No. 1419 18 June 2010

World Day to Combat Desertification: Soil is Precious; Water is Life

William Dar Director General William Dar, CS Ramalakshmi and Vivek Saxena at the workshop.

“Tradition taught us to respect the soil as it is very precious; also, water is life. Soil and water go together in sustaining food production for the ever increasing global population,” Director General William Dar told policy makers, soil scientists, ground water experts and administrators on 17 June, the World Day to Combat Desertification.

He was addressing the Regional Workshop on Enhancing Soils Anywhere Enhances Life Everywhere at the Dr Marri Channa Reddy HRD Institute in Hyderabad, organized by the Agricultural Finance Corporation Ltd (AFC) and supported by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Government of India (GOI). Quoting a recent study by the Space Application Center of the Indian Space Research Organization, which said that no less than a fourth of India’s geographical area (81 million hectares) is undergoing a process of desertification with unchecked deforestation and overgrazing, Dr Dar said that the perfect storm, which is a combination of several crises, is very much at India’s doorsteps.

William Dar Dr Dar lighting the lamp with CS Ramalakshmi.

Piecing together the ingredients of a brewing perfect storm, Dr Dar said that the double digit inflation and the ongoing power crisis will exert more pressure on land, and India could become the world’s most populated country by 2050.

Calling for a holistic approach in dealing with desertification in the semi-arid tropics, particularly India, Dr Dar said, “It is necessary to engage farmers, forest dwellers, and stakeholders under a holistic approach supported by strong scientific and technical tools to reduce soil erosion.” He lauded the Indian government (which is a member of the Conference of Parties under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), for the convergence of various stakeholders in achieving the goals and enhancing political will. He advised workshop participants that more than twenty mouths could be fed from the same amount of land by harnessing simple scientific tools for the benefit of the poor, such as sequestering carbon and growing more legumes.

Advocating for more watersheds like those in Kothapally in Andhra Pradesh and Sujala in Karnataka, Dr Dar revealed that ICRISAT studies have shown that real incomes and productivity in the watershed areas have increased through soil conservation. He suggested increased investments for construction of small harvesting structures on a war-footing to restrict the spread of deserts.

William Dar Doordarshan scribe interviewing Dr Dar.

Earlier, addressing the workshop, Vivek Saxena, Director (Desertification Cell) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, GOI, said that India will be spending $9.91 million for afforestation of about 20 million hectares of degraded lands.

In her keynote address CS Ramalakshmi, Director General of AP Forest Academy, said that Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu were the states worst hit by desertification and said, “It is unfortunate that the good practices such as development of watersheds do not get replicated. Convergence is the only mantra.”

PM Kshirasagar, General Manager AFC, Mumbai welcomed the participants. AFC has earlier conducted two similar workshops in different parts of India.

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ICRISAT training course for policymakers

policynakets training Drs SP Wani, William Dar, Peter Craufurd and P Pathak at the inaugural.

To enhance awareness among policymakers across India, a capacity building program on Integrated Watershed Management for State Policymakers: Principles and Practices was conducted at Patancheru from 10 to 12 June. In all, 31 senior policy makers representing 14 states in India, who are implementing integrated watershed management programs, participated in the three-day training.

Dr William Dar, in his inaugural address, stressed on making watersheds the engines for agricultural development in rainfed areas and improvement in livelihoods. He cited the suitability of this technology for rainfed areas to tackle the major challenges of water scarcity and land degradation. He asked the scientists to study the challenges posed by climate change in watershed management.

SP Wani explained the objectives of the program and Peter Craufurd formally welcomed all the participants. Speakers from ICRISAT, National Institute of Agriculture Extension Management, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture and the International Livestock Research Institute gave lectures during the workshop.

policymakers training Policymakers join for a group photo with Dr William Dar.

Interactive sessions were held on a range of topics, such as a consortium approach, concept and principles; common guidelines; socio-economic, biophysical and agroclimatic characterization; knowledge based EPAs; soil and water conservation; IPM; nutrient management; improved genotypes; alternate land use systems; livestock; ICT as communication tool; and PPR and DPR preparation and impact assessment.

The participants visited the ICRISAT farm and laboratories and the Adarsha watershed, Kothapally for on-field learnings. During the concluding session, the participants expressed their satisfaction and happiness over the training and also suggested that the duration of the course could be longer. They were given certificates of participation by GTL-AES Peter Craufurd and SP Wani.

