (AB) members, Prof Rob Melis (South Africa) and Dr S Shanmugasundaram (USA) participated in the Nampula meeting.

Based on the presentations made, the AB members noted that the targets specified in the milestones were achieved. In some cases progress exceeded the target while in others the targets could not be achieved due to limited resources. They also noted that, “Some of the presentations had some excellent field pictures and socio-economic settings of science with a human face”, and appreciated the video footage on soybean processing in western Kenya.

A total of 16 participants and AB member Prof Rob Melis attended the Morogoro meeting, which was held on 27-28 August. The TL II coordinator Dr Tsedeke Abate, NARS researchers and ICRISAT scientists from Tanzania, Malawi and Kenya also attended the meeting. This meeting dealt with Objective 2 (groundnut), Objective 5 (chickpea), Objective 6 (pigeonpea), and seed systems for the ESA sub-region.

One of the major highlights of the Nampula meeting was the nine groundnut varieties that have been proposed for release in Tanzania ((ICGV-SMs 01711, 01721, 01724, 99555 and 99557), Mozambique (ICGV-SMs 99541 and 99568 and JL 24), and Malawi (ICGV-SM 96714). A good number of potential pigeonpea (Tanzania and Malawi) and chickpea varieties (Tanzania and Kenya) have also been identified either for their inclusion in National Performance Trials or release.

Professor Melis appreciated the progress made in the research and development of the three crops in the sub-region and made several recommendations including the need for putting the recommended varieties on national variety lists and doing some work to fast track their registration. He also emphasized the need for strengthening the capacity of national breeders to conduct breeding locally.

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Japanese Ambassador to Niger visits ICRISAT-Niamey

The Japanese ambassador to Niger, his Excellency Okamura Yoshifumi, visited ICRISAT Sahelian Centre at Sadoré on 9 September, accompanied by his first secretary and a representative of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

Japanese ambassador to Niger at Sadoré The Japanese ambassador to Niger, Okamura Yoshifumi, at the ICRISAT Sahelian Centre at Sadoré.

The ambassador inspected the demonstration trials to see improved pearl millet and groundnut cultivars, millet-cowpea and millet-hibiscus intercropping systems developed by the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), the Micro-dosing technology, and other soil fertility management alternatives.

The visitors also saw the nursery of fruits trees, the experimental field of African market garden, and the field of Bio-reclamation of degraded land. The Ambassador was particularly impressed by ICRISAT’s motto to perform “Science with a Human face”, a concept that was explained to him by Dr Bettina Haussmann, representing the Regional Director Dr Farid Waliyar. During the briefing on the ongoing collaboration between ICRISAT and JIRCAS, he wished continuous success to the JIRCAS scientists Drs Omae, Nakamura and Satosi.

The Sahelian team was very encouraged by the visit and wishes for a deeper cementing of the relationship between the Japanese government and ICRISAT to enhance future cooperation and support.

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ICRISAT to help Vietnam set up Agri-Parks

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ICRISAT and the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of Vietnam was signed on 9 September at Patancheru. Under this MOU signed by Director General Dr Dar and Dr Nguyen Van Lang, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology, Vietnam, ICRISAT will help Vietnam with the establishment of an Agri-Science Park, Centers of Excellence in Biotechnology, and watershed development.

The MOU was signed in the presence of CLL Gowda, GTL-Crop Improvement, Abdul Rahman Ilyas, and R Purushotham, Manager-Operations, ASP.

Dr William Dar and Vice-Minister, Dr Nguyen Van Lang DG Dr William Dar and Vice-Minister, Dr Nguyen Van Lang exchanging MOUs.

Dr Nguyen Van Lang, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Science and Technology, Vietnam, along with a seven-member team from Hoalac Hi-Tech Park, Hanoi and HCM Hi-Tech Agricultural Park visited ASP on 8 September as part of the study tour to understand the functioning of science parks in India. This visit was a follow-up to the participation of Abdul Rahman Ilyas in the 4th Asian Science Parks Association (ASPA) Leaders Meeting held in Hanoi from 20-21 May.

The Vietnamese delegation also visited the ICICI Knowledge Park, Shapoorji Pallonji Biotech Park and Institute of Life Sciences in Hyderabad.

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ABI participates in India Innovation Growth Programme

The Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) of ICRISAT has showcased its innovations at the inauguration-cum-technology Expo of the Department of science and Technology–Lockheed Martin India Innovation Growth Programme 2009. The program was held on 31 August at Hyderabad. The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India (GOI), Lockheed Martin Corporation, Indo-US S & T Forum, FICCI and the IC2 Institute, University of Texas at Austin have jointly launched the initiative. Kanna Lakshmi Narayana, the Minister of Major Industries, Commerce & Export Promotion and Food Processing, Government of Andhra Pradesh, formally inaugurated the Expo.

Dr Ray O Johnson Dr Ray O Johnson, Lockheed Martin Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer and Karuppanchetty at the ICRISAT pavilion.

ABI displayed its innovators of the Technopreneur Promotion Program (TePP) of the DSIR, GOI and the technologies that were commercialized through ABI. Karuppanchetty and Aravazhi briefed the visitors on ICRISAT and its initiatives through the Agri-Science Park (ASP) that included business incubation and technology commercialization and other components. The showcased innovations of TePP included groundnut cooking spray of Rami Reddy, Biofer growth promoter of Anil Reddy, and the castor oil run IC engine of Mustan Wali.

A large number of participants, visited the ICRISAT pavilion and showed interest in helping to commercialize some of the innovations.

Dr Ray O Johnson, Lockheed Martin Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer, Mr HK Mittal, Advisor & Head, National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB), Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India and the mentor of ABI-ICRISAT, Dr Arabinda Mitra, Executive Director, Indo – US S&T Forum, Mr Len Denton, Programme Manager, IC2 Institute, were also present.

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