No. 1382 01 October 2009

Governing Board Appreciates, Encourages and Provides Guidance at Mali Meeting

The Governing Board (GB) of ICRISAT, which met at Bamako, Mali, from 14 to 18 September, has appreciated the collective action of Team ICRISAT under the leadership of the Director General Dr William Dar. The Director General’s report highlighted the work based on the work plan approved by the Board. The GB congratulated Dr Dar for his very fine and crisp report and Team ICRISAT for maintaining the strong position of the Institute in the CG system.

The Governing Board meeting was officially opened by the Minister of Agriculture of Mali, Aghatam Ag Akhassane, GB Chair Dr Nigel Poole and Dr William Dar.

Governing Board and senior staff members Governing Board and senior staff members at Bamako, Mali.

The GB Retreat discussed items relating to 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. The framework on ICRISAT’s strategic planning process was also discussed, and included the Board’s evaluation mechanisms.

The GB requested that future presentations should include a break-down of the global media reach by region. The brainstorming on further positioning of ICRISAT resulted in suggestions that ICRISAT enhance their advocacy letters and policy briefs, prepare a coffee table book on success stories, and more actively participate in the CGIAR change process, lobbying and strategic public awareness initiatives.

The GB approved the plans of action presented by the Management on both research, and governance and management, and endorsed the proposed Blue Sky Research initiative. They were informed that the Agri-Science Park will be further strengthened with a review of the mission statement and new organization and management systems.

Other items discussed and noted were the MTP 2010-2012 Update; ICRISAT 2008 Performance Measurement Indicators; ICRISAT’s Climate change Risk Management Strategy – “Hypothesis of Hope”; and the West and Central Africa Research Report.

Governing Board in retreat Governing Board in retreat.

Reviewing the funding and budget for 2010 the Board approved the proposed budget with estimated revenue of US$ 51.46 million, expenditure of US$ 51.32 million and a surplus of US$ 0.14 million, and that the latter will be transferred to reserves. For 2009, the GB approved a budget with estimated revenue of US$ 50.83 million, expenditure of US$ 49.81 million and an operating surplus of US$ 1.01 million.

The delegation of authority to the Director General is reviewed and revised every two years; the GB approved a revised delegation of authority at this meeting. Also, the GB was happy to note the preliminary results of the staff survey where there is high net satisfaction of staff members.

The GB took note of the Audit Committee (AC) report on the audits undertaken. There were no major issues of concern, and the internal controls and risk management practices in place continue to be satisfactory. The AC recommended that the management should start the process of reviewing external auditors to be appointed for 2010.

Director General Dr Dar speaking to media Director General Dr Dar speaking to media during the farm visit.

The GB approved the process recommended by the Nominations Committee for selection of a new GB member (in place of Ms Margaret Mwanakatwe).

All Board members confirmed the importance and value of the field visits arranged during GB meetings, but requested that the next field visit (at Patancheru) be limited to one or two aspects of research, providing the opportunity for an in-depth presentation on the chosen subjects. They also suggested that a gender policy framework covering internal and external issues be developed and presented during the next GB meeting for approval.

While endorsing the management’s strategic planning process, the GB announced that they will seek to be involved in the various events as appropriate. The proposed dates for consultations are as follows:

    • Asia at Patancheru, 12-14 January 2010
    • WCA at Niamey, 26-28 January 2010
    • ESA at Nairobi, 2-4 February 2010
    • Expert consultations at Patancheru (IFAD funded), 23-25 February 2010.

Director General Dar and the Management team expressed their appreciation to the Governing Board for their encouragement and guidance, and to members of Team ICRISAT at WCA for the excellent preparations and assistance that contributed to the success of the meetings.

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Scientific basis advocated by UNCCD bears fruit

As reported in the last Happenings, the ninth Conference of Parties (COP9) of the United Nations Conference to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) held its first Scientific Conference in Buenos Aires from 22 to 24 September. The Scientific Conference was organized by ICRISAT and four other international research institutes under the Drylands Science for Development (DSD) Consortium in collaboration with the UNCCD. It was attended by over 200 scientists from all over the world, chiefly experts in management systems to combat land degradation and desertification.

