No. 1439 4 November 2010

ICRISAT holds Agribusiness Community of Practice Kickoff Meeting

MAS Workshop Participants of the Agribusiness CoP at Golconda Resorts.

More than 40 participants from 16 countries across the world, including leaders, professionals, industrialists, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and institutions in the field of agribusiness, incubators, agricultural research, funding agencies and related stakeholders gathered for the inaugural meeting of the Agribusiness Community of Practice (CoP) of infoDev at Golconda Resorts, Hyderabad, towards developing a work plan for infoDev’s Agribusiness CoP for 2010-12.

Information for Development (infoDev) is a global partnership program in the World Bank Group of International Development Agencies to achieve economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction. The Agribusiness CoP is a strategic component of infoDev’s new agribusiness entrepreneurship program that works towards developing a good practice assessment and training program on agribusiness incubation.

Rajeev varshney
The dignitaries with the Hyderabad Declaration at the press conference.

The meeting was jointly organized by ICRISAT and coordinated by our Agri-Business Incubator (ABI). Delivering the welcome address, Director General William Dar spoke about ICRISAT’s contribution towards small and marginal farmers of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and elaborated on ICRISAT’s Strategic Plan 2020 and the Inclusive, Market Oriented Development (IMOD) program framework. In this regard, he said, “Modernizing the agricultural system is a strong engine for direct and indirect growth and poverty reduction in developing economies.”

He further spoke about the role of ABI in creating competitive agribusiness enterprises, and said that there was a need to share successful agribusiness models to face the challenges of agribusiness development in developing countries. He added that ICRISAT was seeking infoDev’s co-operation to establish a model incubation center in Africa, and concluded that together they can fulfill the mission of eliminating poverty and improving the livelihoods of the farming community.

Ms Valerie D’Costa, infodev Program Manager, gave a video greeting, which was followed by a presentation on the Trends in the global agribusiness markets and potential for entrepreneurship by Mr VR Kaundinya, Managing Director of Advanta India Limited. Mr Kaundinya elaborated upon the technologies and opportunities in emerging markets that can have a bearing on the agribusiness industry.

Mr Steve Giddings, Agribusiness Technical Lead of infoDev presented on The Agribusiness Community of Practice – Identify, Share, Scale, which gave the participants a clearer idea about the purpose of the CoP meeting at Hyderabad and how incubators can help in supporting the entrepreneurs during their initial years.

Clients of ABI – Srestha Naturals Bio-products Private Limited, Wifin Technologies, BR Cooking Sprays and Aakruthi Agricultural Associates of India – gave an interesting account of their entrepreneurial journeys.

From the industry perspective, Mr Jagadish Sunkad from Carborundum Universal Limited, India, discussed about Kauvery, which is based on the Pusa Hydrogel technology developed by IARI.

The main focus areas of the workshop were on understanding the key challenges and opportunities that an agribusiness incubator faces in a developing country. The discussions were initiated by case studies of successful agribusiness incubator models and ventures.

Mr Paul Basil, CEO of Villgro; Dr NT Yaduraju, National Coordinator of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP); and SM Karuppanchetty, Senior Manager, ABI-ICRISAT presented on the support programs for agribusiness SMEs and overcoming challenges.

The workshop concluded with the announcement of the Hyderabad Declaration, which detailed the four action areas: Access to finance; Introduction to new markets; Policy/Raising awareness /New models of agribusiness; and Capacity building.

Mr Pekka Puustinen, Deputy Director General (Dept for the Americas & Asia, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland) was the Chief Guest for the Valedictory Session. In his address, Mr Puustinen said, “Our financing support will further increase in coming years for agribusiness through ICRISAT, as Finland is now keen on more funding for agri-business in developing countries.”

Dr Dar announced that a Global Agribusiness Incubation Conference will be held at ICRISAT-Patancheru from 7 to 9 February, 2011, where implementation of the CoP will also be reviewed. A press conference was organized as part of the closing session to announce the Declaration.

