No. 1408 1 April 2010

ICRISAT and AVRDC Receive CGIAR’s Outstanding Partnership Award

The world’s agricultural researchers have bestowed on ICRISAT and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) the prestigious ‘Science Award for Outstanding Partnership’ for improving the lives of countless women and children in West Africa. Scientists at ICRISAT and AVRDC first developed techniques for growing vegetables in the deserts of West Africa. They then trained West African farmer representatives to train local farmers.

Outstanding Partnership Award Drs William Dar and Dyno Keatinge with the CGIAR’s Science Award for Outstanding Partnership at GCARD-2010. Abdou Tenkouano (AVRDC), Kathy Sierra, Rudy Rabbinge, Carlos del Castillo and Farid Waliyar are also present.

The award, which is one of the seven awards conferred by the CGIAR, was presented to ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar and Dr Dyno Keatinge, Director General, AVRDC at the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) on 29 March at Montpellier, France. The CGIAR awards highlight myth-busting research on human and soil health, key breakthroughs in addressing water scarcity, and extraordinary successes in rice improvement.

“This is one example of how science can change the lives and health of poor women and children,” said Dr Dar.

“This ICRISAT-AVRDC partnership in West Africa has massively improved the lives of countless West African children and women. I am extremely proud of this outstanding work of my colleagues,” added Dr Nigel Poole, Board Chair of ICRISAT.

With chronic food shortages afflicting 2.5 million people in Niger, ICRISAT rolled out a solution for subsistence farmers, which consists of small, market-oriented vegetable plots. Nearly 5,000 innovative African market gardens have been established in Niger and other countries of the West and Central African dry Sahelian region, and the stage is set for a major expansion.

Over the last decade, ICRISAT and the World Vegetable Center have labored jointly across the Sahel to improve local vegetable varieties and create viable systems of production, based on appropriate water management, using inexpensive, low-pressure drip irrigation and traditional water-harvesting techniques.

CGARD 2010 Drs Nigel Poole and William Dar with Ganesan Balachander, a member of the new CGIAR Consortium Board (CCB) in Montpellier.

An improved tomato variety grown in African market gardens is spreading rapidly in Niger. For the first time ever, markets in the nation’s capital, Niamey, were well supplied with the vegetable in the last rainy season. A new onion variety shows equal promise, yielding 60 tons per hectare, nearly twice as much as the other lines grown by farmers. The market gardens producing those and other vegetables have proved highly profitable, giving returns of up to US$1,500 from an area of only 500 square meters. Women capture most of the profits, since they dominate vegetable production and marketing.

ICRISAT has worked for decades to improve basic crops such as sorghum, pearl millet and groundnut in the drought-prone Sahel. But by the late 1990s, the institute realized that, with crops failing in 2 out of 5 years, smallholder farmers needed higher value alternatives for raising incomes and enhancing nutrition, in addition to more resilient staples. That realization prompted the partnership with the World Vegetable Center, which today offers new hope for the Sahel’s 100 million people, most of whom are subsistence farmers.

In one recent case in Niger, a group of 120 landless women in the Dosso region started growing hardy indigenous vegetables on degraded land using ICRISAT’s Bioreclamation of Degraded Lands system on a 7 hectare field in June 2006. Three years later, the degraded area turned into 70 hectares of lush greenery and the expansion is continuing.

In 2001, ICRISAT appointed Dr Dov Pasternak to lead its high value crops program in the Sahel, which included the introduction of improved irrigation and management options for smallholders. This provided the catalyst for many subsequent projects, the foundation of a fulltime presence of AVRDC in the region and the development of a very successful partnership.

In September 2003, AVRDC appointed its first permanent staff member in Bamako, Mali, to work with ICRISAT and the National Agricultural Research and Extension System and establish regional vegetable variety trials. In 2007, ICRISAT and AVRDC jointly appointed a plant breeder to work on breeding and selection of okra at ICRISAT-Niger.

