No. 1407 26 March 2010

Governing Board Braces ICRISAT for Global Challenges

During its 62nd meeting held this week at Patancheru, the Governing Board (GB) endorsed the elements of ICRISAT’s Strategic Plan to 2020, which will be a major instrument of the Institute in addressing major global challenges. Moreover, the GB also formally endorsed the joining of ICRISAT to the CGIAR Consortium.

ICRISAT Governing Board Members ICRISAT Governing Board members at Patancheru, 26 March 2010.

An outstanding element of the Strategic Plan is the adoption of a systems approach to agricultural research. This approach assumes that farming systems in the semi-arid tropics (SAT) are made up of various interacting, interconnected and interdependent components that must be synergized to accomplish desired development goals. Hence, it requires a holistic research perspective that transcends ICRISAT’s mandate crops.

The emerging research thrusts in the Strategic Plan include: optimizing food, nutrition and energy security of smallholder farming systems in the SAT; empowering rural communities by linking smallholder farmers to markets; integrating community-based approaches to natural resource management for improved livelihoods; knowledge management and sharing including innovative applications of ICT; and informing policy formulation through science-based influence and partnerships.

ICRISAT Governing Board with Management Group members ICRISAT Governing Board with Management Group members at Patancheru.

The new strategic plan also reaffirms the importance of ICRISAT’s mission to reduce poverty and food insecurity in the SAT while sustaining and enhancing the environment. As ICRISAT embraces the systems approach, the primacy of this mission over the crop mandate has become clearer.

Encouraging the heat tolerance research undertaken by the scientists of ICRISAT, GB Chair Nigel Poole said, “I am impressed by the work done in this direction. The effect of high temperature on dry root rot of chickpea is an example of how high temperatures increase the vulnerability of chickpea to infestations.”

Pointing out the warming climates and severe shortage of pulses in India in recent times and the subsequent request of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for ICRISAT’s cooperation, Director General William D Dar observed, “Breeding objectives in ICRISAT are tuned to emerging climate variations. We are looking for varieties that have qualities to withstand high temperatures like the ones that grow in the hot summer in India.”

During its meeting, the GB also approved ICRISAT’s operating expenditure of US$51.1 million for 2010 and the Medium Term Plan (MTP) from 2011 to 2012. Likewise, the GB discussed issues related to the CGIAR change management process, specifically the current progress in the development of the CGIAR Consortium Strategy and Results Framework and Mega Programs.

Board Chair Nigel Poole   S Ayyappan at ICRISAT Genebank
Board Chair Nigel Poole, Drs William Dar and
Rex L Navarro at the press meet.

S Ayyappan, Vice-Chair, Governing Board with Hari Upadhyaya at the Genebank.


During the week, the GB Chair and DG met with the press to share ICRISAT’s position on contemporary challenges such as climate change and its contribution in the promotion of biodiversity. The UN has declared this year as the International Year of Biodiversity. ICRISAT’s approach to preserving biodiversity is multi-pronged – conservation of genetic resources, diversifying the uses of its mandate crops, developing farmer-friendly pest management strategies and the employment of modern science tools, such as GIS, to track the progress of land erosion and degradation in order to save and protect affected areas.

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Governing Board field visit

Governing Board field visit   Governing Board field visit
Governing Board field visit   Governing Board field visit
Governing Board field visit   Governing Board field visit
Governing Board field visit   Governing Board field visit
Governing Board field visit   Governing Board field visit   Governing Board field visit

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New Governing Board members

S Ayyappan   PK Basu  

S Ayyappan
Secretary to the Government of India,
Department of Agricultural Research and Education and Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research

PK Basu
Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture Department of Agriculture and Cooperation.



SV Prasad Adama Traore  

SV Prasad
Chief Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

Adama Traore Executive Secretary & Research Director, National Committee on Agricultural Research, Bamako, Mali.


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ICRISAT upscales African Market Gardens

The African Market Garden (AMG) is a horticulture system developed by ICRISAT for the smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics of West Africa. It incorporates low pressure drip irrigation combined with holistic horticultural management.

African Market Garden Participants from five Sahelian countries.

After eight years of intensive research for development by ICRISAT scientists, AMGs are starting to spread in West Africa with the efforts of national programs and a range of NGOs.

To facilitate and support the spread of AMGs, ICRISAT conducted a course for 20 high level technicians and scientists from five Sahelian countries (Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger) from 7 to 19 March. The objective of the course was to create a cadre of technicians and scientists that could lead the dissemination of the expertise in operating AMGs.

The course was led by Lennart Woltering with the support of three ICRISAT and AVRDC scientists and guest lecturers from the private sector.

A field visit to a 50-hectare commercial site with pressurized drip irrigation was organized. The site is managed by Ms Saadatou Oumarou, an ex-ICRISAT technician. The 50-hectare AMG was designed by ICRISAT and the institute had also supervised its installation. A visit to a 3-hectare site with shallow groundwater also took place. The operations of the second site are managed by women. Water is supplied by solar powered pumps. The last visit was to a 5-hectare site that has an artesian aquifer, and is tended by a group of women and men.

