No. 1453 11 February 2011

Top Gates Foundation Official visits Patancheru

Gates foundation Dr Sylvia Burwell, Dr Dar and KN Rai with the thick panicles and long panicles of pearl millet.

Dr Sylvia Burwell, President of the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) visited ICRISAT- Patancheru early this morning. Director General William D. Dar along with ICRISAT’s senior staff members received her at the campus. Dr Burwell was accompanied by BMGF’s Senior Program Officer David Bergvinson and other staff.

During Dr Burwell’s visit, she was taken on a tour of the demonstration farm showcasing ICRISAT’s work on intercropping systems and the BMGF-funded projects on tropical legumes (TL-II) and dryland cereals (HOPE). In addition, she was also shown various machines used by farmers such as the Tropicultor, with implements for fresh plant threshing, dryland threshing and pod shelling.

TL-II is a joint initiative of ICRISAT (chickpea, groundnut and pigeonpea), IITA (cowpea & soybean), and CIAT (common bean) that aims to increase productivity and production of legumes and the income of 57 million poor farmers by 15% in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia after its 10-year duration. It is expected that this will result in an additional value of more than US$ 300 million during this period.

Gates foundation Dr Dar shows Dr Sylvia Burwell a chickpea plant.

HOPE aims to enhance food security for smallholder farmers in dryland areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia by increasing yields of smallholder farmers by 35 to 40% during the first four years of the project through improved varieties of sorghum and millet. Within ten years, the project aims to benefit more than two million households. HOPE is being undertaken by 50 partners led by ICRISAT in ten countries of sub-Saharan Africa and four states in India.

Discussing the growing use of hybrids in India, Director General Dar informed the visitors that hybrids have been producing a 40% increase in yield, especially with regard to pigeonpea hybrids, and that this has caught the attention of the Government of India because of the shortage of pulses in the country.

In the afternoon, Dr Burwell had an interactive session with women farmers under the Village Dynamics Studies (VDS) project also funded by BMGF. The VDS seeks to improve the quantity and quality of village-based information for better decision-making. The five-year project is implemented by ICRISAT together with National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) in the humid tropics of East India. Likewise the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is implementing it in Bangladesh in collaboration with Centre for Policy Dialogue) and SocioConsult.

Gates foundation Dave Hoisington explains ICRISAT crop varieties.

ICRISAT personnel accompanied the visitors to Ibrahimbad, a village about 40 km from headquarters, where Dr Burwell interacted with women farmers about their lives and families, and noted their special concerns, especially with regard to fetching water at night from borewells that are 2 km from the village. She took special interest in their methods of grain storage, and went into one of the homes to see this first hand.

Aside from the foregoing, Dr Burwell also visited the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform, Genebank, AVRDC’s vegetable gardens, ILRI’s Manmool facility and the Martha Stone SATVenture.

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AGRA and ICRISAT identify key areas of collaboration

AGRA Dr Namanga Ngongi discuss collaborative projects between AGRA and ICRISAT with Dr Dar and other senior staff members.

Dr Namanga Ngongi, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) visited ICRISAT last Tuesday and was warmly received by Director General William Dar and senior staff members. Dr Ngongi visited the Institute to discuss ongoing collaborative projects between AGRA and ICRISAT and to identify key areas for further collaboration.

Dr Ngongi, who began his career alongside farmers in his native Cameroon, has extensive experience in agricultural development, peace and security issues. He explained that like ICRISAT, AGRA has a mission to improve the lives of smallholder farmers across the vast continent of Africa.

ICRISAT and AGRA currently collaborate on three projects – fertilizer microdosing and credit system in West Africa; soil fertility, productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Tanzania through intensification and diversification of pigeonpea systems; and improved soil fertility through integration of pigeonpeas, groundnuts and conservation agriculture in maize production systems in Malawi.

As an introduction to the meeting of Dr Ngongi with Director General Dar and senior ICRISAT staff members, Peter Craufurd delivered a presentation, that elaborated on ICRISAT’s new development outcomes, current AGRA and ICRISAT collaboration, and areas of possible future collaboration.

Key areas for future collaboration were then identified along agri-business; crop-livestock systems; capacity building; water management systems; village-level seed systems; and ICT for development to enhance risk management systems.

Dr Ngongi expressed enthusiasm in finding ways and means of measuring what he described as “all these dollars floating in the air, called carbon.” He said that carbon sequestration could be used as a pre-investment in the system whenever we planted a tree or a crop. He also expressed a wish to regularly meet with CGIAR partners to work out long-term programs.

Dr Dar formally invited Dr Ngongi to attend the upcoming Global Agri-business Incubation Conference that will be held at Patancheru from 8 to 10 March this year.

Commenting on his visit, Dr Ngongi stated that he was very impressed to see ICRISAT’s state-of-the-art facilities and practical approach towards using science for improving lives, and which lends credence to our motto “Science with a Human Face”.

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ICRISAT participates in the HarvestPlus meeting in New Delhi

ICRISAT participated in a meeting organized by HarvestPlus from 7 to 9 February. The meeting was organized in association with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, to discuss progress made in breeding more nutritious staple food crops at the National Academy of Agricultural Research.

Harvestplus Participants of the HarvestPlus meeting in New Delhi.

