No. 1403 26 February 2010

ICRISAT Mapping Out a New Strategy to 2020

“You have to run if you want to lead,” said Director General Dr William Dar, at the opening of a three-day strategic planning expert consultation workshop at Patancheru on 23 February.

strategic planning expert consultation workshop Participants of the strategic planning expert consultation workshop at Patancheru.

The expert consultation was attended by more than 30 participants from national agricultural research systems, sub-regional and regional organizations, advanced research institutions, the private sector including the Management Group. This was the culmination of a series of regional in-house retreats that took-off in January. The primary purpose of these exercises is to heighten inclusiveness in ICRISAT’s planning process and get extensive inputs from staff members, partners and stakeholders.

strategic planning expert consultation workshop Dr Dar setting the tone for the workshop.

At the outset, Dr Dar said that the new strategic plan should envisage a global vision of a world free from poverty and hunger, living in a healthy and sustainable environment.

Stressing the need for flexibility, Dr Dar pointed out that ICRISAT recognizes the urgent impetus to undertake strategic planning since a range of issues have emerged in the task environment.

“Warming temperatures, droughts, floods, increasing land degradation, loss of biodiversity, rising food and energy prices, and population explosion are creating extreme challenges to feed the world. As these happen, the hardest hit will be the poor people of the drylands and rainfed areas. This is because they produce food and earn a living out of farming under very marginal conditions.” If no global action is taken now, these will lead to a ‘perfect storm’ which will inflict more suffering to the poor and small farmers, he added.

He elicited experts’ opinions on strategic issues identified during the in-house retreats and other sources:

  1. Reconfiguring ICRISAT’s mandate from a crops-based research institute to that of a world dryland agricultural research center;

  2. Adopting a systems approach in integrating ICRISAT’s crops with other concerns to holistically address challenges in the drylands;

  3. Integrating climate change into ICRISAT’s research agenda and refining its overall climate change adaptation strategy;

  4. Harnessing new science tools to enhance ICRISAT’s work and sharing their use in a better way with national systems and other partners;

  5. Enhancing value chains and value addition to dryland crops to create more demand and enhance their nutrition;

  6. Guiding policy formulation and influencing their implementation;

  7. Innovating and strengthening partnerships and enhancing capacity of partners;

  8. Integrating gender and pro-poor issues in technology development and sharing.

Setting the stage for an open discussion around these issues, DDG-R Dave Hoisington said, “The world is changing rapidly and will continue to do so. Public research should have a plan and instill that process in our day-to-day life.” He informed that the new strategy and the business plan will be ready by 2011.

strategic planning expert consultation workshop DDG-R Dave Hoisington giving the workshop overview.

Deliberations, closely managed by a steering committee with a facilitator (Jürgen Hagmann), traversed through issues like crop based versus system based research, diversification and alternative uses of mandate crops and research thrust on climate change.

In order to provide an opportunity for key staff members to hear from the experts and participate in the planning process, a ‘Townhall Meeting’ was organized during the last day through teleconferencing. However, technical snags prevented inputs from sub-Saharan Africa.

Thanking the experts for their valuable inputs, Dr Dar said that the evolving strategy would consider all global inputs, keeping in mind ICRISAT’s role in helping poor and smallholder farmers to steer through contemporary challenges.

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Strategic planning expert consultation in pictures

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strategic planning expert consultation workshop   strategic planning expert consultation workshop
strategic planning expert consultation workshop   strategic planning expert consultation workshop
strategic planning expert consultation workshop   strategic planning expert consultation workshop
strategic planning expert consultation workshop   strategic planning expert consultation workshop

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DG calls for unlocking potential of rainfed crops

“Since current rainfed agriculture cannot sustain the economic growth and food security needed, its potential needs to be unlocked. Rainfed agriculture is struggling against a headwind of policies that are biased in favor of the ‘favored lands’ said Director General Dr William Dar in his special address at a three-day national symposium on Climate Change and Rain-fed Agriculture on 18 February at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) in Hyderabad.

National symposium in CRIDA B Venkateswarlu, Governor ESL Narasimhan, JC Katyal and Dr Dar at the national symposium in CRIDA.

The event, jointly organized by CRIDA and the Indian Society for Dryland Agriculture (ISDA), succeeded in bringing an array of scientists to discuss various initiatives, and provided a platform to present their findings on climate change. Major topics for discussion included droughts predicted by major climate models, changes in India‘s temperature and humidity index profile, the effect of climate change on poor farmers, agricultural methods for mitigating climate change and above all, food security.

