No. 1420 25 June 2010

Farmers Get Higher Yields in the HOPE-Dryland Cereals Project

HOPE Implementors of HOPE with Dr William Dar and DDG-R Dave Hoisington.

Sorghum and pearl millet, two important dryland cereals, have registered higher yields during the last cropping season in India.

Implementors of the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) -Dryland Cereals project revealed this during their first annual progress review and workplan development meeting at Patancheru on 21-22 June. The project is being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Partners from Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidhyapeeth (MPKV), Rahuri; Marathwada Agricultural University (MAU), Parbhani and a scientist from Bayer Crop Sciences participated in the meeting along with ICRISAT scientists. The two university partners were instrumental in spearheading the project activities that resulted in an average 54% increase in grain yield and 30% increase in stover yields across the 6900 farmers’ fields (about one acre each) in two regions during the 2009-10 postrainy season.

DDG-R Dave Hoisington welcomed the participants and wished them success in their deliberations.

CLL Gowda, Global Theme Leader-Crop Improvement, introduced the participants and outlined the plan of the meeting, which included planning for next year.

Director General William Dar in his opening address called for turning “HOPE into Reality”. Highlighting the recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and FAO predicting the global rise of cereal prices, he stressed the need for increasing the productivity of dryland cereals and pointed out that this could be achieved by working with the right mix of creative and effective innovations and partnerships.

Dr Dar emphasized that social engineering in itself is now more important than technology for creating impact, and the right talent should be harnessed to accelerate successful project implementation. “ICRISAT is now a member of the Consortium of CGIAR Centers. We are developing Mega-Programs to address food, nutrition security and environmental sustainability in partnership with NARS, ARIs, CSOs and the private sector. ICRISAT strongly believes that poor people, if given an opportunity, will change their future for the better. Hence we are in the process of mapping out a new Strategic Plan to 2020,” Dr Dar added.

George Okwach, Project Coordinator, provided an overview of the HOPE project and urged the group to strictly adhere to milestones and timelines in project implementation, pursue effective data capturing and management, and develop linkages with other organizations to harness synergies and take full ownership of the project.

Said Silim, Principal Investigator of the project, mentioned that the project is unique in India because both, state agricultural universities and private sector partners, are involved. He said that this would provide a good learning experience for effective project implementation in sub-Saharan Africa. He also indicated that lessons learned from this partnership development will be useful for Mega-Program 3 Dryland Cereals as well.

In the technical sessions, Belum VS Reddy, HC Sharma, A Ashok Kumar, P Parthasarathy Rao, G Basavaraj from ICRISAT, Sachin More and SS Ambekar of MAU, Parbhani; and SR Gadakh and VG Pokharkar from MPKV, Akola made presentations on the progress during the first year of project implementation.

Intense discussions were held and the program for Year 2 was fine-tuned. Later, Belum VS Reddy, P Parthasarathy Rao and A Ashok Kumar presented the work plans in the plenary session, where participants and session chairs suggested improvements.

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GTL-Biotechnology joins duty

Oscar Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu.

As announced in the Happenings on 30 April, Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu and his wife Dr Isabel Vales arrived today to join as Global Theme Leader-Biotechnology, and Principal Scientist (Pigeonpea Breeding) respectively.

Oscar received his PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1996, and worked as Associate Professor of Crop Science at the Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA. He has expertise in the areas of cytogenetics, genetics, genomics and biotechnology.

Maria Maria Isabel Vales.

Oscar has experience in basic and applied research on hexaploid wheat and appropriate related grass species. His areas of research include gene discovery, chromosome manipulation, gene transfer and gene flow. In the areas of gene discovery, he established projects that utilize map-based methods to identify and characterize genes and genetic mechanisms contributing to traits of agronomic interest.

We welcome warmly Oscar and Isabel to Team ICRISAT and wish them all success.


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ESA delegation visits ICRISAT watersheds

ESA delegation ESA delegation with Drs Peter Craufurd, SP Wani, Said Silim, William Dar and Dr Dick Ndakala Siame, IFAD Country Officer, Zambia.

A team of 18 senior program managers and scientists representing six countries (Burundi, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia and Kenya) from eastern and southern Africa visited Patancheru on 21 and 22 June. The purpose of the visit was to acquaint themselves with the community watershed management approach developed by ICRISAT towards improving rural livelihoods through upgraded rainfed agriculture.

