No. 1415 21 May 2010

HOPE meeting reviews achievements and sets up work plans

Hope meeting participants DDG-R Dave Hoisington and Director ICRISAT ESA Said Silim with participants of the HOPE Annual Review and Work Plan meeting.

Members of the project Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) had their first Annual Review-2009 and Work Plan-2010 meeting for pearl millet (Asia) with new partners at Patancheru on 11 and 12 May. DDG-R Dave Hoisington welcomed the participants and highlighted the need for developing good work plans for the project to accomplish real achievements.

Said Silim, the Principal Investigator of the HOPE project and CLL Gowda GTL-Crop Improvement, also welcomed the participants. Thirteen scientists from Choudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University (Hisar), Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agricultural University (Bikaner), Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University (SK Nagar) and Junagarh Agricultural University (Junagarh) took part in this event. Two scientists from the private sector (Bayer Biosciences and Bioseed), one from an NGO (Gravis) and 19 from ICRISAT were also present.

Project Manager George Okwach chaired the meetings and presented the overview of the project covering all six objectives and three regions. During deliberations, progress reports for 2009 were presented by MCS Bantilan, P Parthasarthy Rao and VR Kiresur on objectives 1 and 5. CT Hash explained work done with regard to objective 3 and SK Gupta talked about the achievements of objective 6. Work plans for 2010 were finalized after detailed discussions with the partners. Most of the project activities are progressing well and the project objectives and activities were found well-aligned and integrated to achieve the planned milestones in time. The group decided to revise timelines for some activities of the first year, which were delayed due to unavoidable circumstances.

The meeting with partners also saw discussions on all administrative and technical measures required to speed up the achievement of milestones under different objectives. Partners were briefed about the financial and technical reporting procedures. IS Khairwal, Project Coordinator for pearl millet, encouraged national partners to meet the deadlines and BVS Reddy (sorghum) shared his experiences in the HOPE project and helped the group resolve various technical issues.

Okwach thanked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for providing the opportunity to enhance the productivity and production of two important semi-arid cereals. He urged partners to sign the sub-agreements with ICRISAT within two weeks. He also called for a united and dedicated approach to fulfilling the agenda and mandate of the HOPE Project by setting their eyes on the milestones and impacts. KN Rai proposed the vote of thanks.

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ICRISAT trains ICAR Incubator Business Managers

Dr William Dar with ICAR Incubator business managers and senior ABI staff members.

A training-cum-capacity building program was organized by ABI of ICRISAT at Patancheru for the managers of Business Planning and Development (BPD) units of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes and state agricultural universities as part of the ICAR-National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) on Mentoring and Handholding of BPD Units of NARS from 13 to 15 May. This event was to train business managers in the operations and management of business incubators.

The program was attended by 10 BPD managers from the participating institutions, including the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (New Delhi), Indian Veterinary Research Institute (Izzatnagar), Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (Cochin), National Institute of Research on Jute and Allied Fiber Technology (Kolkata), Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology (Mumbai), Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (Coimbatore), Birsa Agricultural University (Ranchi), CCS Haryana Agricultural University (Hisar), Anand Agricultural University (Anand) and Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (Jabalpur).

Director General Dr William Dar in his address appreciated the initiatives of the BPD managers who share a common cause of helping resource-poor farmers through small and medium-level entrepreneurship. Dr Dar emphasized the need for commercialization of agri-technologies of the national agricultural research system (NARS) partners to reach the poor farmers in a timely manner. He also underscored that the BPDs or Agri-Business Incubators are the ideal platforms for effective technology transfer and the creation of jobs. Additionally, he acknowledged the work of all the managers, partners and successful entrepreneurs of the newly-formed Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI).

KK Sharma stressed the importance of the successful operation of the BPD units to create a momentum in the country and bring in remarkable changes in NARS as a catalyzing agent.

SM Karuppanchetty spoke on the NIABI action plan, reporting pattern, financial management and the sustainability aspects of the project. Addressing the managers on ‘Marketing of Business Incubator and Technology Commercialization’, he enumerated the various aspects of institutional marketing and marketing strategies for technology transfer, including soft landing services and their opportunities in agribusiness.

