No. 1461 8 April 2011

Addressing the poverty challenge in the drylands
DG speaks at the Crawford Fund Conference in Brisbane

Crawford Fund Conference ICRISAT’s IMOD strategy focuses on helping the farming poor in the drylands to access markets to increase their food supplies and incomes - DG W Dar

Tackling the complexity of challenges in the tropical drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, ICRISAT DG William Dar spoke at the Crawford Fund State Parliamentary Conference held at the Parliament House, Brisbane, on 06 April 2011.

In his address, Dr Dar stressed the importance of agriculture in the tropical drylands and noted the similarities in climate between ICRISAT’s mandate regions and Queensland’s vast tracts of land. His goal was to bring to the attention of the world the need to seize every opportunity to help alleviate the plight of three hundred million people in the dryland tropics living on less than one dollar a day. This level of absolute poverty in the tropical drylands, along with unacceptably high rates of child malnutrition of nearly 42% in dryland Asia and nearly 27% in dryland Africa, is one of the key motivations behind ICRISAT’s strategy of Inclusive Market-Oriented Development, or IMOD.

Crawford Fund Conference(From left to right) Dr Dar with Dr Meryl Williams, former DG of ICLARM and now ICRISAT GB member; Dr Kanayo Nwanze, former DG of WARDA and now President of IFAD; Dr Jeff Sayer, former DG of CIFOR and now ISPC member; and Dr Tim Reeves, former DG of CIMMYT. Standing behind is Dr Eric Crasswell, former DG of IBSRAM. Photo was taken at the Crawford Conference reception.

Dr Dar took this opportunity to highlight the power of market opportunities to offer more prosperous lives for smallholder farmers and their families. ICRISAT sees the need for more effective social assistance programs to help the poorest of the poor connect to markets, but in a way that builds their own resilience rather than creating dependency. ICRISAT’s IMOD strategy focuses on helping the farming poor in the drylands to access markets to increase their food supplies and incomes.

In his closing comments, Dr Dar emphasized that there is reason for smallholder farmers to be optimistic about the future, as there are vast opportunities for climate change adaptation in the tropical drylands. Achieving resilience for smallholder farmers requires investment in research for development so that farmers gain access to these improved management inputs and to options for a more profitable agriculture. IMOD is ICRISAT’s strategy for increasing this access.

The Crawford Fund State Parliamentary Conference was attended by about 200 participants. During the discussions, there were some very strong reinforcement of the need for partnerships between Australia and ICRISAT. Dr Kanayo F Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), served as keynote speaker, while ICRISAT GB member, Dr Meryl Williams was among the guests.

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World Bank delegation visits ICRISAT Sadoré

Sadoré(Left) Meeting session with ICRISAT scientists at Sadoré. (Right) Dr Nieuwkoop planting a tree at ICRISAT Friends’ Garden.

Following ICRISAT’s recent participation in the scientific symposium on Food Security & Nutrition from 28-31 March, a World Bank delegation led by the Agriculture & Rural Development Program Coordinator for Africa region, Dr Martien Van Nieuwkoop, visited the ICRISAT Sahelian center of Sadoré on 01 April.

Appreciating the IMOD strategy, Dr Nieuwkoop said, “Market-oriented development for smallholder farmers in the tropical drylands fits well with the World Bank vision for the region.”

“Since 2007, World Bank agricultural investments for the sub-Saharan Africa region have doubled. Transfer of technology and adaptation to climate risks, as well as private sector development are crucial when seeking partnerships within the region,” he emphasized.

Discussions revolved around existing opportunities and the potential to improve rainfed agriculture, the potential for irrigated agriculture and the use of fertilizer microdosing to increase productivity.

After the meeting, Dr Nieuwkoop accompanied by ICRISAT WCA Director Farid Waliyar planted a tree in ICRISAT Friends’ Garden. Dr Nieuwkoop was also shown around the farm, vegetable garden, nursery, genebank and laboratory of soil and science.

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Strengthening linkages with Australian partners

Australia Dr P Ninnes and Dr W Dar with John Harvey, Managing Director of GRDC, in Canberra.

