No. 1437 22 October 2010

ICRISAT at Pan Africa Agri-business Forum

Pan Africa AgricultureDr Said Silim (right) speaks at the Agri-business Forum 2010.

Kampala, Uganda was the venue for over 400 delegates, ICRISAT included, who converged from 42 countries and 4 continents to discuss the issue of Food Security: a Business Opportunity. The event was the Agri-Business Forum 2010 organized by EMRC (earlier known as European Marketing Research Centre) and the Government of Uganda from 2 to 6 October.

President of Uganda Hon. Museveni said, “If one speaks about agri-business or agro-business, Africa is the place to be”. For four days, over 400 industry leaders, cooperatives, SMEs, financiers, government officials, NGOs, researchers, international organizations, multinationals and donors from around the world gathered in Kampala to discuss the urgent matter of food security and its potential to generate business opportunities across the continent.

The Forum affirmed that Africa can play an important role in improving food access. Africa’s production capacity has the potential to increase substantially and thus positively respond to the challenge of increasing food production by 70% by 2050.

ICRISAT-ESA Director Said Silim made the international experts think by commenting, “Africa has no dearth of funds, as this is the place for future agribusiness, but what is needed today is a strong policy on interest rates, which range between 27 and 30%. With these kinds of rates prevailing for farmers and entrepreneurs, it will make farming uneconomical even if the entire world’s wealth is pumped in for agricultural development, unless concerns of the smallholder farmers take center stage”.

During the forum, ICRISAT presented on three important topics - Food security and water challenges, R&D for food security and institutional innovation for partnership building. While the first two topics were presented by Said Silim, the third was presented by Abdul Rahman Ilyas, COO - Agri-Science Park @ICRISAT (ASP). All the three presentations were well received by the delegates at the forum.

ASP also put up a small stand in the exhibit space and participated in business-to-business meetings.

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Farmers tour Gujarat

As part of the Project “Village Dynamics in South Asia” (VDSA) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the respondent famers from Junagadh district of Gujarat state had a pleasant and fruitful educational tour within the state.

Gujarat farmers   Gujarat farmers
Farmers visiting the Jain Temple, Taranga Hills. Visiting fields at Agricultural University, Dantiwada.

The project aims to contribute to the reduction of the incidence and severity of absolute poverty in South Asia’s semi-arid and humid tropics by markedly increasing the quantity and quality of availability of time-series district-, household-, individual-, and field-level data on rural poverty in 42 villages spread across SAT India, East India and Bangladesh, thus enabling effective evidence based decision-making.

Quality of data assumes prime importance in effective evidence based decision making. To ensure this, sustaining the interest and enthusiasm of the respondent farmers through some incentive mechanism is most essential. In this context, a contingent of 97 farmers including key participants in the project from Junagadh district of Gujarat state visited several educational and pilgrimage places in the state during 4-8 October, as a part of a five-day educational tour.

The tour itinerary consisted of Anand Agricultural University (Anand), Anand Milk Union Limited (Anand), Knowledge Park (Vadtal), Dudhsagar Cooperative Dairy (Mehsana), Sardar Krishinagar Agricultural University (Dantiwada) and Dantiwada Seed Company (Dantiwada). In addition, they also visited, on the way, a number of pilgrimage sites.

VR Kiresur addressed the visiting farmers at Rajkot and explained the importance of quality data in policy formulations and institutional innovations. Under the encouraging guidance of Cynthia Bantilan and Kiresur, this tour was coordinated by Senior Scientific Officer VK Chopde with the help of resident field investigators Alkesh Bhatt and Hitendrakumar Parmar.

The farmers felt that they were greatly educated and refreshed by this tour and assured us that they will work with a more vigorous and positive attitude in the future.

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Two for One: Bentley Lecture delivered by MS Swaminathan at Edmonton

Swaminathan File picture of Drs Swaminathan and Bentley (right of plaque) during ICRISAT Annual Day 2001.

Two members of the ICRISAT founding board came together after a gap of decades during the ICRISAT Annual Day celebrations at Patancheru back in 2001. At the end of the decade (Oct 2010), they came together again, but this time in a figurative sense.

Dr MS Swaminathan was invited by the University of Alberta to deliver the Bentley Lecture, which is organized to commemorate the contributions of the Late Dr Fred Bentley to international agricultural development. Swaminathan spoke at length about Bentley’s vision of building a food secure dryland region of the world where the Green Revolution had not advanced. ICRISAT, he said, was the realization of that vision, and Bentley always cherished the contributions of ICRISAT to international agriculture. Swaminathan and Bentley were on the Governing Board for five years as Vice-Chair and Chair in the nineteen seventies. Swaminathan, while taking about the food security concerns emerging globally, pointed out that dryland areas in the tropics needed to be viewed as areas needing special attention and referred to the breakthrough achievements in ICRISAT that can transform the food security situation.

