No. 1392 11 December 2009

A New CGIAR is Established

CGIAR meeting Participants of CGIAR 2009 Business Meeting in Washington DC.

As the year winds to a close, Director General Dr William Dar is happy to announce to Team ICRISAT the establishment of the New CGIAR.

The reform process of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which started in 2008, has been concluded with the endorsement of far-reaching reforms at the CGIAR Business Meeting, thus marking the establishment of the New CGIAR. The meeting was held at IMF headquarters in Washington, DC, on 7 and 8 December. Governing Board Chair Nigel Poole and Director General William Dar represented ICRISAT among members of the Alliance of Centers of the CGIAR present at this meeting.

The agreed reforms are expected to help boost funding for priority research areas, simplify organizational structures, reduce transaction costs and give greater emphasis to development results, steering the CGIAR towards its three strategic objectives – Food for People, Environment for People and Policies for People.

Katherine Sierra ICRISAT Board Chair Nigel Poole and Director General Dr William Dar interacting with CGIAR Chair Katherine Sierra.

The core elements of the new CGIAR will be the “Fund” that will harmonize donor contributions, and the “Consortium of the CGIAR Centers” that will unite the Centers under one legal entity and provide a single entry point for the Fund to contract Centers for research products. This model thus separates the “funders” from the “doers”.

In her address to the gathering, Chair of the CGIAR, Katherine Sierra, said that the CGIAR has a proven track record of impact. She was referring to an independent assessment of the CGIAR carried out in 2003, which revealed that for every $1 invested in its research, an additional $9 worth of food was made available in developing countries.

“But as the world changes and development challenges change, our past success does not guarantee that we can meet the challenges of the future. The reforms approved today will enable us to do more and have even greater impact. We needed to re-imagine our institutions and approaches, so we can have the best possible structure and systems in place to help the poor and hungry,” she added.

The newly appointed Chair of the Consortium Board, Carlos Pérez del Castillo, said that agriculture will play a central role in addressing most challenges that the international community faces today, and that high quality research is essential to provide answers to these problems. He further said, “This new model will enhance and increase collective action among Centers and with partners, and also mobilize and expand further resources for agriculture research to create global public goods that will contribute to agricultural development and improved livelihoods for the poor.” Carlos Pérez del Castillo of Uruguay has held several positions of international importance and was formerly the Chairman of the WTO General Council.

A strategy and results framework (SRF) will be implemented through a portfolio of “mega programs” – large-scale research initiatives designed to achieve major impact by harnessing the strengths of the Centers. Steve Hall, Chair of the Alliance of the CGIAR Centers, said that the proposed $1 billion CGIAR mega programs will draw on the CGIAR’s ability to improve major food crops for resilience and nutritional value and to enhance the management of crops, livestock, trees, water, soil and fish.

The New CGIAR resolved to:

  • Harmonize its approach to funding and implementing international agricultural research for development through the Consortium and the Fund

  • Manage for results in accordance with the agreed SRF and the mega programs

  • Ensure effective governance and efficient operations in the provision and use of its resources

  • Collaborate and partner with and among funders, implementers and users of the SRF research as well as other external partners supporting the SRF.

Adel El-Beltagy, Chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research; Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of World Bank; Rudy Rabbinge, Science Council Chair and Juergen Voegele, Director of the Agriculture & Rural Development Department; also addressed the Business Meeting.

The CGIAR represents the world’s largest partnership for agricultural research. Established in 1971 following concern about famine in developing countries in the 1960s, the CGIAR developed into a partnership of 64 members in the 1970s, who represent countries, international and regional organizations, and private foundations, and who support the work of fifteen international agricultural research centers that includes ICRISAT. Recent changes in development challenges spurred the CGIAR to redesign its institutional structure.

Implementation of the reforms will take place over the course of 2010, and the new CGIAR Fund and Consortium will be put in place and begin to operate during 2010. The portfolio of mega programs will be developed in the coming months, with at least one expected to be operational by late 2010.

As our Board Chair Nigel Poole said, “This is only the end of the beginning. The consortium has a lot of work to do and we have now to chart the way forward to ensure that ICRISAT gains maximum benefit from the new system. This will be a major issue for discussion at our next board meeting.”

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International conference on nurturing arid zones

On the golden jubilee of Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), an international conference on Nurturing Arid Zones for People and the Environment: Issues and Agenda for the 21st Century was held at its campus in Jodhpur. ICRISAT was one of the sponsors of the conference along with premier institutions like the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Food and Agriculture Organization, World Meteorological Organization, Indian Space Research Organization and International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

A number of plenary and technical sessions were conducted during the conference from 24 to 28 November. SP Wani from Patancheru and Mati Bancy from Nairobi along with A Ashok Kumar took part in the national conference. Wani presented a paper on Sustainable Management of Land and Water for Improving the Livelihoods in the Dryland Areas while Mati Bancy presented a paper on Improving the Productivity of Drylands: Smallholder Interventions for Agricultural Water Management in Eastern and Southern Africa. SP Wani chaired the plenary session on 27 November.

