No. 1404 5 March 2010

ICRISAT and EMRC Join Hands to Boost Agri-Business in Africa

New avenues for collaboration among agri-entrepreneurs of sub-Saharan Africa and India have been opened. ICRISAT and the Brussels-based EMRC (earlier known as European Marketing Research Center) have agreed to facilitate several missions to encourage business to business (B2B) dialogue among African and Indian enterpreneurs to unleash the potential of African agriculture.

EMRC and ICRISAT MoU signing Dr William Dar and Mrs Idit Miller exchanging the signed memorandum of understanding between ICRISAT and EMRC.

Along with this, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by Director General William Dar and Mrs Idit Miller, Vice President and Managing Director of EMRC on 4 March in Hyderabad during the business networking meeting with the African economic mission in India.

The MOU formalizes an arrangement between the two organizations to continue and sustain business missions of Africa in India where Africa and ICRISAT will share scientific expertise on dryland agriculture at two of Africa’s most prominent annual forums organized by EMRC – Africa Agri-Business Forum and Africa Finance and Investment Forum. The MOU will also help explore joint collaborative projects in Africa.

CII Dr Dar delivering a special address. Dr Rex Navarro, Idit Miller and JC Sharma are also on the dias.

In his special address, Dr Dar said, “As aspiring economies, India and Africa have a lot in common – they are rich in natural resources, and have a similar demography and a large domestic market. This provides a natural synergy for building partnerships. South-South cooperation becomes extremely relevant given the turmoil in the global economy.”

Dr Dar said that there is reason to feel optimistic as African leaders made a historic pledge to commit 10% of their national budget to food security and agriculture-led growth. The age-old ties between India and Africa have today matured into a vibrant economic partnership. “Bilateral trade is robust, having risen almost fivefold - from US$ 7.1 billion in 2003-04 to US$ 34.4 billion in 2007-08,” he added.

Explaining the objectives behind the first ever African mission led by EMRC in India, Idit Miller said, “We want to create the right business environment, so that raw material from Africa gets market exposure, while bringing the right investors to the fore and benefiting from countries like India through the sharing of knowledge.”

Dr Dar with the media Dr Dar being interviewed by the media.

Describing the salient features of the MOU,
Dr Rex Navarro, Director of Communication, said that ICRISAT and EMRC will collaborate on the conduct of academic research and
staff visits, development of a collaborative workplan, exploration of external funding opportunities and exchange of students and scientific information. Dr Navarro served as a facilitator during the MOU signing ceremony.

JC Sharma, Principal Secretary, Department of Food Processing, Government of Andhra Pradesh said that the value addition to agricultural produce in the state has reached $1.974 billion.

Shakti Sagar, Vice Chairman of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) Andhra Pradesh, also spoke on the occasion.

back to top Back to top

EMRC’s first African mission visit ICRISAT

The inaugural Africa-India mission convened by EMRC visited ICRISAT headquarters at Patancheru on 2 March. The 41-member mission included dignitaries from Angola, Congo, Tanzania, Lesotho, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Congo RDC, Senegal and Ivory Coast. Mrs Candida Maria Guilherma Narciso, honorable Governor of Lunda Sul province of Angola was among the dignitaries. Academicians, top executives and technical directors of private firms, economists and a journalist were also present.

Africa-India mission participants Participants of the Africa-India mission at Patancheru.

After a brief introduction about the Agri-Science Park@ ICRISAT by Dr Kiran Sharma, Director General Dr William Dar welcomed the mission and hoped that the visit would be of mutual benefit. He said that the objective of the visit was to bring the potential industrialists of Africa and India together. “We want you to grow, but at the same time we want the smallholder farmer to grow along with you,” he said, stressing the need to improve the livelihoods of African farmers.

Opening the session for interaction, Dr Dar asked the mission to adopt a science-based system to achieve success in their endeavors. He said that ICRISAT, while acting as a facilitator, could even conduct research if specific members of the mission desire. “The fruits of the research, however, will be public goods,” he added.

Idit Miller said that her organization had nurtured fruitful collaborations in Europe, Asia and Africa. She wished that the first ever Africa-India mission would facilitate exchange of business expertise. She further said that the EMRC had evolved a Letter of Intent for the members of the mission so that interested persons could enter into tie-ups during the Hyderabad visit.

Later, interacting with the delegates, Dr CLL Gowda explained how the hybrids and varieties developed by ICRISAT could be used by private firms. He added that these goods are in the public domain. The members of the mission also visited the NutriPlus Knowledge Center and Kothapally Watershed.