On this occasion, Swaminathan was conferred an honorary Doctor of Science degree of the University of Alberta in a ceremony joined by Chancellor Linda Hughes, Board Chair Heidecker, President Indira Samarasekhra, and Dean John Kennely along with representatives of the Province of Alberta. The U Alberta confers honorary degrees on an average of twice in a decade. Dr Swaminathan also delivered the Lestor Pearson lecture, named after the visionary development administrator and former PM of Canada.

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Training Courses on Research Station Management and Cropping System Models

Cropping System Models workshopParticipants of the RSM training course with Dave Hoisington, Rex Navarro and Faculty members.

RSM: A Training course on Research Station Management (RSM) was conducted at ICRISAT-Patancheru from 11 to 16 October. Twenty-eight farm managers from ICAR institutes and some private seed companies attended the interactive lecture-cum-field demonstration oriented course.

The course was inaugurated by DDG-R Dave Hoisington following a welcome address by Rex Navarro on 11 October.

This course was conducted at the request of Director General, ICAR, Dr S Ayappan to Director General William Dar.

M Prabhakar Reddy, Program Leader, FETS along with his senior team organized the course with the help of Learning Systems Unit and Agri-Science Knowledge (ASK) resource group, coordinated by Mr DS Bisht, Ex-Program Leader, FESP, and supported by Dr SK Dasgupta and Mr PM Menon, retired senior staff members at ICRISAT, Patancheru.

In addition to RSM, the course content included Communications, Teambuilding, Conflict resolution, Labor management and use of Information Technology.

Cropping System Models workshop (L to R) MCS Bantilan, R Navarro, J Jones and K Boote.

The feedback received from the participants was excellent. They appreciated the course content and the in-depth coverage by the faculty in the class room and on-field demonstration of various applications and practices adopted at ICRISAT. The course concluded on Saturday, 16 December, after Dave Hoisington presented ‘Certificates of Participation’ to the trainees.

Cropping System Models: As part of the University of Florida (UF)-ICRISAT education center activities, a short course on Cropping System Models: Application in Land Resource Management was organized from 18 to 22 October at Patancheru. Dr James Jones, Distinguished Professor of AgBio Engineering at UF, and Dr Kenneth Boote, Professor of Agronomy, served as faculty, while Dr Gerrit Hoogenboom of Washington State University and Dr Piara Singh of GT-AES served as resource persons. Dr Jones is well known in the CGIAR for the variety of roles he has played, notably as the Chair of the Governing Board of CIAT. Earlier he had also visited a number of our campuses. Dr Boote, on the other hand, had organized similar courses in the past; twice at ICRISAT.

The course was attended by 32 participants from India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China, Colombia, USA, Vietnam and Botswana. The India Meteorological Department (IMD), Govt. of India, has sponsored 10 participants for this course, the ADB-ICRISAT project on `Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change’ has sponsored 6 participants, and IFPRI sponsored 3 participants.

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Spanish NGO visits ICRISAT

CARTIF Delegates from CARTIF Foundation with Dave Hoisington and senior staff members.

A team consisting of nine members from the CARTIF Foundation, a technological center of Spain, visited Agri-Business Incubator (ABI)- ICRISAT as part of the SWEETHANOL project. The team was led by Mr Oscar Leon, Management Director of Food and Chemical Division and Biofuels area of CARTIF.

CARTIF is working with several European partners on SWEETHANOL, an international project that focuses on the production of bioethanol from sweet sorghum. SWEETHANOL is supported by the European community, and is financed by Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE)-II 2009 program.

In a meeting with the ICRISAT management, Mr Leon noted that, “the delegations came to study sweet sorghum varieties, cultivation and processing to ethanol, by visiting agricultural institutes, plant production companies and existing ethanol manufacturing plants, which use sweet sorghum as a feed stalk to produce bioethanol”.

The session was taken forward by DDG-R Dave Hoisington on behalf of Director General William Dar. He presented on ICRISAT’s mission, vision, strategy and an overview of the ongoing projects at ICRISAT.

Dr Belum Reddy and team presented on Sweet Sorghum for food, fodder and fuel: ICRISAT Experiences. He spoke on ICRISAT’s BioPower strategy and explained how it empowers the poor. Later, he explained in detail about the sweet sorghum project conceptualization and its operations. He ended with a brief note on the thrust areas for sweet sorghum commercialization.

Mr Oscar Leon presented on SWEETHANOL – Diffusion of a sustainable EU model to produce first generation ethanol from Sweet Sorghum in decentralized plants. During his presentation, he spoke about the team, partnerships and detailed on the Actions, Strategic and Specific objectives of the SWEETHANOL project.

