No. 1409 9 April 2010

DG Receives Honorary Doctorate from Central Mindanao University

Director General Dr William Dar was honored by the Central Mindanao University (CMU) with an honorary doctorate degree in international agricultural development on 6 April, at its 56th Annual Commencement Exercise at Musuan, Bukidnon in the Philippines.

William Dar Dr William Dar addressing the 56th Annual Commencement Exercise at CMU.

Delivering his acceptance speech titled ‘Blue oceans and green harvests’, Dr Dar thanked the Board of Regents, President Victor Barroso and university officials for the honor bestowed on him. He recalled how CMU has evolved from its humble beginnings way back in 1910, as Mailag Industrial School to one of the top performing universities in the Philippines. “CMU’s excellence takes a deeper meaning as it provides education to students from the depressed, deprived and disadvantaged sectors in the region,” Dr Dar stated.

Pointing out the lack of development in the Mindanao region despite the opportunities in agri-based industries, Dr Dar counseled the university to share and emulate his experience at ICRISAT. Proposing a seven-point formula for success, Dr Dar said, “Turn adversities and challenges into opportunities. Today, ICRISAT is fully transformed and is now a high performing global research institute.”

He wanted the university to build teams and partnerships, and exploit every opportunity to spearhead sustainable growth and development in the region. “I believe it is time for CMU and its graduates to make a paradigm shift from business as usual to a blue ocean strategy. A blue ocean is a marketplace of ideas where the water is clear and peaceful, where there is no bloody competition to make the waters red,” Dr Dar observed.

Stressing the need to coordinate with the governments, he recommended a working relationship with both the national government and local government units in Central Mindanao. He urged the university management to look for funding from external agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Advocating entrepreneurship, he said that the blue ocean strategy is to create jobs, and given the size of CMU, it could offer courses in entrepreneurship. Dr Dar said, “Another blue ocean approach concerns women. Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and our local Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning Center for Agriculture and Rural Development - Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) based in San Pablo City, have shown that women make the best creditors.”

William Dar Dr William Dar in ceremonial robes at the Central Mindanao University.

Giving a call for greening Mindanao, Dr Dar reminded the academicians and students about the severe drought in many regions of the country due to El Niño. He said that Mindanao is going through an energy crisis because of the lack of water to run its power plants.

“The whole of Mindanao is now in a state of calamity. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration estimates 40 to 60% reduction in rainfall as an effect of the El Niño phenomenon. We need to do something for the region. I urge you to green your part of Mindanao. Plant more trees and more drought-resistant crops. More agro-forest farms may be needed. It is in your hands to transform Mindanao into the breadbasket of our country and the springboard of our self-sufficiency in food,” Dr Dar added.

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Tanzania holds HOPE planning meeting

ICRISAT and the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives held a meeting on the project Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of sorghum and finger millet for Eastern and Southern Africa on 29 and 30 March at Moshi, Tanzania.

In her opening remarks, HOPE country coordinator, Frida Mgonja outlined the objective of the meeting, which was to give the country project team, collaborating partners and key stakeholders an opportunity to understand the rationale of the project, what it promises to deliver, the progress achieved so far and the implementation.

HOPE meeting Participants of the in-country meeting for HOPE at Moshi in Tanzania.

Mary Mgonja, representing the Director of ICRISAT, outlined the history of the project from its inception. She informed the participants that Tanzania and Ethiopia were the project’s main target countries, as they have large populations and both the targeted crops of the project (sorghum and finger millet) were represented in this region. She therefore urged stakeholders to work hard to realize the set targets.

The workshop attracted 46 participants (35 men and 11 women) from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Department of Research and Development (DRD), Tanzania Official for Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI), Tanzanian Pesticide Research Institute (TPRI), Tanzanian Breweries Limited (TBL), seed companies and ICRISAT. Mary Mgonja, Henry Ojulong, Franklin Simtowe and Joseph Kibuka represented ICRISAT.

The workshop was opened by the honorable Assistant Minister of Agriculture, Matayo Devis. While emphasizing the importance of the project, Devis said that HOPE with its value chain approach will give farmers access to the market, the lack of which has diminished the prominence of sorghum production in the country. He observed that the project was in line with the government’s policy of ‘agriculture first’ and promised that everything will be done to make the project a success. He was grateful for the country’s co-ownership of the project and commended ICRISAT for its efforts in implementing projects in semi-arid areas.

