No. 1424 23 July 2010

ICRISAT at Borlaug Symposium: End Poverty to End Hunger

Dr Norman E Borlaug File photo of Dr Norman E Borlaug (second from left) with ICRISAT scientists during his visit to Patancheru on 5 February 1996.

“The question should not be food versus cash crops; it should be how to make food and cash crops work synergistically to propel farmers out of poverty.” ICRISAT propounded this idea at a major international agricultural symposium held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 13 and 14 July in honor of the extraordinary life and achievements of Nobel Laureate Dr Norman E Borlaug.

In a paper authored by Drs William Dar, Mark Winslow, Said Silim, Tsedeke Abate and Mary Mgonja, and presented by Said Silim, ICRISAT advised world leaders to ensure food security first, not in a way that creates aid dependency but rather in a way that makes it a springboard for sustainable development.

Urging the world to end extreme poverty, ICRISAT pointed out that one cannot expect the poor to buy food without a penny in their pockets no matter how cheap the food is. “Let us therefore increase our understanding of the dynamics of poverty and inclusive market-oriented development, including their equity, risk and environmental consequences. Food crops and food security come first, but an end to poverty will also end hunger,” the paper says.

Explaining ICRISAT’s continued interest in Ethiopia, particularly in chickpea cultivation, the paper stated that Ethiopia is Africa’s largest producer of chickpea, which is an example of a single crop being used for food and cash.

Dr Borlaug, the world renowned scientist whom the symposium honored, once said, “Working in Africa has been the most frustrating experience of my professional career. The yield potential is there, but you can’t eat potential. We need inputs, access to markets, infrastructure and credit if African agriculture is to experience a Green Revolution.”

Dr Borlaug recognized that attention must be paid to the entire value chain system, not just to improved varieties. These considerations prompted ICRISAT to qualify its strategic concept to include the notions of inclusiveness and market orientation, which can include social actions influencing markets in a manner that promotes equity.

Jimmy Carter, Former President of the United States, Joaquim Chissano, Former President of Mozambique, Yohei Sasakaw, Chairman, Nippon Foundation and several ministers of agriculture attended the two-day symposium. Other attendees included vice-chancellors and deans from agricultural universities across the African continent as well as the representatives of bilateral donor agencies, international organizations, private foundations, agribusinesses, farmers, politicians and senior government officials.

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Brainstorming on climate change and Phytophthora blight of pigeonpea

Pigeonpea team Participants of the brainstorming session on Phytophthora blight of pigeonpea.

On 22 July, the pigeonpea core group scientists had a brainstorming session to discuss and share the state-of-the-art research on Phytophthora blight, a disease affecting pigeonpea in an increasingly warmer world. ICRISAT breeders, pathologists and biotechnologist reviewed the work done so far on this disease.

Suresh Pande welcomed the group and made a presentation on the objectives of the research initiatives taken up by the Legumes Pathology Unit at Patancheru to tackle Phytophthora blight. He explained the progress made so far in this area and discussed the comparative symptomatology of Phytophthora blight, which is often confused with Fusarium wilt. Scientists found that temporary flooding caused by heavy rains (more than 300mm) for 3-5 days, along with low temperatures (25-280C) is responsible for the resurgence of Phytophthora blight and that the disease attacked pigeonpea irrespective of soil types and cropping patterns.

The group discussed the knowledge gaps that have been identified to deal with the disease and the quickest phenotyping protocols to cull out the ultra susceptible material, the mode of action of the disease causing pathogen Phytophthora dreschsleri f sp. cajani and the strategies to manage it. The group also discussed the use of biotechnological approaches to know the genetic diversity in the pathogen, which will help in identifying the race/pathotypes scenario. They also visited the ongoing greenhouse experiments on Phytophthora blight conducted by the Legumes Pathology Unit. Mamta Sharma explained the progress made so far and the reasons for taking this research to the peer group, which will further help in the development of the field screening technique at ICRISAT.

Oscar Riera-Lizarazu; KB Saxena; Isabel Vales; Rafat Sultana; Constante Umipig from llocos Sur State Polytechnic College, Philippines; Raju Ghosh; Nag Mangla and Madhavi (Intern) participated in the meeting.