Peter Craufurd, Vincent Vadez, Abdul Rahman Ilyas, SM Karuppanchetty, Saikat Datta Mazumdar and Rudraraju Purushotham were also present at the interactive session.

back to top Back to top

ABI strengthens South-South collaboration

Agri-Business Incubator at ICRISAT strengthened the South-South collaboration between its clients M/s Seedworks India Pvt. Ltd. & Mozambique’s Mocfer Industrias Alimentares (MIA). On 1 March, Balaji Nukal, Managing Director and ASN Reddy, COO, Sanjit Aradhye, Manager Biotechnology, and Jakir Hussain of Seedworks India had a meeting with Bernard Fung, Antonio Jorge, Ademola Adesina, Maria Estrela and Susana Pais of MIA and Innotech Advisers Ltd. of UK. This discussion drew upon the successful trials of hybrid rice by Carlos Dominguez in Mozambique in 2008, facilitated by ABI through a collaborative project with MIA.

back to top Back to top

President of the World Food Prize Foundation visits Patancheru

Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, visited Patancheru on 18 and 19 February. During his visit, he met Director General William Dar, other members of the Management Group and senior scientists.

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn Ambassador Kenneth Quinn with Dr William Dar.

Reflecting on the visit, Ambassador Quinn said, “we were so incredibly impressed by the amazing variety of the work that you and your staff are carrying out. From the biotech labs, to the large test plots you cultivate, to the innovative social outreach using 21st century technology, I came away with a deep sense of the significant contribution that ICRISAT is making to uplifting lives and alleviating suffering in India and Africa.”

He expressed happiness over ICRISAT’s willingness to host one of the Borlaug-Ruan interns, 17-year old, Leah Lucas, to work at Patancheru beginning this June. Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Global Theme Leader, Institutions, Markets, Policy, and Impacts (IMPI) will be the mentor with the assistance of Dr Rosana Mula, Coordinator of Learning Systems.

Assuring the distinguished visitor of ICRISAT’s dedication to the poor, Dr Dar said, “We have always been inspired by the passion and achievements of the late Dr Norman Borlaug. He will continue to be our guiding light to serve the poor of the dryland tropics of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. We will continue to elevate our game and grow the Institute so we can better impact into the lives of the smallholder farmers and the poor people in these two regions of the world.”

Ambassador Kenneth Quinn Ambassador Kenneth Quinn breaking a coconut after planting a sapling at Patancheru.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing – without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs – the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

Dr Kenneth Quinn, a former US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, assumed the leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation in 2000, following his retirement from the State Department after a 32-year career in the Foreign Service.

Inspired by the vision of Dr Norman E Borlaug, the founder of the World Food Prize, Ambassador Quinn has endeavored to build this annual $250,000 award into “the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture”. Held each October in Des Moines on or around World Food Day (October 16), the World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, “Borlaug Dialogue” international symposium and Global Youth Institute have grown in size and stature under his direction.

back to top Back to top

VDSA for decrease in absolute poverty

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)-funded Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia (VDSA) Project’s East India/Humid Tropics Component was launched on 20 February at the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), New Delhi. HS Gupta, Director, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi inaugurated the meeting. BC Barah, Director gave the introductory remarks and Anjani Kumar, Senior Scientist representing NCAP presented the project overview.

VDSA Participants of the workshop at New Delhi.

Representing ICRISAT’s Director General, Cynthia Bantilan, Project Director of VDSA explained that the project involves valuable collaboration among ICRISAT, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and other national agricultural research system (NARS) partners. Under the able leadership of ICRISAT, the project seeks to decrease the incidence and severity of absolute poverty in South Asia’s semi-arid and humid tropics. This will happen by markedly improving the availability of time-series micro- and meso-data to enable decision-making based on evidence. ICRISAT was also represented by the Project Coordinators, P Parthasarathy Rao and VR Kiresur who participated in the panel discussion on steps to tackle poverty through VDSA.

back to top Back to top

Trainers trained in new watershed guidelines

ICRISAT’s watershed team conducted a training of trainers for state level nodal agencies from various Indian states at Patancheru, from 18 to 20 February. Twenty participants received training in various aspects of Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) with the new common guidelines recently released by the Government of India.

Training program participants Participants of the trainers’ training program.

P Pathak explained the objectives of the course and Peter Craufurd stressed the need for adopting a systems approach for improving livelihoods through IWMP. He highlighted the ability of the watershed programs to build resilience for climate variability, particularly drought. He described IWMP as a stepping stone towards developing adaptation strategies for climate change.

The participants had interactive sessions with the expert faculty of ICRISAT, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, National Institute of Rural Development, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development and Central Food Technological Research Institute as well as field visits to on-station and off-station watersheds. These highlighted the increase in crop productivity and livelihoods initiatives. The training course was implemented by the organizing committee led by SP Wani and team. The program was sponsored by the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, government of India.

back to top Back to top

Delegates from eastern Africa visit Samanko

Samanko Visitors from eastern africa at the Samanko station.

