No. 1399 29 January 2010

WCA Retreat Focuses on ICRISAT’s Lead Role in R4D

Sorghum Scientists Field Day Participants of the WCA in-house retreat at Sadoré station in Niger.

The second in the series of three in-house strategic planning retreats of ICRISAT, took place at Sadoré station in Niger, from 26 to 28 January. Similar to the Asian retreat at Patancheru, the event afforded deliberations on opportunities and challenges and their effects on ICRISAT’s research programs in the region. Participants also suggested changes for sustaining ICRISAT’s lead role in impact driven research for development.

The 33 participants included ICRISAT-WCA scientists and senior staff, MG members and the new Governing Board member Dr Adama Traore.

Belum Reddy DDG-R Dave Hoisington interacting with the participants.

ICRISAT-WCA Director, Farid Waliyar, welcomed the participants and invited them to open discussions and come up with good results. DDG-R Dave Hoisington, in his opening remarks and later in his presentation, reminded participants, “With the new Governing Board, mega programs and the CGIAR changes ahead, ICRISAT is entering a new era for which we need to be well prepared.”

Dr Hoisington added that the new strategy should not be static and should allow ICRISAT to constantly adapt to rapid changes in the future. He then asked everyone to listen carefully and identify ICRISAT’s strengths and weaknesses.

Belum Reddy For a green Africa.

Along with this, participants engaged in challenging and result-driven presentations and discussions on the drivers of change, trends, issues, scenarios, priorities and potential changes in ICRISAT- WCA. Likewise, participants appreciated the open atmosphere in which these high level discussions took place.

After three intensive days, Dave Hoisington said he was content with the strong commitment of participants. He expressed confidence that at the end of the strategic planning process, ICRISAT will have a solid strategy in WCA.

The retreat was co-facilitated by Juergen Hagmann and Judith Odhiambo of the Institute for People, Innovation and Change in Organizations (PICO).

An impressed Hagmann said, “Self-introspection of the participants allowed them to really examine themselves, and what their and ICRISAT’s role could be.”

The third and last in-house retreat will be held in Nairobi from 1 to 3 February followed by the expert consultancy retreat in Hyderabad from 26 to 28 February.

Members of a group deliberating on issues   Farid Waliyar making a point.

WCA in-house retreat in pictures


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Chinese delegation at Patancheru strengthens ties with ICRISAT

AMG project
CEDA delegation with Hector Hernandez, Vincent Vadez, SP Wani, Rex Navarro and KN Rai.

A group of six Chinese scientists representing the Center of Excellence on Dryland Agriculture (CEDA) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) visited ICRISAT-Patancheru from 26 to 30 January. The delegation was led by Hao Weiping, Director, Department of Dryland Farming and Water Saving, Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, CAAS.

Explaining the purpose of the visit at a meeting with the Management Group, Hao Weiping said that the delegation came to develop a workplan for CEDA, based on the experience of ICRISAT in dryland agriculture.

Dr Rex Navarro, representing the Director General told the delegation that ICRISAT is the right partner for developing dryland agriculture in China. He said that the core strength of ICRISAT is in developing drought-tolerant crops and community-based water management technologies. He also mentioned ICRISAT’s recent innovation in developing a pigeonpea cultivar that is tolerant to water logging.

Yan Changrong, Zhong Xiuli, Wang Qingsuo, JingRuilian, and Deng Hui were part of the delegation. The inauguration of CEDA at CAAS in Beijing on 4 August 2009 strengthened the long-standing partnership between China and India. The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is also a partner in this initiative. CAAS, established in 1957, is China’s apex agricultural research organization and is directly affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture in China.

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Richard Jones nominated chair of McKnight committee

Africa Finance and Investment Forum 2009

Dr Richard Jones, Assistant Director of ICRISAT-ESA was named the Advisory Committee Chair of the McKnight Foundation Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP).

The CCRP is a competitive grants program that seeks to increase the food security of resource-poor people in developing countries. By strategically combining elements of research and development, it seeks innovative solutions for real problems to improve the availability, access, and consumption of nutritious food by rural people with limited resources. The ultimate goal is to enable farmers in developing countries to feed their families year after year.

Dr Jones, who has more than 26 years of experience of living and working in Africa, received a PhD from Reading University in 1989 and subsequently accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with the Rockefeller Foundation in Malawi. In 1996 he joined ICRISAT as a technology transfer specialist based in Kenya. His research interests include the integration of legumes into maize-based systems, and improvement of soil fertility with the use of organic and inorganic fertilizers. Currently he is involved in efforts to establish a sustainable commercial seed industry in sub-Saharan Africa that can provide small-scale farmers with affordable, timely, and reliable access to high-quality seeds and planting materials.