Dr Dar, forecasting a confluence of crises in the future, explained that the importance of rainfed agriculture in mitigating climate change cannot be underestimated as rainfed areas contribute over 40% of all food grains and a majority of pulses and vegetables. He insisted on higher investment in rainfed areas.

The Governor of Andhra Pradesh, ESL Narasimhan, in his keynote address referred to the delayed monsoon in 2009 and described climate change as “a ticking time bomb ready to explode.” He said that the green revolution which was largely successful had only touched the farmers of the delta regions with assured irrigation. “A hungry population is an angry population,” he remarked. “If we cannot provide food to the millions in India, we are going to have problems,” the honorable governor added.

“There must be a serious effort to understand farmers’ needs and to increase the land potential by better ways of conserving soil and water,” said JC Katyal, former Vice-Chancellor, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University.

Scientists JS Kanwar, JC Katyal, HP Singh, YS Ramakrishna, J Venkateswarlu and SM Virmani were among those felicitated on the occasion.

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The fourth edition of PANACEA, the subcontinent’s biennial trade fair that shows the latest developments in natural products, PANACEA 2010 was held at the World Trade Center, Mumbai, India from 10 to 12 February. PANACEA showcased natural products from all over South-East Asia. It is the only exhibition on natural products in the Indian sub-continent. Some themes covered this year were: natural medicinal products, raw material and ingredients, food and beverages and personal care.

ICRISAT took part in this year’s PANACEA and put up a stall showcasing its activities, especially those of the Agri-Science Park@ICRISAT (ASP). Saikat Datta Mazumdar, Technical Director, NutriPlus Knowledge Center represented ICRISAT at the expo. Visitors to the ICRISAT stall were briefed about ASP activities and its components. Special attempt was made at promoting the facilities at ASP and products developed at NutriPlus.

Samples of healthy sorghum and pearl millet snacks made at NutriPlus were distributed. A number of important contacts with leading food and biotechnology companies, eminent scientists from research and development institutions and universities, investors and other industry experts, were also established.

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ICRISAT hosts UN-affiliated security meeting

In a continued effort to review risk mitigating measures on their relevance and effectiveness, about 80 staff members from ICRISAT, World Food Program (WFP), and the UN International Office of Migration (IOM) gathered at ICRISAT-Bulawayo grounds on 12 February to discuss various security issues affecting Bulawayo and its environs.

UN-affiliated security meeting Participants of the UN-affiliated security meeting at Bulawayo.

Isaac Minde, the Deputy Security Coordinator of southern Zimbabwe under the UN system; Andrew Gethi, WFP representative; Andrew Chimedza, IOM representative; as well as Inspector Mandlaenkosi Moyo of the Zimbabwe Republic Police addressed the meeting. UN staff members from Beitbridge and Plumtree also attended and provided insights into security issues at border posts.

ICRISAT has been part of the UN security system since 18 October 2001, the day the Director General signed a Memorandum of Understanding between ICRISAT-Bulawayo and the UN to take part in activities that promote risk awareness and risk control.

During the meeting, the participants reviewed and revised the security zones. Security wardens took into account changes in staff members at various organizations. Participants were given the opportunity to pose questions to the police and key security advisors on risk in rural areas as well as the situation at border posts. They were advised on averting various risks such as political, or risks incurred during travel within Zimbabwe and to the neighboring countries. For example, staff members were informed of a UN guest house in Beitbridge that could be used by travelers detained on their way to South Africa.

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Training on seed production in Niger

One objective of collaboration between ICRISAT and The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) is to establish a platform for vegetable seed production in West and Central Africa. Within this framework, a weeklong training was organized at Sadoré research station in Niger from 15 to 19 February. The training was intended to empower 30 vegetable growers, 10 each from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and 3 technicians with skills on vegetable seed production.

In his opening words Regional Director Farid Waliyar emphasized ICRISAT’s efforts to diversify technologies adapted to the region’s environment. One of the important components, he said, is the strategic partnership with institutes such as AVRDC.

Sanjeet Kumar, AVRDC-ICRISAT Vegetable Breeder explained how the number of locally adapted and accepted vegetable varieties has gone up in the region through reselection, introduction and evaluation. He underlined that mass dissemination of these varieties is essential to achieve bigger impact and to know their ceiling limits. Abdoussalam, Senior Technical Officer was involved in arranging the logistics of this training. Issaka Housseini, technical officer, led through the theoretical as well as the practical part.

Both trainers and trainees were involved in discussions to foster mutual exchange of ideas and benefits. A field trip to lettuce seed producers and other vegetable growers in the peri-urban areas of Niamey was organized. All in all this training helped set up a network of vegetable growers of which many already produce vegetable seeds for their own use. Nevertheless, commercialization of locally produced seeds still has a long way to go in the region.