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Conference on enhancing sorghum productivity held in Sudan

Mary Mgonja with participants of the conference at Sennar

A regional conference on Enhancing Sorghum Productivity in the East and Central Africa (ECA): Integration of Available Scientific Tools and Deployment of Existing Technologies was held in Khartoum, Sudan from 26 to 28 October. The conference was organized by the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), Sudan in close collaboration with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), ICRISAT and the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

The conference brought together 48 scientists, breeders, farmers, private seed companies, agronomists, socio-economists and policy makers representing NARS, universities, international organizations and government departments from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. ICRISAT was represented by Mary Mgonja, Dan Kiambi and Eric Manyasa.

Participants during the field trip to Sennar.

The workshop was funded by ASARECA through the on-going project entitled Fighting Striga: resistance genes deployed to boost sorghum productivity, which is a two year project being implemented by ICRISAT; ARC Sudan; NARI Eritrea; and University of Nairobi, Kenya, and managed by the ASARECA AGROBIO Program. The conference was addressed by Dr Charles Mugoya, manager, ASARECA AGROBIO Program and Prof Kheir, Deputy Director General, ARC Sudan.

The conference was officially opened by Prof Mamoun Dawelbait, State Minister of Agriculture GEDAREF, who stressed the importance of sorghum in Sudan, noting that Sudan is the second largest producer of sorghum in Africa. He decried the declining productivity due to a multiplicity of reasons.

Sorghum breeders in the ECA have made substantial progress in developing drought resistant sorghum varieties through marker introgression of stay green QTLs. In addition, several Striga resistance marker introgression lines have been developed and field tested under different environmental conditions, with very promising results.

The main objectives of the conference were to present progress made in the development of Striga resistant and drought tolerant sorghum varieties and sensitize the sub-regional stakeholders on technologies available for deployment in the region.

The participants of the workshop visited sorghum seed production sites and Striga resistant trials in Wad Medani and Sennar. They also identified key priorities in germplasm collection and conservation; sorghum breeding; post harvest, value addition and marketing; seed systems; and policies and partnerships. Some of the identified key priorities included:

  • Utilization of existing conserved germplasm through development and dissemination of germplasm catalogues, a shared regional data base and promotion of interaction/collaboration between conservationist and germplasm users.
  • Collection and conservation of wild relatives of sorghum and targeted collection of specific traits
  • Establishment of regional nurseries to promote and enhance germplasm exchange and identification of priority traits
  • Development of supporting seed systems policies and integration of formal and informal seed systems
  • Product diversification and creation of enabling policies for marketing, capacity development and post harvest technologies.

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CGIAR Centers meet on Global Futures at ICRISAT-Patancheru

Participants of the Virtual Crop Models workshop.

ICRISAT hosted a series of workshops and training programs from 22 October to 2 November at Patancheru under the project Global Futures for Agriculture: Integrated Modeling and Scenario Assessment.

The overall objectives of the workshops were to identify promising technologies of CG Centers and their potentials to meet the challenge of increasing world food demand. The discussions focused on the critical minimum requirements for developing virtual crop models using crop growth simulation models.

On behalf of Director General William Dar, Dr Peter Craufurd, Global Theme Leader, Agro-ecosystems, inaugurated the workshops. The first one, on Virtual Crop Models, was conducted from 22 to 24 October. Cynthia Bantilan, GTL-Institutions, Markets, Policy and Impacts delivered the opening remarks and welcomed the plant breeders, crop modelers, soil scientists and economists who attended from the eight CGIAR Centers, – IRRI, CIMMYT, CIAT, CIP, ILRI, ICRAF, IFPRI and ICRISAT.

Participants of the Crop Model Training workshop with Dr Dar.

Dr Jerry Nelson (IFPRI), Project Leader of the Global Futures Project, explained the goal of the Global Futures Project and elucidated on the objectives. Two distinguished guests and eminent crop modellers Dr Jim Jones and Dr Ken Boote from the University of Florida participated in the workshop and delivered a lecture on developing virtual crops using the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) crop model with reference to other crop models available globally.