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Launch meeting of HOPE held in Bamako

The launch meeting of Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of sorghum and millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, or the HOPE project as it is fondly called, was held in Bamako, the capital city of Mali on 23 November. The meeting was graced by Agathane Ag Alassane, Malian Minister of Agriculture who was accompanied by Bimo Teme, Director General of the Institut d’Economie Rurale, the co-host.

HOPE meeting
Participants of the HOPE launch meeting in Bamako, Mali.

More than 40 participants from Africa and India attended the meeting including representatives of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the International Sorghum and Millet Improvement Program (INTSORMIL), Africa Harvest and the West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA).

Reading out Director General Dr William Dar’s message, DDG-R Dave Hoisington said that a perfect storm, which is a confluence of crises, is threatening vulnerable regions of the globe. “Amidst this bleak scenario, ICRISAT found “hope” that the battle against hunger could be won. The opportunity to better the livelihoods of the poor in these regions was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” he said.

HOPE’s Principal Investigator, Said Silim, explained the history of the project, which has six objectives. The first four-year phase of the project will bring research investments in crop management, crop improvement and improve access to markets.

The final session of the meeting, ably facilitated by MCS Bantilan, was used to solicit feedback from participants. Yilma Kebede, who manages the project on behalf of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, “This is to ensure the ownership of the project by its participants.”

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Sixth ICRISAT-CEG course successfully completed

The sixth training course of the ICRISAT-Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) on Application of Genomics Technologies in Plant Breeding successfully concluded with a graduation ceremony on 27 November. Participants received certificates from Director General Dr William Dar and EA Siddiq, National Professor and Distinguished Chair, Center for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics.

CEG course
Participants of sixth ICRISAT-CEG course with Dr Willam Dar.

Dr Dar welcomed the gathering and emphasized the importance of building skills and knowledge through such courses, and outlined the challenges before the agricultural scientific community. He assured ICRISAT’s support towards this.

While Mike Butterfield encouraged the participants to follow up on the course, Professor Siddiq advised them to present project proposals in collaboration with ICRISAT. Trainees were also encouraged to use the CEG facilities. Rajeev Varshney appreciated the hard work of the participants and underlined the value of the training course for improving the skills of our partners in India and Africa.

CLL Gowda, Global Leader, Crop Improvement urged the participants to disseminate the knowledge they gained from this course. V Balaji highlighted ICRISAT’s role in training activities and strengthening the capacity of partners. In the past one year ICRISAT-CEG has trained 137 participants including 17 overseas members from 6 developing and 7 African countries.

In addition, BM Prasanna, ICAR National Fellow of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute at New Delhi, Joy K Roy, Scientist at the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow and M Maheshwaran, Professor at Centre for Plant Breeding and Genetics in Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, demonstrated the use of genomics tools. In his vote of thanks Rajeev Varshney acknowledged the financial support of Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology, Kirkhouse Trust (UK), HOPE project and ICAR’s pearl millet project.

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WASA meets in Bamako

Senior staff members of the Seeds Project that supports the West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA) met at the Grand Hotel in Bamako, Mali, for a retreat from 27 to 28 November. The meeting was also attended by Robert Kagbo Senior, Agricultural Advisor of USAID West Africa.

One of the main objectives of the retreat was to introduce new senior staff members of the Seeds Project including the new chief, Ram Shetty, to country representatives of Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. Ram Shetty will join office in mid-January of 2010. Richard Jones, Deputy Director- ESA, and Edo Lin, Senior Seed Production Specialist, explained WASA’s structure and its public-private partnership approach.

Perspectives and next steps were discussed. Tobias Dierks, Regional Information Officer, WCA, presented the first draft of WASA’s communication strategy, which will be finalized together with Peter Bloch, branding expert from Central Advisory Service for Intellectual Property.

Participants agreed that the retreat was very helpful. Summing up, Richard Jones said, “Everybody knows now where we want to go and where we have to be in 2012, the alleged end of the project. Let’s get into action.”

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Microdosing workshop in Burkina Faso

The launch workshop of the project Backstopping and Coordinating the Fertilizer Microdosing and Inventory Credit System was held in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, from 1 to 4 December. The project is funded by AGRA and is coordinated by ICRISAT. Over 50 persons from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mali and Niger participated.

Microdosing workshop
Participants of the fertilizer microdosing workshop in Ouagadougou.

Joseph Pare, Minister of Education and Scientific Research of Burkina Faso, thanked AGRA for its efforts to achieve the green revolution in Africa. Gnissa Konatte, Director of the National Institute for the Environment and Agricultural Research of Burkina Faso, expressed hope that the workshop will lay a good foundation for the project.

“Microdosing and other holistic soil management techniques were developed by asking new questions,” said André Batiano, AGRA’s West Africa Director. Batiano is the soil scientist who pioneered the development of the technique. “Our new partnership provides a prime example of the huge dividends of long-term research investments,” stated Farid Waliyar, Director - WCA.