Dr Jones has served as an advisory committee member since 2002. Led by him, the committee meets twice a year to provide strategic direction for the program. He replaces Carlos Perez, who served as chair from 2006 to 2009 and will remain as a consultant to the CCRP, acting as a liaison scientist for the Andes community of practice.

Also joining the advisory committee this year are John Lyman and Douglas Horton. Lyman, co-author of The Cassava Transformation: Africa’s Best Kept Secret, has worked for the past year in Nairobi, Kenya, as an agricultural development consultant. Horton is an agricultural economist and program evaluator who specializes in capacity building and innovation processes in the context of international development.

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Through grantmaking, coalition-building, and encouragement of strategic policy reform, McKnight uses its resources to attend, unite, and empower those it serves. Founded in 1953 and endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the Foundation had assets of approximately $1.8 billion and granted about $98 million in 2009.

More information and program-specific grantmaking guidelines are available at

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Five-member Australian delegation visits ICRISAT

Nzamujo Godfrey
Tim D Colmer of University of Western Australia with Hector Hernandez and KN Rai.

A five member Australian delegation consisting of Drs Tim D Colmer (University of Western Australia), Mark E Tucek (Council of Grain Grower Organizations-COGGO), Neil C Turne (Center for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture-CLIMA), and Colin Boyd, Department of Agriculture and Food of Western Australia (DAFWA), visited Patancheru between 18 and 27 January.

They were here to follow-up on two ongoing projects on chickpea – an Agricultural Research Council linkage with salinity and a breeding project on desi chickpea – being carried out by ICRISAT, University of Western Australia, DAFWA and COGGO at Patancheru. The delegates also held discussions with the scientists of the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, on salinity tolerance and ascochyta resistance in chickpea.

Vincent Vadez and Pooran Gaur organized their visit. A meeting with DDG-R Dave Hoisington, RPM Director Peter J Ninnes, GTLs and scientists was held on 22 January to discuss the collaboration between the institutions and the ongoing Generation Challenge Program. They went to see the ascochyta resistant material in the fields with Pooran Gaur, salinity trials at rainout shelter with Vincent Vadez and the antibody screening in controlled facilities with Suresh Pande. They also visited the Applied Genomics Lab, Genetic Transformation Lab and the Gene Bank.

There was a wrap-up meeting in the evening of 27 January.

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Rural livelihoods project holds farmers’ field day

ICRISAT in collaboration with the Department of Rural Development (DRD) Government of Andhra Pradesh organized a farmers’ field day under the pilot project Improving Rural Livelihoods through Integrated Agricultural Development in Mahbubnagar District of Andhra Pradesh on 22 January in Kashimnagar village of Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh.

Nzamujo Godfrey
Belum VS Reddy addressing the farmers. Former Minister G Chinna Reddy (second from right) is also present.

G Chinna Reddy, former Minister for Rural Development, Government of Andhra Pradesh, was the Chief Guest and addressed a gathering of more than 300 farmers and farm women from 25 villages. Appreciating ICRISAT’s interventions, Chinna Reddy described the achievements of the project as fulfilling. He pointed out that the project adopted a participatory approach, and supported an action plan drawn from needs and constraints, which were identified through a baseline survey in the project area.

The ICRISAT team worked closely with the field team of Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) and self-help groups (SHGs) for the benefit of resource poor farmers. Village seed banks in the project villages have been helpful to farmers as they provide easy access to improved groundnut cultivars that in turn raise crop productivity.

Nzamujo Godfrey
Scientist – farmer interaction on selection of groundnut varieties.

While addressing the farmers, Belum VS Reddy outlined the project outputs, achievements and experiences of ICRISAT. SN Nigam, in his address to the farmer groups, requested them to adopt advanced techniques in seed production, storage and future use. The other officials who addressed the farmers included Hymawathi, Agricultural Extension Officer, and Venkatesham, Agricultural Extension officer of the Department of Agriculture. Presidents of village seed bank committees and SHG members shared their experiences of sowing improved varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, pigeonpea, chickpea, groundnut and castor that out-performed local varieties.

The program also involved the distribution of soil health cards to the farmers. In her vote of thanks, Hymawathi urged the farmers to be determined to find success in every initiative of the project and to make the best use of its technologies. The program was planned and conducted by Ch Ravinder Reddy, Scientist (Technology Exchange).

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