No. 1386 30 October 2009

HOPE planning workshop held in Nairobi

A planning workshop for the HOPE Project, ESA was held in Nairobi on 27 and 28 October. The workshop was attended by 45 participants representing National Agricultural Research Institutes, private sector, NGOs, seed companies and universities. Richard Jones officially opened the workshop on behalf of Said Silim, Director, ESA.

In his opening remarks, Jones stressed that the project is a wonderful opportunity to advance delivery of sorghum and finger millet technologies in order to raise productivity and contribute to food security in the ESA region. Mary Mgonja, Principal Scientist and Program Leader, giving the overview of the project, started by recognizing Bekele Shiferaw for naming the project “HOPE” (Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement). She stated that the development of the project was a long process involving many stakeholders, and the selling card was mainly its charitable purpose and adoption of a value chain approach.

planning workshop for the HOPE Project Participants at the planning workshop for the HOPE Project in Nairobi.

The workshop was conducted through plenary and breakout sessions. The country breakout groups addressed country specific issues such as agreements on target areas, identification of national coordinators, objective leaders, sharing of responsibilities in developing workplans and reviewing the sub-contracts. The national coordinators were mandated to organize meetings with key project in-country team members to discuss technical, financial and logistical arrangements for the implementation, and to engender ownership of the project. Multi-country teams were convened by objectives and started the process of developing workplans as per the protocol. A strategy was put in place for the finalization of workplans. Hari Upadhyaya participated in the workplan development process and provided valuable inputs.

The meeting was officially closed by Said Silim, who encouraged the teams to ensure that the work plans are finalized as the rainy season is expected to start in a few weeks in some countries. Teams were urged to complement and build synergies with other related projects and he wished everyone success in the implementation of the project.

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ICRISAT co-sponsors Crawford Fund International Conference

CLL Gowda at the Crawford Fund International Conference CLL Gowda at the Crawford Fund International Conference in Canberra.

Decision makers, diplomats, NGO representatives and scientists gathered in the Parliament House, Canberra, Australia for the Crawford Fund annual conference from 27 to 28 October. The meeting explored ways in which the private sector can engage in international agricultural research, development and extension to benefit the rural poor. ICRISAT was one of the co-sponsors of this event.

The conference was opened by Stephen Smith, Australian minister for Foreign Affairs and conducted by Neil Andrews, Chairman of the Crawford Fund. This year’s conference commemorated the 25th death anniversary of Sir John Crawford who was one of the architects of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). He was also a strong advocate of the CGIAR and the first Chairman of CGIAR’s Technical Advisory Committee.

With the theme, World Food Security: Can Private Sector R&D Feed the Poor?, the conference highlighted the longstanding challenge for the private sector to develop and introduce agricultural products, technologies and services urgently needed by developing countries. This is further magnified when there is a shift of private R&D investments from developed to developing countries.

In his inaugural address, Stephen Smith announced, “In the last three decades, agriculture’s share of overseas aid has declined from 17% to less than 4%. Australia was no exception. In this year’s budget, the government set out to redress this. We announced increased funding for Food Security through Rural Development to $464 million over four years.”

Peter Ninnes and CLL Gowda represented ICRISAT at the conference. Gowda gave a keynote presentation on Private sector Partnering on Crops of the Poorest of the Poor, as case study of Public-Private Sector Partnership in Crop Improvement. Elaborating ICRISAT’s experience, Gowda said that in 2000, ICRISAT and private sector seed companies initiated the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium as a novel public-private research and development partnership for improving availability of seeds of high yielding cultivars. ICRISAT develops and provides early and advanced generation breeding materials to partners. They select best parents, test, multiply and market high-yielding hybrids through their well-established market networks in the rural areas.

“ICRISAT has partnered with more than 50 seed companies in India, Indonesia, Egypt and Mexico through the consortium approach to deliver its improved hybrids and varieties to poor farmers,” Gowda added.

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Strategic communication training-workshop

Rex Navarro and Tsedeke Abate Rex Navarro and Tsedeke Abate (in white shirt) doing exercises in the BMGF strategic communication training workshop.

Last week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a three-day training-workshop on strategic communication in New York for its various grantees across the globe. The training workshop was attended by 55 participants and included Communication Director Rex Navarro and Tropical Legumes II Project Director Tsedeke Abate.