Ramadjita Tabo from the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa gave an overview of this fertilizer technique. Training in monitoring and evaluation was provided by Jupiter djeunga (Assistant Director - WCA), Jonas Chianu (Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute) and Samuel Amanquah (AGRA). The presentation on the methods of technology dissemination, especially the farmer field schools and the warrantage system, was followed with great interest.

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ICRISAT participates in Niger’s science week

The Ministry for Secondary and Superior Education, Science and Technology of Niger and the French Embassy organized their first Science Week from 16 to 20 November in Niamey. For five days, research and cultural institutions opened their doors to interested visitors. They held exhibitions, conferences and films about food, nutrition and health, energy, water, societies, and climate change and adaptation.

ICRISAT and the Center for International Co-operation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) held a joint exhibition on Food and Health while sharing the venue with their partner Agrhymet. Alain Ratnadass (CIRAD-ICRISAT) presented posters on OMEGA 3. Posters were also displayed on the Optimization of pest management by ecological mechanisms for sustainable improvement of agrosystem productivity, a CIRAD research project, and on the Agroecological functioning, biological interactions and regulations in horticultural systems.

Also, members got to see posters on the ICRISAT-CIRAD project Agroecological management of insect pests of food and horticultural crops in agrosystems of Soudano-Sahelian Africa.

In addition, ICRISAT presented several varieties of fruits and vegetables from its diversification project, and posters on the genebank, and the millet and mycotoxin research.

Moreover, 30 school children visited Sadoré station to learn about ICRISAT’s research. They were received by Bettina Haussmann, who represented the Director, WCA, and Tobias Dierks, Regional Information Officer.

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ICRISAT participates in workshop on agri-business

The International Cooperation and Development Fund (TaiwanICDF) organized a workshop on Agri-business Strategy and Management from 22 October to 4 November in Taiwan. The TaiwanICDF’s goal is to strengthen international cooperation and improve foreign relations by promoting economic development, social progress and the welfare of people in partner nations.

Agri-business workshop
Aravazhi Selvaraj with representatives of participating countries at the workshop in Taiwan.

Aravazhi Selvaraj, Deputy Manager, Agri-Business Incubator represented ICRISAT and India in the workshop. This workshop was aimed at sharing Taiwan’s experience in agri-business development with other countries. The workshop included 25 participants from 21 countries mainly from Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Middle-East, Africa and Latin America.

The two week program included sessions on issues such as globalization and Taiwan’s agricultural development strategy, agricultural financial policy, agricultural product marketing and agribusiness management. The participants visited the Council of Agriculture-Executive Yuan, Taipei’s Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation, Taoyuan District Agricultural Research & Extension Station, orchards and garden farms, Singang Township Farmers’ Association, and Singang Agribusiness Corporation. Visits were also made to semi-governmental institutions and outstanding enterprises.

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MIBRT Award to ASP

DDG-R Dave Hoisington received the Best Agri-Science Park Award on behalf of Director General Dr William Dar at the 5th Maryland India Business Round Table (MIBRT) AgBio Global 2010 curtain raiser event held at Hyderabad on 8 December. The award is presented in recognition of advocating and practicing science with a human face technology, reducing pove rty and hunger, protecting the environment and improving the livelihoods of poor farmers in the semi-arid tropics of the world. A new publication, Biotechnology: The third wave in Agricultural Revolution, was released, marking the occasion. For copies of the same please contact the ASP office.

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ASP at ASPA global conference in Taiwan

he Asian Science Park Association (ASPA) of Japan organized its annual global conference at Hsinchu in Taiwan from 25 to 27 November. At the conference, Abdul Rahman Ilyas, Chief Operating Officer of Agri-Science Park @ ICRISAT (ASP) presented a talk on Joining the green trend – the role of science parks in sustainable development. ASP, which formally became a member of ASPA, was also part of the ASPA board meeting where a strategic cooperation focusing on India was discussed. Jong-Hyun Lee, Chairman, ASPA will visit ICRISAT in early 2010 to confer about the collaboration.

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Irish Aid assistance to Malawi seed industry

Irish Aid has agreed to provide an additional Euro 250000 over and above the Euro 450, 000 already approved for the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project. This additional funding will be used to increase the production of breeder seeds of short-duration groundnut varieties. These varieties are of the Spanish type and have been developed by Emmanuel Monyo and his team based in Lilongwe. The funding will also help form recommendations on the integration of groundnuts into conservation agriculture. Such integration will validate the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) model on farmers’ fields, building on the work of an existing International Development Research Center-funded project led by Moses Siambi.

The aid will also help in the development of ‘genetic fingerprints’ of improved groundnut and pigeonpea varieties, which will be led by Santie DeVilliers working at the BecA platform in Nairobi.

Richard Jones, Deputy Director - ESA will act as the principal investigator of the project and will conduct research to improve the understanding of legume seed systems. This will help create market-based initiatives in support of the Malawi input subsidy program for legumes.

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