No. 1440 12 November 2010

Nutritional Security Emphasized at Agri-business Development Meet

Agribusiness Development Meet Director General William Dar lights the lamp at the Agri-business Development meet at TNAU as Vice- Chancellor Dr Murugesa Boopathi and other dignitaries look on.

The Agri-Business Incubator (also known as Business Planning and Development Unit) at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), which is a joint initiative of ICRISAT and TNAU, conducted an agri-business development meet at Coimbatore on 2 November. The main aim of the meet was to identify potential entrepreneurs for providing them incubation support and to commercialize the technologies of TNAU.

Director General William Dar, Kiran Sharma, SN Nigam, SM Karuppanchetty and S Aravazhi represented ICRISAT at the event.

Agribusiness Development Meet
Dr Dar with the TNAU VC visiting the exhibits.

Inaugurating the event, Dr Dar said, “Nutritional security should form an integral part of food security to overcome the malnourishment that 42 percent of the country’s children face. We have been successful in bringing about abundance in rice, wheat and corn through the Green Revolution. But, this has only met our calorie requirement.” Pointing out that the production of larger cereals to smaller cereals was in the ratio of 12:1, he indicated that the imbalance needs to be addressed.

Dr Dar urged for increased investment in the production of smaller nutritional cereals. “Introduction of good delivery systems should aid in bringing them to the fore. Agri-business incubation is one such system,” he added.

ICRISAT through its Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI) platform is in partnership with 10 institutions in agri-business incubation. Terming TNAU as the best among the lot, Dr Dar urged more institutions and organizations to enter into the public-private partnership mode, as such commercialization of technologies could bring in a definite change in the farming system and would create opportunities and prosperity for the smallholder farmers of the country.

Elaborating on ICRISAT’s Strategy to 2020 on “Inclusive Market-Oriented Development,” Dr Dar said that this would bring about prosperity through a dynamic progression from subsistence to market-oriented agriculture.

Team ICRISAT held discussions with TNAU on its various partnership programs and visited the TNAU departments and facilities.

The event had participation of more than 100 entrepreneurs from across the state. The participants were later grouped under broader themes of seed venture, farm venture, farm implement venture, food processing and innovative venture. Group sessions and individual discussions with the entrepreneurs were conducted to assess the needs of the entrepreneurs and match it with the TNAU services. An exhibition was organized wherein the current groups of the TNAU incubator displayed their products and services to the participants. Ten entrepreneurs signed up for incubation support on the spot by paying the preliminary registration fee and becoming part of the TNAU incubation system.

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ICRISAT partners with CARIAD in Eritrea

ICRISAT is partnering with Bangor University’s Centre for Advanced Research in International Agricultural Development (CARIAD) in its new EU-funded project in Eritrea. The 3-year project, with a funding of €520,000 ($738,006) aims to increase food security and the biodiversity of farms in drought-prone areas of Eritrea.

CARIAD will work with local institutions and farmers to identify improved varieties of crops and better growing techniques, and to improve seed production and marketing. ICRISAT will provide training to the farmers as part of the project. As Dr Bhasker Raj from ICRISAT said, “This initiative will involve farmers in identifying, testing and evaluating improved cultivars and agronomic techniques for adaption to improve crop production and food security.”

The other partners in the project are the National Agricultural Research Institute, and the Hamelmalo Agricultural College, who are providing scientific inputs in Eritrea; and the NGO Vision Eritrea, who, together with the Extension Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, will deliver the new varieties and techniques to several thousand farmers.

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Dialogue on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security at ICRISAT-Niamey

Climate Change Dialogue
Jon Padgham, General Abdou Kaza, Dr Farid Waliyar and Dr Mohamed Abdoulaye at the dialogue.

The global change System for Analysis, Research and Training (START) and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), on behalf of the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) initiative, organized a dialogue on climate change, agriculture and food security on 4 and 5 November.

The opening ceremony of the meeting held at the ICRISAT Sahelian Centre near Niamey, Niger, was chaired by the Nigerien Minister of Water, Environment and Desertification, General Abdou Kaza. He was accompanied by Drs Farid Waliyar, Regional Director-WCA; Mohamed Abdoulaye, INRAN Director; Jon Padgham, START Director; and Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Deputy Executive Director of FARA.

Climate Change Dialogue
Participants of the dialogue with the dignitaries at Niamey.