The Conference is part of the 10-Year (2008-2018) strategy for reforming the UNCCD (referred to as the Convention). The eighth Conference of Parties (COP8) of the UNCCD decided to strengthen the scientific basis underpinning the Convention, and advised the UNCCD Committee on Science and Technology (CST, chaired by Dr Dar) to conduct its future sessions in a predominantly Conference Format, addressing specified themes.

UNCCD Conference
UNCCD first Scientific Conference in progress.

The theme, Bio-physical and socio-economic monitoring and assessment of desertification and land degradation, to support decision-making in land and water management, was chosen as the first priority theme.

The DSD had six meetings in 2009 and convened three global working groups of scientists to analyze and summarize the leading scientific knowledge on this priority theme. After taking into consideration the input received during the Scientific Conference, the working groups organized eleven key recommendations, as listed below, which is being considered by COP9 (also taking place in Buenos Aires from 21 September to 2 October).

  1. Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) as defined by UNCCD results from dynamic, interconnected, human-environment interactions in land systems, where land includes water, soil, vegetation and humans — requiring a rigorous scientific framework for monitoring and assessment, which has heretofore been lacking.
  2. To be sufficiently realistic and insightful, monitoring and assessment must make use of a wide range of analytical methodologies, and distill their lessons into forms useful for decision makers through integrated assessment modeling.
  3. Public land-use and land-management decisions are taken mainly at national and sub-national levels, and so a UNCCD global monitoring and assessment strategy should be designed to be compatible and synergistic with these levels.
  4. Sustainable land management (SLM) is imperative to address the UNCCD core mission to combat desertification; therefore SLM monitoring and assessment should be fully integrated into DLDD monitoring and assessment.
  5. DLDD/SLM monitoring and assessment should include the collection of information relating it to climate change and biodiversity, and to other land-related issues that are the focus of multilateral environmental agreements.
  6. To aid decision makers in setting priorities, monitoring and assessment should collect information on the economic, social and environmental costs of DLDD, and the benefits of SLM. The potential role of economic modeling should be explored to develop policy mechanisms that can facilitate sustainable land management decisions.
  7. Monitoring and assessment should capitalize on knowledge management to stimulate valuable synergies between different sources of expertise across different spatial and temporal scales and levels, social settings, institutions, scientific disciplines and development sectors.
  8. Sharing of local and scientific knowledge, tools and methods will enhance monitoring and assessment and strengthen human and institutional capacities.
  9. Coordination and dissemination of new knowledge and methodologies for integrated approaches to DLDD/SLM require the establishment of an independent, international, interdisciplinary scientific advisory mechanism that would include (but not be limited to) monitoring and assessment, with clear channels for consideration of its advice in Convention decision-making.
  10. In order to propel principles into action, regular global DLDD/SLM monitoring and assessment and early warning mechanisms should be organized and implemented based on agreed standards, protocols and open data access policies, to harmonize with other efforts worldwide, and to minimize duplication of effort.
  11. The UNCCD community would benefit from a science networking mechanism so that the large yet dispersed body of DLDD/SLM knowledge and expertise worldwide could be more effectively accessed, used and shared.

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Science can help society weather the perfect storm

Director General William Dar addressing the closing session of the Scientific Conference at Buenos Aires said that science can help society to face the “Perfect Storm”, a combination of climate change, population growth, food security, energy security in the DLDD.

DG at the first scientific conference of UNCCD
DG at the first scientific conference of UNCCD in Buenos Aires.

Dr Dar said, “While the pressures are ominous, we are not helpless against them. For three days, we’ve heard and discussed a wide range of ways that science can help society to weather this storm, and even to thrive. It will be up to all of us in society as a whole to decide whether we take advantage of these opportunities.”

Appreciating the work of the leading scientists from around the world who worked hard to develop white papers leading to key messages and recommendations, Dr Dar said that the scientific community, society and the policy makers need to combat the threat together.

He thanked the donors and institutions that supported this process, especially the DSD consortium, whose five institutions contributed a large amount of the time and resources of their staff out of sheer commitment to the UNCCD.