Much of the focus was on new varieties of high-iron pearl millet (bajra) that will be released in north and north-western states of India in 2012. These have been developed by ICRISAT as part of the HarvestPlus global effort to biofortify staple food crops with essential micronutrients. ICRISAT’s KN Rai, CLL Gowda, Kiran K Sharma and Oscar Riera-Lizarazu participated in the meeting. Director General William Dar also addressed the conference, highlighting ICRISAT’s work on health and nutrition.

The three-day meeting was followed by a press meet organized by ICRISAT’s Communication Office.

Following this meeting, participants joined the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2020 Conference on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health, which is being held from 10 to 12 February. Organized by the IFPRI, the conference was opened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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CGIAR Consortium Board to meet at ICRISAT

The Board of the newly established Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers will hold high level meetings at Patancheru from 13 to 16 February.

Director General Dr William D. Dar is most pleased to host this extremely important meeting, where key issues for discussion with the Consortium will emerge and be resolved.

The Consortium Board meetings will include meetings of Directors General of the Centers, a meeting of the Board Chairs of the Centers, and meetings with the Consortium Board Chair, Dr Carlos Perez del Castillo and the Consortium CEO, Dr Lloyd Le Page.

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ICRISAT and DSR hold course on improving sorghum hybrids

Training course Participants of the training course on Sorghum Hybrid Parents and Hybrids Development and Production.

“Capacity building is a pathway to greater crop productivity”, said Director General Dar as he inaugurated the training course on Sorghum Hybrid Parents and Hybrids Development and Production on 7 February. The course is currently underway at Patancheru, and will conclude today, 11 February.

The primary objective of the course is to familiarize participants with the theory and practice of sorghum breeding, which are essential in the production of genetically pure Nucleus, Breeder, Foundation and Certified seeds of hybrid parents, hybrids and varieties.

Director General Dar stressed that the learnings in this course should ultimately facilitate reaching ICRISAT`s mission of improving food security, ending poverty, and sustaining environment through the research we do with strengthened partnerships.

Dr Dar said that this course came at a time when ICRISAT is implementing its new strategic plan, which is anchored on a conceptual framework of Inclusive Market-Oriented Development or IMOD. He further elaborated that IMOD enables the poor to connect to markets so that they can reap higher rewards.

JV Patil, Director, Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR), pointed out that, “Hybrids are the principal vehicles of agricultural development”, and that breeding should be directed to niche markets in addition to postrainy season adaptation. Pooran Gaur underscored the need for cereals and legumes to go together if we have to reckon with providing profitability to farmers. Vincent Vadez, not only provided words of warm welcome, but also emphasized the relevance of the sorghum training that needs to be continuously conducted. Other ICRISAT scientists and staff members also graced the inauguration.

The course is jointly organized by ICRISAT and DSR, Hyderabad. The Learning System Unit, through Rosana Mula, fully supported and anchored the course administration. Belum Reddy, Vilas Tonapi and P Sanjana Reddy coordinated the field and class room lectures. As many as 18 participants comprising 2 from Ethiopia; 4 from Tanzania; one each from Mali, Kenya and Zimbabwe; 2 from the Philippines and 7 from India attended the interactive lecture-cum-field demonstration oriented course.

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ACIAR Chief reiterates commitment to smallholder farmers

ICRISAT has been host to meetings of the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) – India water projects cluster during Thursday and Friday of this week. It has been a pleasure to welcome Dr Nick Austin, CEO of ACIAR, and his team and colleagues from Australian and Indian partners engaged with the Australian supported water projects in India. During the technical discussions, ICRISAT was represented by Suhas Wani, who gave a presentation on our watersheds program here in India and in other countries.

ACIAR Dr Dar makes a point to Dr Nick Austin during a meeting at Patancheru.

During the meetings, Dr Austin was able to take time out on Friday morning to meet with our Director General, and to engage in a fruitful discussion of ICRISAT’s new strategy, some positive developments in Australia’s aid program, especially as it relates to ACIAR support to ICRISAT, and some discussion of the CGIAR reform process. Dr Austin also sits on the new CGIAR Fund Council. Peter Ninnes gave an overview of ICRISAT’s new strategy and highlighted current collaboration with ACIAR; in particular, their support to the legumes project in Myanmar (CLL Gowda and GV RangaRao), sorghum project (Vincent Vadez), and a watersheds project for Afghanistan, currently under development (Peter Craufurd and Peter Ninnes).

Dr Austin observed that ICRISAT’s new strategy and its IMOD concept, is very much in alignment with ACIAR’s view of development for smallholder households, particularly around food security, market development and health and nutrition.

Dr Dar expressed his appreciation to Dr Austin for ACIAR’s commitment to the people of the semi-arid tropics and his support of ICRISAT. We value our relationship with Australia and look forward to her continued support both bilaterally, and under the auspices of the new CGIAR.

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Andre designated as Country Representative in Zimbabwe


Andre F van Rooyen has been designated as the Country Representative for ICRISAT-Zimbabwe with effect from 16 February 2011. He will take over the responsibilities from Isaac Minde, who retires from ICRISAT on 20 February.

Team ICRISAT congratulates Andre and wishes him all success in his new role at ICRISAT-Zimbabwe.


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