For two days, more than 40 participants from Belgium, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Holland, Mali, Niger, Senegal and USA attended and reviewed the issues of climate change, its impacts and the means put forward for adaptation. Among key issues discussed was the food security crisis in Niger in the context of current and future climate risks in the Sahel.

Management of climate risks and their implications in relation to decision-making on adaptation appeared to be a serious matter. The dialogue was therefore a good platform that provided participants the chance to explore opportunities for enhanced climate risk management and adaptation reflecting on current initiatives and key research findings from the region.

Another important step of the dialogue was to identify policies and measures needed in terms of capacity development, institutional strengthening and resource allocation in order to support adaptation planning at the sub-regional, national and local levels.

In response to this, the Nigerien Minister expressed his appreciation to ICRISAT-Niamey for taking the initiative to conduct such an important dialogue. He gave the participants the assurance that the results of the workshop will be included in the process of decision making. “Policymakers can only be attentive and interested in the findings,” he said.

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Field day held at Bamako

ICRISAT-Bamako organized an Open Field day at Samanko Research Station in Mali on 28 October with the main partners in Mali – IER, The World Agroforestry Center, The World Vegetable Center, NGOs, and farmers’ organizations.

A total of 193 persons (60 women and 133 men) attended the event. These included farmers working with ICRISAT in the Koulikoro Region of Mali, researchers, extension agents, NGOs and embassy representatives. Among the embassies represented were those of Nigeria (two representatives), Ghana (the Ambassador HE Donald Adabre), and Belgian, represented by the First Secretary (HE Florence Duvieusart).

The visitors were guided through the sorghum research (breeding, Striga management, sweet sorghum) fields and groundnut and sorghum demonstrations by scientists. Other attractions were the Jatropha plots and newly introduced hybrid crops (sorghum, pearl millet, maize, sunflower and various vegetable crops) under the WASA-Seed Project. Stands of posters, publications and varieties depicting the research results were on display.

Another highlight of the event was the exhibition of new tractors being manufactured in Mali, and biofertilizers and biodiesel produced from Jatropha by the respective companies.

The visitors were provided with meals and refreshments, making it a memorable event.

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ABI participates in TiE-ISB Connect 2010

TiE-ISB Connect 2010 Director General William Dar speaks at the TiE-ISB Connect meet at Hyderabad.

The Agri-Business Incubator (ABI)-ICRISAT participated in the fifth edition of the TiE-ISB Connect, the annual networking event for entrepreneurs and investors, jointly organized by the TiE Hyderabad Chapter and the Indian School of Business (ISB) on 29 and 30 October at Hyderabad. The theme for this year was Transforming India: The Entrepreneurship Route. Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Dr K Rosaiah was the Chief Guest.

Director General William Dar participated in the panel discussion on Research to Market, which included Mr Anupam Saronwala (IBM Research), Dr Taslimarif Saiyed (C-CAMP, NCBS), Mr Nitin Deshmukh, (CEO, Kotak PE) and Dr Krishna Tanuku (ISB).

Dr Dar highlighted ICRISAT’s work and the relevancy of its efforts in the context of innovative research commercialization. He said, “ICRISAT has been operational for more than 38 years as one of the 15 centers of the CGIAR. In India, 60-70 percent of the population depends on agriculture for livelihood. The power of innovation and inclusive growth strategies need to be unleashed to feed the estimated 9.1 billion population of the world in 2050.”

Further, he spoke about ABI-ICRISAT, which “has been working towards this direction of promoting inclusive development through market oriented approaches.” He said that ABI had instituted an innovation system and incubation program supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India under which, till date, more than 100 ventures have been mentored, supported and incubated.

He said that ICRISAT had also recently set up a network of 10 incubators at institutes funded by ICAR. He highlighted the need for large scale public, private and people partnerships to create effective innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, policies, infrastructure, skills, know-how and access to finance. Responding to one of the queries of the participants, Dr Dar indicated that the Silicon Valley model is replicable in the Indian context and cited the example of the Genome Valley initiative of the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

More than 100 people visited the ABI stall at the event. ABI was able to generate 32 leads for technology commercialization through the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators initiative.

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ICRISAT inks agreement with agricultural journalist group

William Dar with PAJ President Dr Dar with PAJ President Jennifer Ng and others at the MOA signing.

ICRISAT signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Philippine Agricultural Journalists, Inc. (PAJ) on the promotion of science-based agriculture on 9 November. The MOA was signed by Director General William Dar and PAJ President Jennifer Ng.