Plant breeders from various CG Centers – Dr Darshan Brar, Head of Plant Breeding Genetics & Biotechnology Division, IRRI; Dr BM Prasanna, Director, Maize Program, CIMMYT; Dr Manuel Gastelo, Potato breeder, International Potato Center; Dr CLL Gowda, GTL-CI and Dr Oscar Riera Lizarazu, GTL–BT, ICRISAT along with breeders SN Nigam, SK Gupta, Ashok Kumar, Pooran Gaur and Isabel Vales presented the promising new technologies currently being developed at their Centers.

Dr Piara Singh, Principal Scientist, GT–AE, presented his current research study on Impact of groundnut productivity under different climate change scenarios using DSSAT. The study was well appreciated and gave a starting point for discussion on the data requirements for developing virtual crop models for new technologies towards ex-ante evaluation of the research investments at the CGIAR Centers.

The next workshop was on Crop Model training using High Performance Computers (HPC), which was held on 25 and 26 October. Cynthia Bantilan welcomed the participants and Dr Jerry Nelson, gave an overview of the objectives and the importance of building capacity of the Global Futures Project partners located at different CG Centers.

Participants of the IMPACT training program.

Director General William Dar delivered the inaugural remarks and welcomed the participants. Dr Dar spoke about the CGIAR’s change management and the importance of cross CG Center collaboration in addressing the global problems in a systems approach.

The training program was attended by economists, breeders and crop modelers from eight CGIAR Centers involved in the Global Futures Project. The objective of the training was to build the capacity of the researchers at different CG Centers to develop crop model using DSSAT and run the model in a spatial map for the entire world in 10 Sq. Km spatial resolution.

The training was conducted by Dr Ricky Robertson, Research Fellow, IFPRI, who trained the participants in basics of LINUX and accessing of HPC using remote desktop software namely NOMACHINE. On the second day, he demonstrated how to run the spatial crop model using GRASS (GIS software) and DSSAT crop growth simulation model in a spatial map using HPC.

Following the crop model training, the Training Program on International Model for Policy Analysis of Commodity and Trade (IMPACT) model was held from 27 October to 2 November. The training was conducted by three resource persons from IFPRI, Dr Timothy Sulser, Scientist; Dr Simla Tokgoz, Research Fellow and Amanda Palazzo, Senior Research Assistant; together with Shraavya Bhagavatula, Scientific Officer from GT-IMPI. The training program was also attended by two NARS partners from NAARM along with the Global futures project partners of the eight CG Centers. Dr Alastair William Orr, Principal Economist from ICRISAT-Nairobi, also actively participated in this training.

The constant support from Director General Dar, DDG-R Dave Hoisington and the Management Group encouraged the GT-IMPI team to coordinate the organization of this rare event with IFPRI.

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8th Molecular markers course to be held

The ICRISAT Center of Excellence in Genomics’ (CEG) 8th CEG course on Application of Molecular Markers for Crop Improvement will start on 8 November at Patancheru.

A total of 40 participants from 14 Asian/African countries representing Algeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Tanzania will participate in this course. These include 21 participants from India - ICAR Centers, state agricultural universities, medum-sized seed companies and other institutes.

The major focus of the course will be on data analysis and reporting rather than on generating data. The participants will have interactive sessions, lectures and demonstrations by ICRISAT scientists and a few invited speakers. They will be exposed to experimental design and analysis, decision support tools for breeders, application of bioinformatics for crop improvement, software for diversity analysis, and use of molecular markers in crop improvement.

This is the eight course in the series supported by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. With the completion of this course, ICRISAT-CEG will have successfully trained 200 participants with 50 female participants.

The inaugural session of this event will take place on 8 November at 0900 in 212 CF Bentley Conference Centre. Interested colleagues can contact Rajeev Varshney or KDV Prasad.

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INRAN DG visits ICRISAT-Niamey

Farmers Day 2010 Drs Albert Nikiema, Abdoulaye Mohamed, Farid Waliyar and Hassane Bissala at Sadoré Genebank.