A delegation from eastern Africa attended the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) Congress in Samanko on 1 March. The delegation was led by Richard Jones, Assistant Director, ICRISAT-Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). It included ICRISAT staff from Lilongwe, Malawi (Teddie Chirwa, Felix Siluali and Moses Siambi), Ministry of Agriculture officials from Malawi (Ms Christine Mtambumin and Grace Kandzu), a seed entrepreneur from Tanzania (Felix Jumbe), and the president of Tanzania Seed Trade Association (Bob Shuama). Bonny Ntare welcomed the visitors.

There was a discussion on a wide range of issues, including seeds and shared experiences from the two regions. This was followed by a guided tour of the facilities.

back to top Back to top

Workshop on sweet sorghum syrup in food and pharma applications

ICRISAT sorghum scientists and technologists of the food and pharma industry came together on 19 February at Patancheru to participate in the Sweet Sorghum Syrup in Food and Pharma Applications – FGD (Focused Group Discussion).

They discussed and explored the possibilities of using syrup as an alternative to sugar. The workshop was organized by the GT-Crop Improvement Sorghum Group and coordinated by the Agri-Science Park (ASP). Sweet sorghum syrup is considered to have great prospects in food and pharma applications for partial or total replacement of sugar as there has been increasing concerns about the price of sugar touching an all-time high. The participants from the industry are: Rusni Distilleries, Vellanki Foods, Dairy Ice Cream, Raj Classic Foods and P Vivek Reddy, and a few other entrepreneurs.

The participants of the workshop were welcomed by AR Ilyas, Head ASP and the keynote address was given by Belum VS Reddy, Principal Scientist, Sorghum Breeding with a presentation on Sweet sorghum for food, fodder, syrup and fuel: ICRISAT experiences.

Ganesh Kumar, Scientist, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) made a presentation on Sweet Sorghum Syrup Analysis. The presentation on Economic Assessment of Syrup Production from Sweet Sorghum was made by Basavaraj, Special Project Scientist. Saikat Datta Mazumdar, Technical Director, NutriPlus Knowledge Center, made a presentation on Sweet Sorghum Syrup Applications in Food and Pharmaceutical Industry.

Later, the workshop was opened for discussion on possibilities and prospects of using sweet sorghum syrup in applications such as bakery, confectionery, sweets, ice creams, biscuits, and pharmaceuticals. The discussion was very effective and the following were agreed upon: Syrup is a good alternative as a sweetener especially for coating capsules. Also, syrup price is tentatively Rs 36 per kg at 70 Brix, and this estimate could be considered while conducting trials using syrup on a payment basis prior to getting certification by the Food and Processing Division of India.

back to top Back to top

CFC-FAO-ICRISAT sweet sorghum project planning meeting held at Patancheru

CFC-FAO-ICRISAT project  meeting participants Participants of CFC-FAO-ICRISAT project planning meeting.

Spiraling fuel prices and the urgent demand for alternate sources of fuel has set many governments looking for alternatives such as biofuels. With this as the backdrop, a project Enhanced livelihood opportunities of smallholders in Asia: linking smallholder sweet sorghum farmers to the bioethanol industry has been approved and will be implemented in India, Thailand and China over four years. An agreement has been signed to this effect by ICRISAT, the Intergovernmental group on Group on Grains (represented by FAO) and the Amsterdam-based Common Fund for Commodities (CFC).

The planning meeting for this project was held at Patancheru during 3-4 March. ICRISAT is the project executing agency, and the collaborating institutions are the Sorghum Research Institute, China; the Field Crops Research Institute, Department of Agriculture, Thailand; and the Sorghum Research Station, Marathwada Agricultural University, India; for implementation of this project.

Chairing the planning meeting, CLL Gowda, Global Theme Leader—Crop Improvement, called for dedicated efforts from all project partners to make this successful by linking smallholder sweet sorghum farmers with markets in Asia.

Presenting the inaugural address, Director General Dr William D Dar, congratulated the team for successfully getting the project funded by CFC and remarked that biofuels offer new market opportunities to poor dryland farmers provided the new technologies are made available and that farmers are linked to biofuel markets. He commended the multiple advantages of sweet sorghum in terms of food, feed, fodder and fuel, while keeping the biofuel as a long term goal; he called for looking into use of byproducts like bagasse for use as animal feed and other uses. He stressed the need for building sustainable coalition involving private and public sectors partners to build sweet sorghum ethanol value chain.

Astrid Agostini, FAO, in her message to the group, called for linking the project with other similar projects funded by FAO and other international bodies. She called for reducing the gap between on-station and on-farm sweet sorghum yields for establishing the partnerships and keeping the consortium together throughout the project period.

Nicolaus Cromme, CFC, commended the project partners for a winning proposal linking smallholder sweet sorghum farmers with markets in Asia, and called for working towards tangible outcomes from project activities, that serve the rural poor. Partners, Praphan Prasertsak from Thailand, Zou Jianqui from China and Syed Ismail from India gave brief overviews, of sweet sorghum production in their countries. On behalf of the project team, Belum VS Reddy from ICRISAT presented the overview of the project followed by development of workplans.

back to top Back to top