Held at the heart of Manhattan and facilitated by Spitfire Strategies, the hands-on training-workshop enabled participants to learn the following strategic communication techniques:

  • Crafting an elevator pitch - Developing and delivering a succinct speech about one’s work when located in an elevator with a big donor, or seated on an airplane next to a potential partner, or at a conference session in a roomful of people someone has never met.

  • Planning a communication strategy - pursuing a ‘SMART’ planning tool that offers a practical approach to developing strategic communication programs.

  • Opposition messaging and issues management - preparing and delivering messages in difficult situations such as attacks from opposing groups and other entities beyond one’s control, so that these do not escalate into crises.

  • Storytelling - harnessing traditional storytelling as a valuable tool in strategic communication and crafting high impact stories about one’s work.

  • Outreach to policymakers – harnessing best practices in reaching out to policymakers and sharing one’s work and advocacy with them. It also dealt with strategies in identifying target policymakers and tailoring messages for them.

Simultaneous sessions were held on doing media interviews, writing for results, building and leading effective coalitions and crafting a media pitch. Seasoned media practitioners facilitated all the sessions.

This training-workshop is quite timely considering ICRISAT’s positioning to lead and actively participate in mega programs of the new CGIAR.

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Training on seed bank cooperatives held

ICRISAT under its DRD-SERP (Department for Rural Development-Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty) project on Improving Rural Livelihoods through Integrated Agricultural Development in Mahbubnagar District of Andhra Pradesh, organized a training program on Seed Production Techniques for the members of the village seed committees and cluster activists of five clusters in Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh on 22 October.

About 50 participants representing farmer committees from Wanaparthy, Ghanapur, Pebber, Peddamandadi and Gopalpet clusters participated in the training. BVS Reddy, Principal Scientist welcomed all participants and released a technical bulletin on improved sorghum production practices brought out jointly by ICRISAT and SERP.

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International conference on Arachis genomics

ICRISAT along with the Peanut Science Council, USA; Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program and the Institut d’Economie Rural of Mali (IER) organized the fourth international conference on Peanut research community at Azalai Grand Hotel in Bamako, Mali from 20 to 22 October.

Bino Teme the Director General of IER, inaugurated the conference. Other speakers at the opening session included, Farid Waliyar (Director WCA), B Ntare (ICRISAT Country Representative, Mali), H Valentine and R Wilson (American Peanut Council).

Fourth International Conference on Advances in Arachis genomics
Participants of the Fourth International Conference on Advances in Arachis genomics in Bamako.

The conference attracted 30 scientists with diverse expertise in groundnut (peanut) genomics and biotechnology as well as traditional groundnut research from across the globe. It also served as an avenue to exchange knowledge in groundnut genomics and biotechnology. The conference featured sessions on country and regional reports about advances in peanut research in different countries. The presentations focused on genetics, allelic diversity and germplasm enhancement, genome resources and genome analysis, abiotic and biotic stresses and quality. In all, 25 papers were presented covering these categories.

The participants visited the ICRISAT research station at Samanko where they had a guided tour of the research activities on groundnut and sorghum as well as the physical facilities.

On the final day, which was dubbed as West and Central Africa Regional Peanut Workshop, there were country presentations on the status of groundnut research from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali, Togo and Nigeria. This was followed by a discussion on the priorities for peanut research in the sub-region. Farid Waliyar chaired the session.

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Irish Minister launches Khulungira

Peter Powers
Peter Powers (center), Carlos Seré (left) and Richard Jones at the African food exhibition in Dublin.

Peter Power, Irish Minister of State for Overseas Development, launched Khulungira, an exhibition highlighting the potential of science for Africa’s smallholder farmers at the Irish Aid Volunteering and Information Centre in Dublin on 16 October. Leading international agricultural researchers, such as Carlos Seré, Director General of ILRI and Richard Jones, Assistant Director ICRISAT ESA, were also present at the launch.

The multi-media exhibition, which was timed to coincide with World Food Day, featured video, slideshows, photographs and soundscapes to introduce the people of Khulungira, a village in Malawi that has benefited from advances in agricultural research.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Power said, “At present, one in six people worldwide go to bed hungry each night and many more cannot afford a healthy diet. If we do not do all in our power to reverse the rise in food insecurity and hunger, we will be failing in our basic human obligations and accepting a scandalous situation, which we have the capacity to change.”