In 2008, AVRDC expanded its work in the Sahel very substantially by appointing a team of plant breeders as part of a project on vegetable breeding and seed systems funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The partnership between ICRISAT and AVRDC is indeed making a big difference in the Sahel by creating new livelihood options for the most marginalized in one of the poorest regions on earth.

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GCARD-2010 calls for radical changes in agricultural research

World Food Prize laureates, ministers, farmers, community development organizations, leading scientists, and innovators gathered in Montpellier, France from 28 to 31 March to spur sweeping changes in global agriculture.

GCARD-2010   GCARD-2010
Dr Nigel Poole making a point in a parallel session.  

Dr Dar interacting with delegates.


After decades of lagging agricultural investment, GCARD aims to strengthen and harness agricultural research to meet the enormous challenges of doubling food supply by 2050, lifting a billion people out of poverty and hunger, and doing so in ways that are environmentally sustainable.

This was the first ever Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, or GCARD 2010. It will be organized every two years by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), replacing the triennial conference and the annual general meetings of the CGIAR.

An influential panel of global leaders inaugurated the conference on 28 March, highlighting the need for increased partnerships and innovation to meet the huge challenge of feeding the world. Representing ICRISAT at the conference was Board Chair Dr Nigel Poole, Director General Dr William Dar, DDG Dr Dave Hoisington, and Drs Farid Waliyar and V Balaji.

GCARD-2010   GCARD-2010
Articulating on gender for inclusive development.  

Farid Waliyar representing the African point of view.


Participating in the session on policy and institutional constraints and opportunities, and the CGIAR’s proposed thematic research to shore up farm incomes of the poor, Dr Nigel Poole noted that the private sector often plays a central role in policy development, and not including them in policy formulations could have a negative impact on farmers and their incomes.

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ICRISAT joins the Consortium of CGIAR Centers

Signing the agreement to join the Consortium of CGIAR Centers Dr Nigel Poole signing the agreement to join the Consortium of CGIAR Centers in the presence of GB members (standing L to R) M Qhobela, G Synnevag, C Madramootoo,
J Bennetzen, M Williams and SV Prasad.

Governing Board Chair Dr Nigel Poole signed on the dotted line thus formally joining ICRISAT to the Consortium of CGIAR Centers on 26 March, at the GB meeting in Patancheru. “We fully commit ourselves to support the CGIAR reform process. With our partners we will continue to engage in delivering our mission to help the poor and smallholder farmers of the semi-arid tropics,” Dr Poole affirmed.

In a letter to the Chair, Consortium Board, Dr Carlos Peres Del Castillo, Dr Poole stated that the ICRISAT Governing Board recognizes the need to define the programmatic aspects of the new CGIAR and to develop the necessary instruments of the consortium. Recognizing the enormous challenges and tasks ahead, ICRISAT urged the Consortium to not lose sight of the reason for the CGIAR’s existence and for whom it works.

ICRISAT also urged the Consortium to motivate the international community to increase its commitment to agricultural research for the benefit of the poor in the drylands.

Commenting on a private meeting in Montpellier, which was attended by Drs Poole and William Dar and Consortium Board members Carlos Perez Del Castillo, Lynn Haight, Tom Arnold, Ganesan Balachander, and Gebisa Ejeta, Dr Poole said, “Carlos thought our support was very powerful and the messages very clear and thanked us for helping him. Lynn complimented us on a beautifully constructed powerful message. I am impressed by the Consortium Board.”

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Dr Madramootoo reappointed by McGill University, Canada

The Board of Governors of McGill University has reappointed ICRISAT Governing Board member Dr Chandra Madramootoo for a further five year term as Dean of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Dean Madramootoo holds a James McGill Professorship in recognition of his outstanding teaching and research on water, international agriculture, and agro-environmental sustainability.

