No. 1431 9 September 2010

Conclave calls for a pulses revolution in India

Pulses Conclave Director General William Dar speaks at the inauguration of the Pulses Conclave at Patancheru.

Give “dal” its rightful place on our platters! This was the battle cry of the two-day Hyderabad Pulses Conclave that brought stakeholders of pulses supply chain to a common platform. Jointly sponsored by ICRISAT and Agriwatch on 4-5 September at Patancheru, the Conclave, laid out a road map for increasing production of pulses as envisaged by India’s

National Food Security Mission.

The conclave attracted stakeholders such as policy makers, researchers, traders and millers, NGOs and seed producers. Issues related to the pulse industry like production and post-harvest technology, marketing, research and extension and seed systems were taken up during the deliberations.

Calling for increasing production of pulses to meet the nutritional needs of the poor, Dr William Dar in his keynote address said, “Working together, federal and state agencies, agricultural research institutions, the private sector and civil society organizations including farmer organizations could help bring about self-sufficiency in pulses in India.”

Pulses Conclave
Dr Dar lights the lamp at the inaugural ceremony and welcomes AP Agriculture Minister N Raghuveera Reddy.

Advocating a level playing field for dryland crops, Dr Dar called for the right kind of investment and policy support. “During the last several years, we have seen agricultural research and development focusing on staple cereals. Pulses such as chickpea and pigeonpea, traditionally grown in rotation with cereals, were largely ignored,” he added. Dr Dar also released a publication “Chickpea and Pigeonpea Economies in Asia - Facts, Trends and Outlook” authored by Parthsarathy Rao et al.

N Raghuveera Reddy, Minister of Agriculture, Government of Andhra Pradesh addressing the session on Science and Development-The GM crops issue, said, “Pulses production is stagnant at 14 million tons and imports have not resulted in any viable long lasting solution. Protein deficiency in the country is widening at an alarming rate. The situation calls for a serious debate and a target oriented approach.”

Pulses ConclavePublication on chickpea and pigeonpea economies in Asia released during the conclave.

R Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director, Tata Sons, called for leadership in mitigating shortage of pulses and declared, “Shortage of pulses is a long standing, multi-dimensional problem and we are heading for a disaster as pulses are designed for survival and not growth as are cereals.”

Presenting a traders perspective, BK Murty, representing Four P International, a Mumbai based pulses importing house, urged the union government to exempt pulses from import duty to bring down domestic prices. Responding to the demand from traders, Rakesh Kackar, Additional Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India, said that high prices of pulses has been a leading factor of high food inflation and called upon farmers to sustain acreage and productivity to keep prices down.

Agriwatch Chairman NV Ramana, SA Patil, Chairman, Agricultural Commission, Government of Karnataka also spoke at the inaugural. More than 100 farmers from Bidar, Gulbarga and Raichur districts of Karnataka attended the conclave.

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ICRISAT and ISB agree to work together

SBI Krishna Tanuku and other representatives of ISB with
Dr Dar.

The Hyderabad based Indian School of Business (ISB), a premier business school in India wants to share its experience with ICRISAT in business incubation, research and extension. Taking the first step in that direction, Krishna Tanuku, Executive Director, Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, ISB, and two of its Assistant Directors Aruna Reddy and Santosh Srinivas visited Patancheru and met Dr William Dar on 7 September.

Krishna Tanuku shared information about ISB’s activities and invited Dr Dar to address their forthcoming initiative on “Research to market place”, which is part of a major conference that will take place this October. He said that ISB would like to learn from ICRISAT’s experience in taking research to small and mid-level entrepreneurs located in villages and small towns.

Responding positively to the proposals, Dr Dar said that ICRISAT, through a Public-Private-People Partnership (PPPP) initiative, links people to the value chain, and cited ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubator in helping agri-business entrepreneurs.

“We welcome ISB to the partnership. Why don’t your students study ICRISAT’s model and then enhance the partnership. Along with this, we can work together encouraging PPPP,” Dr Dar suggested.

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Satellite imagery for smallholder farmers in Mali

Nairobi Members of the SIBWA team with PCS Traore.

The Seeing is Believing-West Africa (SIBWA) project housed in Sotuba-GIS and managed by ICRISAT in Bamako, Mali believes that fruitful knowledge exchange is a two-way street. “From the roots, from the stars scaling up and out” says the SIBWA team, which uses very high resolution satellite imagery (VHRI) to give farmers in West Africa information on soil fertility and accurate land size.