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ICRISAT scientists receive NAAS awards

Rajeev varshney Rajeev Varshney receiving the fellowship from Dr Mangala Rai and
Dr S Ayyappan.

Rajeev Varshney received yet another important recognition from the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), India, in the form of Foreign Fellow, for his outstanding and cutting-edge-contribution in the area of crop genomics and biotechnology. His work on development of large-scale genomic resources such as the first set of genetic maps, molecular markers, and transcript sequences for legume crops has been recognized by NAAS, leading to the fellowship.

NAAS, established in 1990, has a vision to gain recognition as a credible Think Tank to provide views of the scientific community on all agriculture-related policy issues, to encourage talent and promote excellence in science, making it a powerful instrument for the growth of national economy with a vibrant farm sector. The academy has a total of 497 fellows, which includes 45 Foreign Fellows and one Corporate Fellow.

Aged 36, Varshney has become the youngest fellow of the academy. Recall that he was awarded Associateship of the academy in 2008 and received important awards/honors from other science academies of India such as the Indian National Science Academy (Young Scientist Award-2008) and the National Academy of Sciences, India (Young Scientist Platinum Jubilee Award-2007).

While congratulating Varshney for this important achievement, Director General Dar said, “You deserve this recognition. You are not only bringing honor to yourself and your family but also to ICRISAT.”

Similarly, Pratap Singh Birthal was also conferred a NAAS fellowship for his contributions in the area of agricultural economics and policy. Birthal was instrumental in the formulation of the new buffer stock policy of the Government of India, which is being used to maintain stocks of food grains for national food security and social safety-net programs. He has made a pioneering contribution in setting research priorities of the livestock sector for poverty alleviation and reducing environmental degradation.

Both the scientists presented their fellowship work and were inducted into the Academy during Foundation Day and the 17th Annual General Meeting of NAAS on 5 June. They received the fellowships from Dr Mangala Rai, President, NAAS and Dr S Ayyappan, Vice-President of NAAS and Director General, ICAR (incidentally, former and present Vice-Chairmen of our Governing Board).

Several other important dignitaries and senior agricultural scientists from India – HK Jain (Vice- President, NAAS and former Director, IARI), RB Singh (Foreign Secretary, NAAS and former Director, IARI), PK Aggarwal (Secretary, NAAS and National ICAR Professor), SK Dutta (Deputy Director General-Crop Science, ICAR), HS Gupta (Director-IARI) were present at the function. In addition to the Presidential Lecture given by Dr Mangala Rai, K Kasturirangan (Member, Planning Commission, Government of India), delivered the Foundation Lecture.

Team ICRISAT congratulates Rajeev and Birthal for these outstanding recognitions!

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Huge turnout at ICRISAT stalls in AgriTech 2010

AgriTech 2010 G Ravi Kumar explaining ICRISAT research to Abdul Hassan Mir and Damodar Raja Narsimha.

Damodar Raja Narsimha, the Minister for Marketing and Warehousing, Government of Andhra Pradesh, was as enthusiastic as the farmers in finding out about ICRISAT at the AgriTech 2010 exhibition at the Acharya NG Ranga Agriculture University (ANGRAU) campus in Rajendranagar, Hyderabad this week.

The four-day AgriTech 2010 event, a combination of exhibition and conferences, was organized by the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development and supported by the Government of AP and the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry from 15 to 18 June.

The Minister formally inaugurated the event on 15 June along with Abdul Hassan Mir, Agriculture Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, and P Raghava Reddy, Vice-Chancellor of ANGRAU. He visited the ICRISAT stall and discussed at length with ICRISAT’s G Ravi Kumar about our high yielding varieties. He was very keen about the pigeonpea hybrid Pushkal and was happy to note that the hybrid yields 35% higher than its traditional varieties. He was also enthusiastic about the high yielding groundnut varieties, particularly ICGV 9214, which is drought resistant.

The farmers from neighboring Rangareddy, Mahbubnagar and Medak districts thronged the ICRISAT stall in large numbers. Around 3000 farmers and students from the campus visited during the event.

The watershed replica, hybrid and high yielding varieties of mandate crops, posters on the global themes, Agri-Business Incubator, Biotechnology and watersheds were the main attractions. The other stalls showcased farm innovations, micro-irrigation and cold storage equipment, crop insurance, tractors, harvesters and threshers.

AgriTech 2010   AgriTech 2010

ICRISAT stall at AgriTech 2010.


Farmers gather at the ICRISAT stall for information and guidance.


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