Director General William Dar, welcoming the delegation, highlighted the importance of conserving natural resources and said, “Soil is precious and water is vital for life.” He stressed the need to upgrade rainfed agriculture by adopting a holistic approach and by emulating India, which has adopted watershed development on a large scale. Such an initiative for watershed management calls for enabling policies, political will and investments in rainfed agriculture, he added.

Dr Dar said that the integrated watershed management (IWM) technology nurtured by ICRISAT can be refined and validated in countries in sub-Saharan Africa. He suggested that rainfed agriculture through watershed management needs to be handled like a business model. Calling for initiative from ESA countries, Dr Dar asked the project managers to convince their governments that there is a need to accelerate and upgrade the IWM initiative in Africa to overcome the problems of water scarcity, land degradation and food security.

Peter Craufurd explained the agroecosystems research thrust in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. SP Wani shared the experiences and the learnings from IWM research and development in Asia, which was followed by interaction with the scientists.

The senior project managers visited different watershed experiments at Patancheru and Adarsha Watershed at Kothapally. They had the opportunity to interact with scientists and understand the nuances of various components of the IWM program.

In the Adarsha watershed at Kothapally they appreciated the value of low-cost rainwater harvesting structures and how watersheds can be used as an entry point for improving livelihoods. Watershed activities include linking of farmers to markets, recharging of wells, livestock improvement, vermicomposting, use of Glyricidia (a green manure), use of fertilizer and diversification of crops as well as collective action by the women self help groups, which are undertaking income generating activities such as vermicomposting.

The delegation also interacted with DDG-R Dave Hoisington, who pointed out that water and other natural resources are very critical for improving agriculture.

The visit was organized by Bancy Mati, Project Coordinator. It was sponsored by the Improved Management of Agricultural Water in Eastern & Southern Africa and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Bank.

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ICRISAT co-sponsors Asian media conference

Asian media conference Rex Navarro with the AMIC Secretary General, Sundeep Muppidi who hails from Hyderabad.

This week, about 300 leading media practitioners, academicians, international development and civil society workers, policymakers and students gathered at the Suntec City, Singapore to participate in the 19th annual conference of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC).

For better positioning in the Asian media circuit, ICRISAT co-sponsored this event together with ten other international organizations. Communication Director Rex Navarro participated in the conference on behalf of the Institute.

Every year, this event serves as an excellent venue for interaction and networking among the best brains in the media world on contemporary topics and issues. Guided by the theme, Technology and Culture: Communication Connectors and Dividers, the major topics covered were media in a globalizing world; new media and old media; media and cultural identity; media and development; media and democracy; media and good governance; media and gender; media law and regulation; alternative and community media; media industry trends and dynamics; Asian perspectives on communication and international communication.

AMIC annual conference Opening program of the AMIC annual conference.

This year, delegates came not only from the Asia-Pacific region but also from Africa, Europe and the Americas. Hence, it gave ICRISAT good visibility and tremendous networking opportunity among leading media professionals. This year’s conference featured high-profile keynote addresses, plenary sessions and parallel sessions.

The annual conference is hosted in rotation by countries across the Asia-Pacific region. Recent conferences were held in New Delhi, India (2009), Manila, Philippines (2008), Singapore (2007), Penang, Malaysia (2006) and Beijing, China (2005).

AMIC is a non-profit organization based in Singapore with the mission of spearheading the development of media and communication expertise in Asia within the broad framework of economic, social and cultural development. In 2004 and 2005, it had collaborated with ICRISAT in conducting a media workshop on biotechnology and establishing a network for Asian science journalists. This collaboration will soon be renewed to coincide with the launching of the facilities of the ICRISAT-GOI Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops inside the Patancheru campus.

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Tanzanian Government organizes Sorghum Day

Sorghum day - Tanzania Haji Musa Samizi (between ladies), Ministry and ICRISAT staff by the sorghum field.

The Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives in partnership with ICRISAT-Nairobi organized a farmers` field day on 22 June. About 200 men and women farmers from the neighboring village attended the day dedicated to sorghum.

The event started with a tour of a sorghum field planted with variety Macia. The farmers were very impressed with the maturing crop planted as an intercrop, and observed that despite the dry spell, the sorghum crop had fully set seed. Several farmers were heard saying that they would stop planting maize in favor for sorghum, while others wished to acquire Macia seed and increase the acreage grown to it.