Speaking about partnerships, he explained about the partners from three European Union countries, which include Centre for Theoretical and Applied Ecology (CETA) from Italy, CARTIF Foundation (Technological Centre) from Spain, Regional Energy Agency of Central Macedonia (REACM)-Anatoliki from Greece, INIPA-Coldiretti Formation and Development from Italy, Association for the Diffusion of Biomass in Spain (ADABE) from Spain and Agricultural Cooperative of Halastra (Halastra COOP) from Greece.

He highlighted the specific objectives of the project, which were Sustainability, Networking and Strategic Objectives and also spoke about change in the structure of ethanol in the EU market and increased awareness of sweet sorghum as an ethanol crop.

SM Karuppanchetty presented the vote of thanks and expressed ICRISAT’s interest for future collaborations and mutual agreements.

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Indian Ambassador visits ICRISAT-Niamey

ICRISAT-Niamey (L to R) J Ndjeunga, F Waliyar, Ambassador YP Singh, A Nikiema and S Kumar.

India’s first Ambassador in Niger, His Excellency YP Singh, visited ICRISAT-Niamey on 20 October and met with Dr Farid Waliyar, Director and other scientists (J Ndjeunga, A Nikiema, S Kumar and D Pasternak).

At the outset his Excellency expressed high appreciation for ICRISAT as he had heard about the Institute while interacting with different ministries in Niger. Farid Waliyar assured him that ICRISAT will help to identify the best intervention for agricultural development in Niger so that the Indian Government could help Niger.

Mr Singh planted a tree at Sadoré and thereafter was taken around some of the experimental fields of millet and groundnut breeding. He also visited the nursery and bio-reclamation of degraded land fields operated by the Sadoré women’s association. Prof. Dov Pasternak explained about their income generating activities.

The Ambassador appreciated the role of ICRISAT in bringing important technologies and ICRISAT’s endeavor towards enhancing food security in Niger. “ICRISAT is playing an important role in bringing India and Niger close in the field of agriculture.” he said. Dr Waliyar will follow up with His Excellency on the collaboration between Niger and India.

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ABI participates in Incubation Network Conference in Australia

The Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) of the Agri-Science Park @ ICRISAT (ASP) participated in the prestigious twin conference Asia Pacific Incubation Network Conference and 2010 Small Business Development Conference from 12 to 15 September at Cairns, Queensland, Australia. SM Karuppanchetty represented ABI and made a presentation at the International Business Incubation forum of the Association of Agri-Business Incubators (AABI) conference.

Three key Australian associations representing business incubation, support and training organizations, Business Innovation and Incubation Australia (BIIA), Business Enterprise Centers Australia (BEC Australia) and the National NEIS Association (NNA) were host associations for the annual national conference. In addition, for the first time they were joined by the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand (SEAANZ), offering an opportunity for both the academic and practitioner arms of the business assistance community to mix and gain insight into business in Australia and the Asia-Pacific Region.

The conference aimed to further professional development and promote best practice across the industry, and presented inspiring speakers at the forefront of industry as well as a range of practitioners. It provided a platform for collaboration and partnership of incubators, small businesses and practitioners.

The 2010 conference also included the 15th AABI General Assembly, thereby including delegates who actively practice business incubation throughout the Asia-Pacific Region. Karuppanchetty represented ICRISAT and India in the AABI General Assembly. The delegates discussed issues such as accepting AABI New Association Members, progress and future developments of AABI, AABI Journal, Dr Horiba Entrepreneur Award, AABI Incubator Award and AABI Torch Entrepreneur Award.

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Farmers from Bidar District visit Patancheru

SVB training program SP Wani addressing farmers of the Bhoo Chetana program.

Thirty-nine lead farmers who are part of the Bhoo Chetana program and who serve as the master trainers for other farmers in their villages in Bidar, a drought prone district of Karnataka, visited ICRISAT on 12 and 13 October to get first hand information about the improved management practices of rainfed agriculture.

Bidar district is one of the 15 districts of the Bhoo Chetana program sponsored by the Government of Karnataka with ICRISAT’s technical support. Farmers from different villages visited Adarsha watershed, Kothapally and interacted with the farmers to understand how they have turned water scarcity into a water sufficient situation, with which to grow crops during the summer season. The farmers also visited a number of on-farm watershed experiments and interacted with the watershed team.

SP Wani addressed the farmers and emphasized the need to share what they had learned with other members in the villages. They were advised to conduct meetings in their villages on their return and appraise all the villagers about what they had seen, what can be adopted and the improved technologies that will benefit them. The representative farmers from different talukas were provided with a set of CDs on watershed management aspects that they can use as training material.

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