Summing up the deliberations, Dr Dar said, “We must consider this final session not as an end, but as a beginning. Like any first step, it has been a learning experience. We will be open to learn and improve on all aspects, as well as to note what worked well and build on it”.

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Kerio Valley farmers like pigeonpea

medium-duration pigeonpea
Peter Kaloki explains the advantages of medium-duration pigeonpea to farmers.

When Member of Parliament Jackson Kiptanui (representing the Keiyo South constituency in Kenya) requested ICRISAT-Nairobi and Egerton University to demonstrate the production potentials of ICRISAT’s mandate crops in his constituency, the Institute jumped at the chance. Farmers in this semi-arid drought-prone area are not very familiar with pigeonpea and chickpea, and this was a good opportunity to introduce the crop to them. Egerton University has planted pigeonpea (ICEAP 00557, 00554) and chickpea (ICCVs 97105, 92944, 95423, 00108) trials.

In September, ICRISAT-Nairobi and Egerton University participated in a farmers’ field day organized at Cheptebo village, Keiyo South District of the Rift Valley in Kenya to assess the performance and obtain the farmers’ perspectives of these trials. During the field day, 65 farmers, Ganga Rao and Peter Kaloki of ICRISAT, Paul Kimurto and B Towett of Egerton University, Joseph Lelon of Kenya Forest Research Institute, JICA representatives, World Vision involved in nutritional issues, and DAO-Keiyo South District were present.

medium-duration pigeonpea
Farmers at the pigeonpea demonstration site.

Ganga Rao and Peter Kaloki presented a general overview of ICRISAT’s mandate grain legumes (pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut). Farmers were very happy to see pigeonpea thriving in the field despite of the severe drought that had hit the area during the growing season. They preferred medium-duration varieties, namely ICEAP 00557 and 00554, in comparison to the long-duration varieties.

Joseph Lelon explained the possibilities of biofuels from sweet sorghum and Croton megalocarpus trees growing locally in Kerio valley. Participants expressed a desire to grow pigeonpea in a big way in the ensuing crop season. They were also keen to know more about other dryland cereals such as sorghum and finger millet. Farmers in this area are familiar with groundnuts and are mobilizing all financial support to buy a groundnut sheller for mechanized shelling.

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Three Open Field Days in Niger

When harvesting is approaching then it is time for ICRISAT-Niamey to open its doors for visitors. This year the program was a bit larger than usual. Together with its main partner in Niger, INRAN, ICRISAT held three Open Field Days - two in the town of Maradi (25/26 September) and one at Sadoré Research Station (29 September).

The first day in Maradi was devoted to government officials and representatives of several NGOs and international organizations. They had a close look at ICRISAT’s research fields on Jatropha, groundnuts and millet. The representative of the recently installed “West Africa Seed Alliance” WASA office gave a presentation about their activities in the Maradi region. INRAN presented their research activities on sorghum, their entomological research and their nurseries.

The Governor of Maradi, M Chaibou Ali Maazou was received by Dr Farid Waliyar, Director ICRISAT West and Central Africa. The Governor expressed his gratitude for ICRISAT’s engagement in agricultural development of the Maradi region. He promised his full support in order to maintain the success of the collaborative research.

On the second day, hundreds of farmers seized the opportunity to learn about ICRISAT’s research products, namely groundnut varieties, vegetables and tree plants like Morenga, “Pomme de Sahel” (Apple of the Sahel) and Mangoes. Many of the farmers wanted to purchase the offered products immediately.

On 29 September ICRISAT and INRAN held the Open Field Day at Sadoré station, exclusively for VIPs’. Among them were representatives of the Egyptian and French Embassy, the Belgium Cooperation and the Consul General of Mali. About 80 participants were guided through the research fields at Sadoré and despite the warm and humid weather attentively followed explanations about pearl millet, groundnut, soil fertility, midcrodosing, Jatropha, joint AVRDC/ICRISAT research on vegetables, African Market Garden, Date Palms, Bioreclamation of Degraded Lands and the joint research with CIRAD.

Niger’s Minister for the Promotion of Young Entrepreneurs, M Salatou Ousseini, expressed his wish that his ministry and ICRISAT will work together in strengthening the capacity of young agricultural entrepreneurs.

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