HOPE co-coordinator Wazel Ntundu gave a summary of activities, including the distribution of 1000 kilograms of breeder seed of sorghum variety Macia for quality seed production, field days organized by TPRI in Miwaleni and Moshi, and a joint Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) trial and workshop for trainers on technology delivery system tentatively slated for May or June 2010. The house was also informed that a number of millet varieties chosen during PVS trials have been planted this season. In addition, two lines were at the National Performance Trials for distinctive uniformity and stability testing.

At the meeting, members noted that the release of seeds should be given high priority. They also stated that some goals were not accomplished in 2009. It was made known that with adequate funds implementers could accomplish the objectives by May this year. The representative of the seed companies promised to talk to government officials about seed subsidiaries and providing a budget for the purchase of seeds in the next financial year.

The meeting concluded with participants being treated to Eagle lager, a sorghum beer made by the Tanzanian Breweries Limited.

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HOPE coordinator visits Niger

Hope George Enoch Okwach with Drs Jupiter Ndjeunga, Moustapha Moussa, DG INRAN, Bettina Haussmann and INRAN scientists in Niger.

The recently appointed coordinator of the HOPE project, George Enoch Okwach, visited Niger from 29 March to 1 April to discuss the scientific, technical and management issues of the future process of the project with relevant scientists and technicians.

He talked about the economic issues with Jupiter Ndjeunga and discussed millet breeding and technology dissemination with Bettina Haussmann. Ideas on entomological aspects were exchanged with Alain Ratnadass, and agronomy with Fatondji Djougbedji and a team of technicians. Management issues were discussed with Bila Belemgoabga, ICRISAT’s Chief Administrator in Western and Central Africa (WCA), and communication aspects with the Regional Information Officer, Tobias Dierks.

An important part of Okwach’s visit was the meetings with ICRISAT’s national partner institution l’institut Nationale de Recherches Agronomiques du Niger (INRAN). INRAN’s Director General and National Coordinator, Moustapha Moussa, received him at their headquarters. The INRAN-Maradi focal point for HOPE, Ibrahim Baoua also attended the meetings. He was accompanied by INRAN experts Marou Zarafi Assane (economist) and Hame Kadi Kadi (entomologist). Furthermore, Okwach met Mamadou Hassane, the secretary of the farmer organization Moribeen, the food security coordinator of Action contre el Hambre, Tanjona and the private grain processing factory at Niamey owned by the business woman Amina Liman. Also part of the program was a visit to INRAN’s seed unit in the city of Kollo.

At the end of his visit Okwach expressed his confidence that the HOPE project will be a success thanks to the strong dedication of the project’s partners to its goals and mission. “The HOPE Project is about empowering farmers, increasing their food security and incomes in a sustainable manner. We believe that these aspirations are shared with INRAN,” said Okwach. After five days, he moved on to Bamako, Mali, to meet scientists and staff members there as well.

The HOPE project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation covers ten sub-Saharan African countries and four Indian states. Partners include Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, the International Sorghum and Millet Improvement Programme, Africa Harvest and the West Africa Seed Alliance as well as the Institute d’ Economie Rurale, Mali, and USAID.

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Short course on geostatistical analysis

A short course on the geostatical analysis of environmental data jointly offered by ICRISAT and the University of Florida was held at Patancheru from 5 to 9 April.

Dr Pierre Goovaerts was the course instructor. The course touched upon topics such as exploratory spatial data analysis, description of spatial patterns, modeling, spatial prediction, accounting for secondary information in Kriging, risk mapping, stochastic simulation and space-time geostatitsics.

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Preparing for Phase II of the Tropical Legumes II Project

A mid-term review of the Tropical Legumes II (TL-II) project was initiated at Patancheru on 7 April. An external reviewer Dr Greg Edmeades, who is a consultant with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) visited Patancheru on 7 and 8 April to start the review process. He will also visit project sites in ESA and WCA over the next three weeks, and will meet with other project scientists in sub-Saharan Africa.

TL-II meeting Participants of TL-II mid-term review meeting in Patancheru.

The TL-II project, a ten-year project funded by the Foundation, had started in August 2007. Phase I of the project will end in December 2010. The consultant will review the work done, and help us prepare for Phase-II. Present during the review meeting were ICRISAT scientists involved in the project and scientists from partner institutes/universities from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Two farmers from project sites in Karnataka also took part in the review.