Present at the sorghum day were Frida Mgonja, the HOPE country coordinator, Govind Kelkar HOPE gender specialist, Henry Ojulong and Joseph Kibuka from ICRISAT-Nairobi. Joseph Kibuka emphasized the need for farmers to change their farming practices and adapt drought resistant crops like sorghum, finger millet and pearl millet. He noted that there is a good market for sorghum in the beer industry, as needs are not being met in both Tanzania and the neighboring Kenya.

Sorghum day - Tanzania Farmers attentively listening to the guest of honor

The District Commissioner of Arusha, Haji Musa Samizi, who was the guest of honor, thanked ICRISAT for its continued support in providing varieties suitable for the semi-arid areas, especially sorghum and pigeonpea. He was particularly grateful for the HOPE project that has a marketing chain approach and predicted that sorghum will soon turn from a staple crop to a cash crop. He observed that the decline in rainfall has led to prolonged drought, and with the growing population measures have to be in place to mitigate frequent famines and food insecurity. He revealed that the government will pursue the following strategies: promote short term crops; introduce drought tolerant crops like sorghum, millets, and pigeonpea, and promote water harvesting. These, he noted, are in line with ICRISATs priorities, and pledged continued collaboration.

Encouraging farmers to take up sorghum cultivation, he said that the Tanzanian government had decided to supply sorghum to farmers in the drought affected areas. The day ended with the guests sampling mouth watering sorghum products like Pillao (sorghum and meat mixture), half cake and chapattis.

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Sweet sorghum ethanol value chain reviewed

Sweet sorghum ethanol review meeting Monitoring and evaluation team with CLL Gowda.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Team review meeting of ICRISAT-Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) sub-project on sweet sorghum ethanol value chain development was held at Patancheru on 17 June to review the progress and innovations made in the sub-project and the sustainability of models developed.

The monitoring and evaluation team comprising JP Mittal and Manoj Kumar Chauhan from Consulting Engineering Services (India) Pvt. Ltd represented NAIP-ICAR. Sweet sorghum ethanol value chain development consortium partners from Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR), Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, International Livestock Research Institute, Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University,

Belum VS Reddy, Consortium Principal Investigator presented the overall progress made by ICRISAT and partners since inception of the sub-project in January 2008. Commending the progress made by the consortium, JP Mittal suggested the need to find alternative syrup utilization outlets for marketing the syrup in addition to the existing ethanol industry, and to make the value chain profitable. He appreciated the novel fodder value chain developed by the sub-project, by roping in the fodder dealers for marketing the chopped bagasse as animal feed. This will bring in additional revenue and make the decentralized crushing and syrup unit viable and sustainable. Finally, he suggested that ICRISAT propose a new value chain depicting the changes to make it more relevant and to consider renaming the sub-project appropriately.

Three other consortia led by DSR, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University and National Research Center on Meat were also reviewed. Later, the Project Monitoring and Tracking System for efficient tracking of the project progress was demonstrated.

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ABI extends financial assistance to entrepreneurs

The Agri-Business incubator at ICRISAT provided financial assistance to two small and medium farm entrepreneurs and a farmer’s federation from its Seed Grants Fund Scheme Seed Support for Start-ups in Incubators of the Technology Development Board, Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, through its co-business Incubation partner the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU).

The beneficiaries include two small enterprises in Coimbatore, the IAC Agro Inputs and the Emral Tuneline Autotech Ind, and the Kazhi Kadai Madai Farmers Federation from Nagapattinam district.

IAC Agro Inputs is involved in the development of India specific Sugarcane Harvester. Emral Tuneline Autotech Industry- a small enterprise in Coimbatore owned by MP Rajkumar is involved in Mobile Based Irrigation Automation System. The product developed by this firm can help farmers to switch-on or switch-off their farm pumps while sitting in their homes, through their mobile phones. The advanced version of the same product can help farmers in scheduling irrigation for their farms. Kazhi Kadai Madai Farmers Federation, operating in Thiruvengadu village is involved in the implementation of a unique program called the Seed Business Incubation. Under this program, the farmer turned seed entrepreneur can produce seeds with the guidance of the Agri-Business Incubator and market the seeds under the brand PUDHAN (name of planet Mercury in Tamil).

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