Aravazhi Selvaraj spoke on the ‘Organizing and Operating Strategy of Incubator’ and described various elements of operations management and their role in managing an incubator. He presented various models of business incubation and talked about operational models. One of the sessions, organized by Shiva Kumar, Principal Consultant – Envision Sattyaalayah, was on ‘Motivation, Communication and Team Building’. The highly interactive session focused on building trust.

Resource persons from companies such as Villgro, Bioseed, SkyQuest, and Reuters Market Light discussed their incubation experience and business proposals on potential collaboration with NIABI.

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Workshop on Marker-Assisted Backcrossing

ISMAB Participants of workshop on Marker-Assisted Backcrossing.

A workshop on Information System for Marker-Assisted Backcrossing (ISMAB) was held on 17 and 18 May at Patancheru. This workshop is part of the ISMAB project funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Integrated Breeding Platform of the Global Challenge Program.

In addition to the ICRISAT users, five external participants with expertise in application of molecular markers for crop improvement were invited.

The experts included PK Gupta, Honorary Emeritus Professor and Senior Scientist, National Academy of Sciences. Harinder Singh Balyan from Choudhary Charan Singh University;
T Mohapatra, National Research Center on Plant Biotechnology; T Nepolean, Indian Agricultural Research Institute; and R Sundaram, Directorate of Rice Research.

The workshop was conducted by Trushar Shah in association with Rajeev Varshney and the training course organizing committee of the Center of Excellence in Genomics. All the participants were able to review the prototype version. A number of very useful suggestions for enhancing the system were received. Inputs from experts at this workshop will be immensely useful for the plant breeding community at large in improving the information system. Interested staff members can have more details from Trushar Shah, Bioinformatics
and GT-Biotechnology.

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Symposium on improving water productivity

Zimbabwe Daniel Nkomboni, student from Zimbabwe, interacts with children in Ethiopia during the field trip organized as part of the symposium.

A team from Zimbabwe took part in a symposium on Improving Water Productivity of Crop-Livestock Systems for Benefiting the Poor and the Environment held at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 20 and 21 April.

André van Rooyen, Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, Patricia Masikati, Albert Chirima and Suraj Pandey from ICRISAT-Bulawayo attended the meeting together with Joe Sikosana, Trinity Senda, Daniel Nkomboni and Munyaradzi Mativavarira, who are partners from Matopos Research Institute/Department of Research and Specialist Services.

In his keynote address, Don Peden of ILRI gave an overview of Livestock Water Productivity (LWP) and termed the symposium as a first step in the journey towards improving smallholders’ livelihoods and environmental health in Africa and beyond. The scientific sessions at the symposium included discussions on the drivers and impacts of land use and land cover change, and biophysical and social sciences research for improving water productivity, with presentations from Ethiopia, India and Zimbabwe.

Project scientists introduced the sessions. Students presented detailed accounts of their findings from different study areas. Invited speakers from research and development communities added to the understanding of relevant issues. On the last day of the symposium, Jane Gitau, ILRI, gave her perspective on how to effectively use communication in research, and target communities and different types of stakeholders to bring about meaningful change.

In the last session, the group broke into three groups to discuss issues such as: which interventions are relevant, how can the interventions be used, what investments are required for adoption, and what are the knowledge gaps for further engagement.

ICRISAT-Bulawayo has supported six Master’s degree candidates and one PhD student under the BMZ sponsored project on Improving Water Productivity of Crop-Livestock Systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

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CPWF Phase II project development workshop

The Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) Phase II in the Limpopo Basin organized a project development workshop in Pretoria from 3 to 7 May. Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), the coordinating institution for Phase II projects, hosted the meeting. André van Rooyen and John Dimes represented ICRISAT.

CPWF John Dimes interacting with CPWF project partners.

Integrated management of rainwater to improve smallholder productivity and livelihoods and reduce risk has been chosen as a common Basin Development Challenge for Phase II, with research to be structured into five projects. ICRISAT has been awarded the leadership of the Farming Systems and Risk Management project (L3). Other projects include: Targeting and Scaling-Out, Small-scale infrastructure, Water governance, and Learning for innovation and adaptive management.