CLL Gowda provided the overview of the project, emphasizing its objectives, salient achievements and lessons learned. Cynthia Bantilan presented the highlights of Objective I Targeting crop breeding and seed delivery efforts to enhance impact on livelihoods of the poor in drought-prone regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. SN Nigam spoke on Objective 2, which is enhancing groundnut productivity. Pooran Gaur discussed Objective 5, improving chickpea productivity, and RK Srivastava spoke on Objective 6, improving pigeonpea productivity. Srivastava also highlighted results of Objective 8 on seed systems development.

Questions by the external evaluator revolved around the impact of the project, policy direction, and agronomic traits based on farmers’ preferences, marketing, pests and diseases, and gender issues.

Dr Edmeades commended the zeal of the scientists at ICRISAT and partner organizations and lauded the achievements of the project. His suggestions and inputs on the current and the proposed second phase of the project will help set future research directions, including the Research and Development of legumes.

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Annual review and workplan meeting of ICRISAT-NAIP

The second annual review meeting of the sweet sorghum ethanol value chain development project was held at Patancheru on 26 and 27 March. This is a sub-project of the ICRISAT-National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP). Also held in the same period was the fourth Consortium Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting.

sweet sorghum Participants of annual review meeting on sweet sorghum in Patancheru.

Representatives from the consortium of institutions including Directorate of Sorghum Research, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, International Livestock Research Institute, Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University, Rusni Distilleries, Agri-Business Incubator at ICRISAT, and Aakruthi Agricultural Associates of India participated in the 2009 progress review and 2010 workplan development meeting.

Belum VS Reddy presented the overall progress made by ICRISAT and partners in 2009-10. While complimenting the concerted efforts of the consortium team, he appealed to them to focus more on on-farm productivity enhancement and improving the crushing efficiency and labor use efficiency at Decentralized Crushing Units. He also recommended looking for alternative markets for the sweet sorghum syrup to make the crop more profitable for farmers. All the partners made brief presentations on the progress made in 2009 and proposed workplans for 2010. After thorough discussions, the consolidated workplans were developed by the project team.

Consortium Advisory Committee Chairman, ST Borikar welcomed the consortium partners and the participants at the CAC meeting and appreciated the progress and the efforts made by them. CAC approved the 2010 work plans and suggested the future course of action for the project team based on their experiences in 2008 and 2009.

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Unique seed processing plant launched

A seed processing plant under the Seed Business Incubation (SBI) initiative was inaugurated at Uravakonda in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh on 31 March. The plant is run by the Uravakonda farmers in partnership with Agri-Business Incubator at ICRISAT and Aakruthi Agricultural Associates of India (AAAI).

Seed processing plant A farmer inaugurating the seed processing plant at Uravakonda.

This is a first-of-its-kind unit in the country where ICRISAT and a private organization have come forward to establish an innovative public-private partnership-based seed system. The open pollinated seeds/varieties (OPS) under the brand name of ‘Mana Seeds’ were also launched on the same day. The plant was inaugurated by the progressive farmers of Uravakonda in the presence of Prasanna Rajesh, Scientist from the Agricultural Research Station, Kadiri, Abdul Kareem of Rural Development Trust, Anantapur, SM Karuppanchetty of ABI, and R Kishore, Director of AAAI. Nearly 300 farmers and seed business entrepreneurs participated in this program.

This rural entrepreneurship program helps farmers get new varieties and quality seeds on time. Almost Rs 30 lakh (about $62,500) was spent by both AAAI and ICRISAT to establish the plant. It will supply OPS of groundnut, chickpea, pigeonpea and paddy, benefiting as many as 2000 farmers with the production of seeds and seven new high yielding varieties.

‘Mana’ brand was introduced through SBI and used by the farmers of Anantapur, Chittoor, Kadapa and Kurnool. There are about 25 entrepreneurs in these districts who have been working with ICRISAT and AAAI for the past two years. Farmers who were formed as Farmers’ Interest Group will have access to the plant facility and the technical and marketing support by paying a nominal fee or user charges for the seed they process. The launch program saw a very good response to the pre-season booking of ICGV 91114 (groundnut) and JG–11 (chickpea).

“It is an effort of two years that have yielded results now. It has ‘for the farmer’ and ‘by the farmer’ approaches, addressing the demand and supply gap of OP seeds through an innovative and sustainable seed system,” said SM Karuppanchetty.

SBI will also help the farmers in getting certification from the authorities governing quality control and marketing.

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