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Developments in the CGIAR change process

Director General Dr William Dar and DDG-R Dave Hoisington participated in the recent meetings in Rome to discuss progress in developing the Consortium’s Strategic and Results Framework (SRF) and Mega-Program (MP) portfolio.

CGIAR change process Carlos Perez de Saltillo, Chair of the CGIAR Consortium Board with Dr Dar and Dave Hoisington.

DDG-R met the Alliance Deputy Executive (ADE) for two days during which the group discussed enhancements in SRF to provide better clarity on the flow from strategic impacts to MP research outputs. The groups spent most of the time enhancing the last version of MPs.

The results from the ADE meeting were then presented to the Alliance Executive (AE) meeting the following Tuesday. This meeting was primarily in preparation for a meeting of a larger group that included the AE, three ADE members (John McDermott, Tony Simons and Dave Hoisington), Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)’s Global Authors Team (who are drafting the reports from the eConsultations and F2F regional meetings, Independent Science and Partnership Council members, and regional fora). The group discussed the progress in developing the SRF and MPs, results from the regional consultations, and the upcoming Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD). Attention was paid to the better understanding of the roles of all players in the global Research for Development and how the new consortium can best serve in the future. Discussions were open and frank and everyone agreed that such meetings are critical as we move forward to define the new system.

On the last morning, the AE and ADE representatives met and developed a detailed timeline required to deliver the necessary products over the course of the year. DDG-R was selected to be a member of the SRF Process Team (along with Emile Frison, Ruben Echeveria, Shenggen Fan, John McDermott and Charlie Crissman). Dr Dar is already a member of the Consortium Implementation Team, which is overseeing the entire change in implementation process.

Carlos Perez del Saltillo, Chair of the Consortium Board, also attended the AE meetings. Drs Dar and Dave Hoisington had the opportunity to interact with him several times. From these first interactions, it is clear that he is committed to make the change process successful in developing a more effective and efficient CGIAR.

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Southern Sudan research assistants receive training in sorghum research

Three research assistants from the Department of Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) – Fidel Okeny Enyangu, Kevin Lopwonya Alanyo and Justin Jaden spent 14 days (3-19 February) at ICRISAT Kiboko field station for hands on training in sorghum research.

Plastic bag emasculation Participants performing the plastic bag emasculation.

The need was identified at discussions between ICRISAT staff members, H Ojulong and E Manyasa, and the GOSS team (C Oketayot, L Otika and J Lupai) at the HOPE project sorghum germplasm collection mission in November 2009. It was then agreed that for effective implementation of the HOPE project activities in South Sudan, capacity building in research techniques was necessary as most staff had little experience in research. The urgency of the training was also emphasized by the fact that the 2010 season in Southern Sudan begins in April and the training at Kiboko would have to be between January and February when the crop is still in the field. Southern Sudan will implement Objective-2 of the HOPE project and its focus will mainly be on germplasm collection, characterization, selection and variety evaluation to identify superior cultivars that farmers can use.

The ICRISAT sorghum research team of M Mgonja, H Ojulong, E Manyasa, J Kibuka and P Sheunda conducted the training, which covered both theory and practical exercises. It covered sorghum biology, husbandry, breeding techniques, seed production and principles of field experimentation covering trial design, field layout, planting, management, data collection, data management and introduction to data analysis.

At the end of the course the trainees thanked ICRISAT for the timely organization of the training, and its approach. They said it would help them understand and implement what they had read in books. As summarized by one of the trainees, Fidelis Okeny, the course was beneficial and quoting the late John Garang, he said, ‘‘Southern Sudan will never be the same again’’. Participants were presented with certificates of participation and a copy of A Guide to Sorghum Breeding text book by Lee House. The presentations were made by SN Silim, Director, ESA.

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Training in greenhouse screening

Training program on greenhouse screening Participants of the training program on greenhouse screening.

Under the recently launched Gates Foundation project Harnessing Opportunity for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, a training program on Greenhouse screening for pearl millet downy mildew, was conducted at ICRISAT, Patancheru from 22 to 26 February.

Four plant pathologists from India, one from ICRISAT-Sadoré and one breeder from Mali participated in the program. CLL Gowda, Global Theme Leader - Crop Improvement, while inaugurating the program, emphasized the importance of this training program to help strengthen the capability of the national programs for effectively managing the dreaded downy mildew. RP Thakur, the program coordinator, described the specific objectives of HOPE project and establishing the screening facilities at three places (Hissar, Durgapura and Jamnagar) in India and at ICRISAT-Sadoré, Niger. The program was successfully organized by Rajan Sharma, VP Rao and other staff members.

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