When it comes to leaving a legacy to future generations, nature is one that reminds us of the opportunities. This is the reason why the Director General of INRAN, Dr Abdoulaye Mohamed, started his visit at Sadoré Centre, Niger on 29 October by planting a tree at ICRISAT friends’ garden.

Accompanied by Regional Director-WCA Farid Waliyar, Dr Albert Nikiema, Dr Buckner Akouete Paul, he was taken on a tour to the crop diversification and tree dissemination plot and to the nursery. He later visited the Sadoré Genebank, where he was received by Dr Hassane Bissala, to see plant material and germplasm collections.

At the end of his visit, Dr Mohamed had a working session with Farid Waliyar and other senior scientists. Both directors reiterated their wishes to further strengthen cooperation in Niger to provide new opportunities to farmers, enabling them to move from subsistence farming to accessing agricultural markets.

On the ground ICRISAT and INRAN are key partners for many decades in agricultural research on millet, sorghum, peanuts, diversification program and microdosing.

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ILRI opens experimental feed processing unit

ICRISAT-NiameyChickpea training course Dr Dar, Dr Michael Blümmel and others beside the feed-block machine.

“This is good partnership with a purpose” said Director General William Dar during the inauguration of the experimental feed processing unit installed by ILRI at the ICRISAT-Patancheru campus today. The three machines – a chopper, a feed-block maker and a feed-pellet maker comprise the feed processing unit designed and supported by the ICRISAT-led National Agricultural Innovation on Sweet Sorghum Bio-Ethanol Value Chain.

As explained by ILRI’s Dr Michael Blümmel, the experimental unit will enable exploration and work on optimizing usage of byproducts from crops, particularly dryland crops, besides biofuel production, for livestock feeding. The unit will facilitate the uptake of such byproducts by centralized and decentralized feed value chains for increasing farmers’ incomes from cropping and livestock, creating job opportunities in feed transaction and processing, and ultimately contributing to the mitigation of feed scarcity.

Responding to questions from Dr Dar, Dave Hoisington, Peter Ninnes and Rajesh Agrawal, Blümmel explained the collaborative research with ICRISAT and other actors in feed value chains on: 1) feed value chains as entry points for improved crop residues from multidimensional crop improvement, 2) maximizing synergies between cereal and leguminous residues, 3) optimizing physical feed forms in the context of feed processing, transport, storage costs and livestock productivity; and 4) feed resources that are land and water use efficient and that support higher milk and meat productivity for reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Concurring with Dr Dar’s suggestion to continue with the next step of upscaling the process to a commercial venture, he said that the unit will work closely with private feed producers to build bridges between current large scale centralized feed processing options and the envisaged, more decentralized, options that use simple, downsized and adapted feed processing equipment.

Dr Blümmel thanked everyone for attending the inauguration and was especially grateful to the ICRISAT support staff who contributed to the success of the event.

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Training course on screening for Striga resistance

ICRISAT-NiameyChickpea training course Participants harvesting Striga capsules during the training course.

ICRISAT Sadoré hosted a training course on Striga hermonthica resistance screening from 27 to 29 October. Striga (a killer weed) is a major constraint to sorghum and pearl millet production in West Africa. Striga-resistant sorghum and pearl millet cultivars could be a major component of integrated Striga control, but development of resistant cultivars has been slow in the past.

The main objective of the training program, funded by the HOPE project, was to enable NARS partners to develop more efficient Striga resistance breeding in their programs. The course targeted technicians from the sorghum and pearl millet improvement programs for four HOPE partner countries (Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali). Dr Bettina Haussman, Harouna Dodo and Amadou Kountché Boubacar were the trainers to the 8 participants, 2 from each country.

ICRISAT-NiameyChickpea training course Participants of the course with Bettina Haussmann.

The course provided practical hands-on training to the technicians, enabling them to implement a Striga resistance screening protocol once they returned to their respective country’s programs. The course conducted in English and French simultaneously concluded with a ceremony on 29 October in which the participants received certificates from Dr Bettina Haussmann.


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