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Pay Day in Malawi

Malawi Happy Malawian farmers weighing the Kilombero rice.

Malawian farmers in Karonga District were all smiles on 18 July because after five months of hard work, it was finally pay day. Karonga in northern Malawi is one of the three main rice producing areas in the country, and farmers here face the usual problem of limited access to certified rice seed.

ICRISAT, as part of an Irish Aid project, which also promotes access to groundnut and pigeonpea certified seed, is working with farmers in Karonga to produce certified seed of Kilombero rice (Long Grain Aromatic Rice). After a series of trainings and inspections, ICRISAT staff members, Teddie Chirwa, Agatha Loga and Sungani Ng’ombe, traveled to Karonga to buy back the seed from these contract seed producers at MK105/kg ($0.70/kg).

The yields from three areas, Chipamila, Hara and Wovwe, were far more than estimated. ICRISAT bought back a total of 47,928 kg of certified rice seed. This translates into a total of MK5,032,440 or $33,550 that was injected into the three communities.

The farmers have big plans for how to spend their money. Amina Fuliwa of Wovwe wants to buy oxen to help her with cultivation. John Msiska, the Secretary of the Wovwe Association received 15 kg of basic seed, which he used to produce 43 bags of 50 kg each, earning $1505. He plans to buy iron sheets to build the roof of his mother’s house and perhaps buy another pair of oxen. He will also put some money in his savings account to pay school fees for his six children. “We can now do this on our own,” he says. “This is a very profitable activity. We just need better markets and farmers must learn to buy certified seed.”

For now the seed is stored in a warehouse in Hara. It will be either repackaged and sold in small packs to farmers in the district, or sold to NGOs that promote the use of certified seed.

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Popularizing pigeonpea in the diets of Filipino households

Pigeonpea Participants and the pigeonpea delicacies they made in Barangay Sumader.

As part of the ICRISAT-Philippine collaborative project on Strengthening Pigeonpea Production and Utilization in North Luzon, the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), Batac City, Ilocos Norte, frequently conducts several training courses, one of which is on product development. Along with this, a hands-on training on the development of food products from pigeonpea was held in Barangay Sumader, Batac City, Ilocos Norte, Philippines on 9 July.

Fifteen participants comprising 12 women and 3 men took part in the course. The primary purpose of the training was to share knowledge and skill about the importance, uses and the nutritional benefits of the crop, adding value to pigeonpea and producing pigeonpea-based products. Fernando Sugui, National Pigeonpea Coordinator and Vina Grace Cabugon, food supervisor of the MMSU Food Processing Center were the main resource persons. They demonstrated the procedures in the preparation of popular Philippine snacks such as polvoron, kroepoek, puto, cuchinta, maja blanca and espasol using pigeonpea-enriched flour.

The one-day training was organized by Engineer Rogelio Balisacan, Coordinator, and Criselda Balisacan, Adviser, Association of Family Farm Entrepreneurs of Barangay Sumader. At the end of the training each participant was given 2 kilograms of pigeonpea variety ICPL 88039 seed.

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Short courses with University of Florida

As part of our commitment to capacity building of R&D professionals at all levels in the Asian region, the Knowledge Management and Sharing, Learning Systems Unit and the University of Florida have established a joint educational center. Plans are afoot to conduct a number of non-degree short courses in 2010-2011. A faculty member from the University of Florida will act as the instructor and ICRISAT scientists will participate as co-faculty in specific courses. Two short courses will be conducted at Patancheru: 1) Modern Analytical Methods in Finance for Use in Agribusiness (9-13 August), and 2) Ecology of Waterborne Pathogens (23-27 August). Participants of these courses will receive a certificate jointly issued by the University of Florida and ICRISAT.

Dr Michael Gunderson, Assistant Professor in the Food and Resource Economics Department of the University of Florida will teach the first course. Dr Marx Teplistki, Assistant Professor at the Soil and Water Science department in the University of Florida will be the instructor for the course on water-borne diseases. The fee for each course is Rs 25,000 and the registration includes one copy of the CD-ROM with lecture notes, PowerPoint slides and pertinent papers. The fee also covers on-campus accommodation.

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