Chandra Madramootoo Dr Chandra Madramootoo

During his tenure as Dean, Professor Madramootoo has overseen a significant growth in the undergraduate and graduate student enrolment, research income, and alumni and philanthropic support to the faculty. The number of undergraduate and graduate scholarships and financial support for graduate students has increased substantially. With philanthropic backing, he also created an Internship Office to provide career training and employment opportunities to undergraduate students.

Dr Madramootoo has worked with the department chairs and directors to aggressively lead an ambitious academic renewal plan for the recruitment and retention of new staff, despite the current economic environment.

Over the last five years, the faculty has witnessed major improvements in teaching and research infrastructure. Two new instructional facilities will be built this summer. Furthermore, Dean Madramootoo is credited with leading the modernization of the Macdonald Campus infrastructure.

The Board of Governors has recognized his leadership in building partnerships at the highly successful McGill Conferences on Global Food Security.

Team ICRISAT congratulates Dr Chandra Madramootoo and wishes him all success.

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Celebrating diversity: Media visits genebank

On the sidelines of the four-day 62nd Governing Board meeting in Patancheru, members of the district, state and national media had a glimpse of ICRISAT’s genebank. Commemorating the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity, the visit took place on 25 March as part of the press meet, which was addressed by the Governing Board Chair Dr Nigel Poole, Director General Dr William Dar and Rex L Navarro, Director Communication.

Genebank Dr Hari Upadhyaya briefing media persons about the working of the genebank.

Explaining the need for a genebank, Hari Upadhyaya said that the global collection in the genebank serves the purpose of restoring germplasm to the source countries when national collections are lost due to natural calamities or civil strife. Germplasm conserved at ICRISAT has also become an important source of diversity available to researchers in both private and public sectors all over the world.

The enthusiastic journalists clarified their doubts about the freezing temperature (-20 degree C) and the techniques used at the genebank. They also learned from the experts how the regeneration capacity and genetic integrity of the stored germplasm are secured, and how the seed is replaced periodically.

Finally, they were briefed about the role ICRISAT plays in securing spots for the germplasm of ICRISAT mandate crops at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. ICRISAT is in the process of depositing about 110,000 of its accessions at the Global Seed Vault.

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Meeting on digital advisory services in Indian agriculture

Knowledge Management and Sharing (KMS) and Agri-Science Park (ASP) organized a discussion meeting on Digital Advisory Services in Indian Agriculture on 19 March at Patancheru to consider the key issues related to fostering partnerships between players in the telecom, Information Technology (IT) and the IT-for-development sector.

Digital Advisory Services meeting Participants of meeting on Digital Advisory Services in Indian Agriculture.

The objective of the meeting was to have an assessment of the ongoing initiatives; data services requirements, human capacity availability, existing and potential clientele in current and future initiatives. The outcomes of the discussion will help to form a baseline to formulate a consortium that can explore opportunities for joint projects on the right scale for developing demonstrators and prototypes with suitable financial support.

Participants from different sectors including Tata Consultancy Services M-krishi, Nokia Life Tools, Thompson Reuters Market Lights, Agrocom, On Mobile, and Extension service providers such as ITC e-choupal, ISAP (Indian Society of Agribusiness Professional), Janani Foods-Agri-Serve, Mahindra, Viswas Business Synergies, AgRisk Research Technology, Basix, Aakruthi Agricultural Associates, Byrraju Foundation’s V-Agri and Intellecap attended the meeting.

Abdul Rahman Ilyas, COO, Agri-Science Park gave the opening remarks and V Balaji, Global Leader, KMS presented the keynote address and objectives of the discussion meeting. Purushotham, Manager-Operations ASP, and Lavanya, Bharati, Ram Naresh and SV Prasad from the KMS team supported the meeting.

With V Balaji posing key questions, the participants had a chance to express their experiences and challenges in the development of digital content and delivery of advisory services in agriculture to the farmers. There was also discussion on the appropriate model to offer digital advisory services to the needful farmers. The meeting concluded with a consensus to form a consortium of digital content and service providers for joint collaborations and to prepare a proposal for projects.

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