The purpose of the meeting was to develop a common research theme and focus, negotiate project inter-dependence for outputs and agree on sites selected for shared activities by project partners. These aspects were deemed essential learning lessons from Phase I of CPWF.

Four of eight partners in the L3 project also attended the meeting: World Vision Bulawayo, Sasol Nitro Polokwane, Limpopo Department of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa. The other partners in L3 include AGRITEX Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company, the Rural Development Council Gwanda and Progress Milling of Polokwane.

ICRISAT will lead the establishment of an Innovation Platform (IP) approach for the Zimbabwe sites, building on the IP format developed under the almost complete Livestock and Livelihoods (LiLi) Markets project that targets goat production systems. ICRISAT has also been successful in getting input/output market developments and linkages with the private sector and NGO development agents as a major part of the research development platform. For example, the company Progress Milling will lead a contract farming initiative with small-scale farmers in South Africa on groundnut production and NGO World Vision will implement a voucher-based input supply scheme in Zimbabwe. Both these initiatives will be technically supported by project activities and include the evaluation of an innovative marketing strategy by the fertilizer company partners. As part of the strategy, fertilizer will be made available to rural buyers in a range of bag sizes.

Another major achievement at the workshop was the acceptance of crop-livestock interactions as a technology development focus and the evaluation of the relative water productivity and income payoffs from promoting fodder over crop production in these dry regions. Final proposal writing and project budgeting are now in full swing to meet the submission date of 28 May.

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ICRISAT at watershed workshop

The Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India has organized a workshop on integrated watershed management program (IWMP) to prepare the work plan for 2010-11 for the whole country. The workshop was held at NASC complex, New Delhi during 20 and 21 May. The main objective of the workshop was to prepare detailed work plans for different states with the method of execution using new common guidelines. The workshop was inaugurated by Hon’ble Minister of Rural Development Dr CP Joshi as well as Minister of State for Rural development Pradeep Jain. In the welcome address Rita Sinha, Secretary, highlighted the importance of Comprehensive Assessment of Watershed Programs undertaken by ICRISAT, and the Use of New Science Tools for implementing the IWMP.

ICRISAT was the only scientific organization that made one of the two scientific presentations during the workshop. SP Wani participated in the workshop and made a presentation on “Monitoring and Impact Assessment of Watershed Programs: What it takes“ soon after the inaugural session, which was attended by both the ministers. Dr CP Joshi has agreed to visit one of our Bundi watershed sites in Rajasthan.

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Ground truthing expedition in Ethiopia

The ground truthing expedition team at the Blue Nile.

For eight days beginning 24 April, a team of researchers from International Water Management Institute, International Livestock Research Institute and ICRISAT as well as members of an India-based NGO, PRADAN, traveled through the eastern highlands north of Addis Ababa. The purpose of the trip was to collect the spectral signatures of various features in the Fogera and Gublafatu watershed sites to validate sensor reflectance.

Apart from collecting and validating the spectral signatures of various features, the remote sensing team made a detailed account of the land use and land cover of the areas they visited. The team rectified the classified satellite image features collected on the ground specifically targeting elements such as crops, wetland vegetation, degraded land and water bodies near the Blue Nile river basin.

The team traversed approximately 1880 km in eight days reaching Lake Tana (Bahir Dar) and the Blue Nile in order to get the best spectra. The expedition was fully equipped with gadgets such as Garmin Oregon GPS/ E-trex Garmin GPS/ Expert-GPS software and Google Earth Pro for validating the classification of Landsat and the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) data.

The other highlights of the excursion included interactions with the village communities and farmers on issues of better agricultural management practices in the dry lands of Woldiya and Gublafatu regions. André van Rooyen also explained the issues connected with livestock management practices, breeding, market and health to the scientists in Sirinka Agricultural Research Centre in Woldiya, Ethiopia. Suraj Pandey and Albert Chirima were the other ICRISAT staff members on the trip.

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