The project found unflinching support from Mamadow Simpara and Sounkoutoun Sissoko, Members of Parliament from Banamba and Diema Districts of Mali. They championed VHRI for smallholders during last year’s October session in the Malian Parliament. Lassi Dembélé, Counselor to the mayor, Sukumba catalyzed village assemblies and Mamadou Doumbiaa, Head of the Soil-water-plant laboratory, Regional Agronomic Research Center (IER) nurtured unconventional Sotuba-GIS adventure inside IER since 2000.

Nairobi Dr Kofi Annan meets team members at SIBWA.

On the flip side, bright stars such as Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and Board Chair of AGRA visited SIBWA on 30 August accompanied by important leaders such as Modibo Sidibé, Prime Minister of Mali, Agathane Ag Alassane, Minister of Agriculture and Tiémoko Sangaré, Minister of Environment. SIBWA gave the stars a glimpse of ICRISAT’s vision.

  • A vision that takes into account the Federal Grants of $3 plus billion, attributed to each of the rivals, DigitalGlobe and GeoEye, in August. Because the US Government realizes the importance of VHRI and wants to make sure that this public service capacity exists in the future, through dynamic business competition

  • A vision that builds on Mali’s Agence pour la Promotion de l’Emploi des Jeunes to build the agricultural extension services of the future

  • A vision that recognizes that the extraordinary potential of public-private partnerships readily applies to spatial knowledge engineering and delivery, and that innovating geospatial brokers such as AGCommons can translate that potential into impacts

  • A vision that finally states that VHRI for smallholders is a huge springboard for Africa’s Green Revolution, because it essentially lays the foundation of tomorrow’s agricultural information systems.

SIBWA won the first overall prize at the Africa Agriculture Geospatial Week held in Nairobi from 6 to12 June. SIBWA is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through AGCommons, with supplementary funding from USAID and BMZ (CODE-WA project).

Hearty congratulations to the SIBWA team.

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Scientists roll out innovative system for producing vegetables in the Sahel

With a major famine unfolding in Niger and other countries of West Africa’s dry Sahelian region, Dov Pasternak, speaking on 31 August at the African Green Revolution Forum in Accra, Ghana, announced new progress in disseminating a successful system for irrigated vegetable production, referred to as the African Market Garden.

Nairobi Drip irrigation conserves resources in the African Market Garden.

The system will be implemented with about 7,000 small-scale farmers at 100 locations in Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal, with the aim of extending the success of 3,000 gardens already established in countries of the Sahel in preceding years. Support for the expansion comes from the governments of Israel, Italy, Switzerland and the USA and from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Bank, and various international foundations and NGOs.

“The African Market Garden combines efficient drip irrigation to save water, energy and labor with improved crop management to boost farmers’ vegetable yields and economic returns,” Dov Pasternak said.

“The African Market Garden is a promising technology for smallholder farmers, which builds on a vegetable-growing tradition in the Sahel that dates back at least to colonial times,” Pasternak explained. “In recent decades, the demand for fresh tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and other vegetables has grown dramatically as a result of rapid population growth and urbanization, and this has given rise to vibrant local and regional markets. But traditional vegetable farming has proved unable to keep pace, partly because of inefficient use of water and other resources.”

Based on more than 8 years of research in 11 countries, the African Market Garden offers a solution. It benefits women particularly, who handle much of the region’s vegetable production and marketing, raising their incomes and enhancing family nutrition in a region where Vitamin A deficiency is widespread, Pasternak said.

The centerpiece of the new system is a low-pressure drip irrigation unit, which is installed in a field that comprises clusters measuring 500 square meters. The African Market Garden drastically reduces one of the main limitations of traditional vegetable growing—its excessive labor and energy requirements, which account for three-fourths of the operating costs of traditional market gardens, he said.

To irrigate a traditional vegetable garden of 500 square meters using the conventional system takes one man, lifting two watering cans at a time, about 4 hours a day, or one woman, lifting only one watering can, about 8 hours a day, compared to just 10 minutes for drip irrigation. Using a solar-powered pump or other renewable energy source to provide water allows further savings and makes the system more sustainable.

The new system uses water more efficiently as well, Pasternak added—an obvious advantage in this dry region. Despite its limited rainfall, the Sahel does have significant water resources, including the Niger, Senegal and Chari Rivers as well as major aquifers, which could be tapped for irrigated vegetable production. As irrigation is developed, farmers in the region will need to use water more efficiently to avoid the water scavenging that is rapidly exhausting groundwater resources in South Asia.

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