Khulungira succeeded in presenting the people behind the statistics. The villagers of Khulungira are typical of millions of people who are dependent on smallholder farming for food and income. The challenges they face are daunting. Thanks to research undertaken by the CGIAR and funded by Irish Aid, many Khulungira villagers have begun to plant new varieties of potatoes, sweet potatoes, groundnuts and trees. Others are improving the composition of soil and expanding their livestock holdings. In 2009 alone, Irish Aid, the Government’s program for overseas development, has funded almost €7 million to CGIAR for research, and is continuing to do so.

In each case, the change has increased production, improved diets and reduced vulnerability to losses. It’s important to note that without this kind of agricultural research, some 13 to 15 million more children would have suffered from hunger and malnourishment across Africa. According to the organizers, research has shown that for every $1 invested in CGIAR research, $9 worth of additional food has been produced in the developing world.

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ICRISAT and IFPRI organize AGROCURI workshop

ICRISAT and IFPRI workshop
Participants of the ICRISAT and IFPRI workshop at the University of Nairobi.

The Open Agricultural Curriculum and learning Initiative (AGROCURI) is a multi-stakeholder consortium managed by the CGIAR through ICRISAT and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). AGROCURI aims to build a curriculum and develop learning material support systems using re-usable learning objects. On behalf of the consortium, ICRISAT, with support from IFPRI, has built a pilot portal ( that enables any willing expert to browse learning materials or contribute them. The materials are arranged in such a way that an intending faculty in a university can access them by modules, units or subunits.

During 12-16 October, IFPRI and ICRISAT, in association with the Collaborative masters’ program in Agricultural and Applied Economics, a regional program based in Nairobi, organized a faculty development workshop at the University of Nairobi in its Kabete campus. The focus was on helping faculty members in agri-economics experience the workflows in the portal, get familiar with the way contributions are made, assessed and published, and examine the curriculum structure that is in an advanced stage of design.

Faculty members from 15 countries of the Eastern and Southern African region participated in this workshop and gave valuable feedback and comments.

The portal design was carried out in Hyderabad by an ICRISAT-based team in the KMS group.

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Training on hybrid pigeonpea

A day long farmer training program on Hybrid pigeonpea seed production technology and insect management was organized at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 27 October. Most of the participating farmers are associated with either hybrid seed production or on-farm testing of hybrid ICPH 2671.

farmer training program on hybrid pigeonpea seed production technology
Participants of farmer training program on hybrid pigeonpea seed production technology and insect management on a field visit in Patancheru.

This training program generated an overwhelming response from all the 37 participants hailing from six districts of Andhra Pradesh. Besides the farmers, participants also included seed producers, NSC representatives, and students from ANGRAU. The training was conducted in the local language, Telugu, for the benefit of the farmers. In his opening remarks, KB Saxena thanked the farmers for taking up hybrid pigeonpea seed production program at their farms under the supervision of ICRISAT. He also talked about hybrid development and performance of ICPH 2671 in the recent past. He encouraged farmers to make use of hybrid technology benefits for more returns.

RV Kumar made a presentation on hybrid seed production technology and V Rameshwar Rao presented insect management. This was followed by a field visit to the seed production plots, disease nursery and hybrid trials. The participants were very happy and thanked ICRISAT for the timely training program.

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ICRISAT joins Indian delegation at ANUGA 2009 in Germany

ANUGA 2009, the largest annual trade fair on the latest developments in the food industry, was held at Cologne, Germany between 9 and 15 October. ANUGA 2009 showcased food products from 180 countries around the globe. Some of the themes covered this year were: Organic products, Gourmet products and regional specialties, Health and functional foods, Private labels, Halal food and Vegetarian products. The trend towards natural health foods and beverages developed from natural plant products was the highlight of the trade fair.

Abdul Rahman Ilyas (ASP) and Saikat Datta (Nutriplus) represented ICRISAT at the fair. They were part of the delegation of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the event. The delegation met with Ursula Heinen-Esser, Parliamentary Secretary to the German Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. She expressed her support, on behalf of the German Government and the German Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, for the proposed collaboration between ICRISAT and Germany.

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