More specifically, ICRISAT and PAJ agreed to collaborate on (1) the advocacy on the importance of dryland agriculture in the Philippines; (2) communicating dryland agricultural innovations, and (3) capacity building of agricultural journalists and communication students.

The MOA signing culminated a week-long visit by the PAJ team composed of Jennifer Ng; Noel Reyes, Director of Information Service, Department of Agriculture;

Rochelle Campos, Senior Reporter Manila Standard Today; Thelma M Tolentino Manager, Public Relations & Information Office Philippine Coconut Authority and Adora D Rodriguez Chief, Audio-Visual Section Agriculture & Fisheries Information Service (AFIS) Department of Agriculture.

PAJ is a non-stock, non-profit association of media practitioners, agricultural communicators and advocates committed to the promotion of science-based agriculture in the Philippines.

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Next Generation Sequencing for crop improvement

NGS Participants of the NGS workshop at Patancheru.

ICRISAT, in collaboration with the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), hosted the second International Workshop on Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Data Analysis, from 1 to 3 November, at Patancheru. This is in continuation of the first workshop hosted in July 2009.

Rapid advancement of sequencing technologies such as NGS enable the resequencing of entire plant genomes/sampling of entire transcriptomes more efficiently and economically. DDG-R Dave Hoisington, in the inaugural session said, “Just sequencing individual genomes, it is possible to sequence hundreds or even thousands of related genomes to sample genetic diversity within and between germplasm pools. Identifying and tracking genetic variation is now so efficient and precise that thousands of variants can be tracked within large populations.” He hoped that the scientific community across the world would be able to sequence the thousands of genebank accessions including accessions in the CGIAR genebanks.

GTL-Biotechnology Oscar Riera-Lizarazu said that NGS technologies had significant implications on crop breeding. He also expressed happiness that ICRISAT is preparing to undertake large scale NGS projects in the future.

Outlining the objective of the workshop, Rajeev Varshney said, “Although generation of sequence data is becoming faster and cheaper, the optimization and availability of appropriate methodologies and tools to analyze, visualize and interpret NGS data are still in their infancy”. He acknowledged the support of GCP to sponsor the NGS data analysis project and this workshop, as it will help ICRISAT, CG Centers and national partners to develop strategies and a road map to overcome the challenges of the massive amount of sequence data being generated as part of different projects.

He also acknowledged the support of Trushar Shah, Abhishek Rathore, R Pradeep, A Bhanuprakash, team members of the NGS project at ICRISAT, and of B Manjula and KDV Prasad for their support in organizing the workshop.

About twenty participants from seven countries including Australia, China, France, India, the Philippines, South Africa and UK participated in this workshop.

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Farmers from Gujarat on educational tour

VDSA farmers The farmers at a discussion with Dr MA Patel on Medicinal & Aromatic Plants as VR Kiresur looks on.

The Project Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) provided an opportunity for the farmers of Panch Mahals district of Gujarat state to go on an educational tour within the state and gain knowledge about new agricultural technology.

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.

To ensure quality data, sustaining the interest and enthusiasm of the respondent farmers through an incentive mechanism is essential. In this context, a contingent of 101 farmers, including key participants in the project from Babrol and Chata villages in Panch Mahals district of Gujarat state, visited several educational and pilgrimage places in the state from 28 October to 1 November, as part of a five-day educational tour.

The tour itinerary consisted of Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU, Junagadh), Krishi Vigyan Kendra and Pearl Millet Research Station (JAU, Jamnagar), Anand Agricultural University (Anand), Sardar Smriti Kendra and Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Processing Centre (AAU, Anand) and Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd (AMUL, Anand). In addition, they also visited a number of pilgrimage places.

VR Kiresur addressed the visiting farmers at Anand 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 Rameshbhai Chaudhary and Atulkumar B Patel.

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PSAI Lifetime Achievement Award for DG

PSAI award

Congratulations to Director General William Dar who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PCARRD Scholars Association, Inc (PSAI), at the 4th PSAI National Biennial Convention at the Bureau of Soil and Water Management, Quezon City, Philippines on 9 November. The award was presented in recognition of a long, distinguished career as an educationist, agricultural scientist, administrator, and humanitarian both in the Philippines and as Director General of ICRISAT. Mrs Beatriz Dar received the award on behalf of Dr Dar.

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