The trainees appreciated ICRISAT and expressed confidence in their newfound capacity to support future AMGs in the semi-arid tropics of West Africa.

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National Award for ICRISAT

ICRISAT watershed team led by SP Wani was decorated with the National Award for Groundwater Augmentation by the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India. The award is for the best Farmer Participatory Action Research Program trials in Rajasthan for enhancing rainwater use efficiency. The Program aimed to have more crops per drop by demonstrating productivity enhancement and water saving technologies to the farmers and by collecting necessary data from the farmers fields to calculate necessary scientific data.

Award for ICRISAT Dr MS Swaminathan and Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal at the award function in New Delhi.

The award was received on behalf of ICRISAT by SP Wani on 22 March from Pawan Kumar Bansal, Honorable Minister of Water Resources, Government of India. ICRISAT is implementing Farmer Participatory Action Research Programs in four states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The results of these experiments have clearly indicated that rainwater use efficiency can be substantially improved by adopting an integrated natural resource management approach. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, rainwater use efficiency increased by 5 to 60% for different crops during the rainy and postrainy seasons. In Rajasthan, using improved cultivars and soil test based nutrient management to alleviate micro-nutrient deficiencies, crop yields of chickpea, wheat, mustard, pearl millet, groundnut and soybean increased by 21 to 190%. In the case of maize, crop yields in seven districts of Rajasthan with improved management practices increased by 92 to 207%. In other states also, similar performance in terms of increased productivity and enhanced water use efficiency has been observed.


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KN Rai recognized as Pearl Millet Super Idol

Congratulations to Dr Kedar N Rai, Principal Scientist (millet breeding) and Director HarvestPlus-India Biofortification program who was recognized with the “Pearl Millet Super Idol” award at the 45th Annual Group Meeting of the All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project (AICPMIP) on 10 March, at Mandor, Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

The citation described KN Rai’s contributions in improving pearl millet productivity as monumental and added that he was instrumental in the development and dissemination of more than 125 male-sterile lines and published more than 100 research articles. The AICPMIP and Society of Millets Research mentioned that they were pleased to offer this award to KN Rai for his immense contribution to pearl millet improvement.

Accepting the award, KN Rai said that this honor was for the product development as well as for its visibility. He declared that the credit for the product development must go to the untiring efforts of the entire pearl millet team at ICRISAT, which includes scientists and support staff in breeding, pathology and physiology. He further mentioned that the credit for the visibility of the products that he developed goes to all the scientists in the public and private sector who used these materials to develop and release hybrids, and helped take these to the farmers.

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Niger field agents get trained

Sixteen field agents and 4 farmers were trained in cluster-based farmer field schools (CBFFS) from 15 to 18 March at the Farmer Union “Albarka” in Bokki, a small town in the South of Niger. The training threw light on the constraints in producing pearl millet at the Farmer Union “Albarka” in Bokki. Participants came from the extension services, the Spanish section of the international NGO ACH (Action against Hunger), and the farmer organizations, Mooriben and FUMA-Gaskiya.

Training at Bokki Field agents and farmers with their trainers at Bokki.

The training served to introduce the CBFFS system and explain differences and similarities with the conventional farmer field school approach. It included the different steps for implementing the CBFFS and planning activities during the pearl millet season. The agents were particularly trained in the biology and control of purple witchweed (Striga hermonthica) and millet head miner (Heliocheilus albipunctella). Furthermore, the options for mitigating and controlling these biological constraints as well as improving soil fertility were discussed in detail.

Facilitators were Farmer Field School consultants Tahirou Boye, Tom van Mourik and Sidi Toure. Scientists and technicians from both ICRISAT and Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione (INRAN) also conducted some sessions. At the end, the participants felt well prepared to start implementing the CBFFS system on their respective sites. As part of the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project, farmer organizations will install several CBFFS in Niger in the 2010 rainy season, with technical backstops from ICRISAT and INRAN.

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Lead Financial Officer visits Bamako

Bamako, Mali Shey Tata with Team ICRISAT at Bamako, Mali.

Shey Tata, Lead Financial Officer from the CGIAR Fund office at the World Bank, visited ICRISAT-Bamako on 23 March. Mr Tata was in Bamako to attend the International Rice Congress and used the opportunity to learn about the programs of the CGIAR Centers based at Bamako, in particular ICRISAT and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF). He was accompanied by Shelemia Keya, former Director of Research at the Africa Rice Center based in Cotonou, Benin. Bonny Ntare welcomed the visitors and made a presentation highlighting the research strategies and activities of ICRISAT in WCA. The meeting was attended by Team ICRISAT Bamako and representatives of ICRAF based at Samanko. Mr Shey made a presentation on the new CGIAR reform, which generated a lot of interest, questions and a lively discussion. This was followed by a guided tour of the facilities.

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