DG William Dar and RPM Director Peter Ninnes spent a fruitful and rewarding week in Australia meeting with investors and friends and participating in the Crawford Fund State Parliamentary Conference on 4-7 April.

While in Canberra, they visited the Grains Research and Development Corporation (an industry-funded body supporting research for Australian grain growers) to finalize a new win-win partnership that will see ICRISAT researchers linked with Australian researchers for mutual benefit. GRDC is globalizing its R&D strategy and to this aim, has established formal links with ICRISAT, CIMMYT and ICARDA. Dr Dar expressed his appreciation to GRDC on behalf of ICRISAT and also took the opportunity to congratulate John Harvey on his recent appointment as Managing Director of GRDC.

Also in Canberra, Drs Dar and Ninnes met with long-standing friends in ACIAR where a number of ongoing and potential projects were discussed. The opportunity was used to update ACIAR on ICRISAT’s new IMOD-based strategy, which was well received, and also to thank ACIAR for their generous and increased core financial support for 2011. Discussions were also held with officials from AusAID, specifically around a new project on watershed management for Afghanistan.

Dr Dar also met with Dr Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD and a highly respected former colleague of ICRISAT. During the reception hosted by Hon. John Kerin, President of the Crawford Fund in Australia, the new strategy of ICRISAT, which is closely aligned with IFAD’s approach of linking farmers to markets, received highly positive response from the Australian partners.

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HOPE for Nigeria

HOPE Planning the activities for 2011 according to the milestones in the project proposal.

The Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project held its annual review and planning meeting for Nigeria on 29 and 30 March. Due to language differences, the regional HOPE planning meetings in West and Central Africa (WCA) have been planned separately for the English speaking country (Nigeria) and the Francophone countries (Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso) where HOPE project is operating.

In last week’s regional HOPE planning meeting (WCA), ICRISAT scientists and HOPE project partners met at the Kano National Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA) headquarters in Kano, Nigeria to evaluate the 2010 season and to plan various activities for 2011. The meeting was attended by 47 participants including partners from organizations such as: IFAD-Community Based Agricultural and Rural Development Project (CBARDP); Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR); Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI); Kano National Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (KNARDA); United States Agency for International Development - Maximizing Agricultural Revenues and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites (USAID-MARKETS); processors; NGOs and ICRISAT scientists from Mali and Niger.

During the workshop, Global Coordinator, Dr George Okwach presented an overview of the HOPE project concept as well as the objectives and expectations from the meetings. Collaborators from IAR, LCRI and CBARDP delivered presentations highlighting the results of the 2010 season. Despite the absence of aligned complementary funding by IFAD for field activities of CBARDP, nearly all activities had been executed, even though on a smaller scale than initially planned. There was good news for CBARDP in that their activities will be fully funded in 2011, which allows HOPE project to operate this year on a large scale in 7 states of Nigeria.

Potential new partners and collaborators from processing industries and NGOs, such as the Green Sahel Adventures, expressed their understanding and aspirations for the HOPE project in Nigeria in 2011.

HOPE Participants of the HOPE evaluation and planning meeting for Nigeria.

In his closing remarks, Dr Okwach expressed confidence in the results of the planning session, and hoped to see positive impact of the project work in Nigeria. He also thanked ICRISAT’s country representative in Nigeria, Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe for organizing the successful meeting. The review and planning meet for the HOPE project (Francophone countries) is scheduled on 11- 14 April at the ICRISAT center in Samanko, Bamako.

The meeting was organized and facilitated by ICRISAT Kano Station, which was recently re-established to facilitate ICRISAT’s activities in Nigeria.

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WASA-Seeds project opening day in Niger

WASA El Hadj Salifou Mahamane, seed producer and owner of the AINOMA Farm, during the visit.

The West African Seeds Alliance (WASA)-Seeds Project in Niger held its annual opening day on 01 April at AINOMA farm in Diébou, a village located about 100 km away from Niamey.

AINOMA belongs to El Hadj Salifou Mahamane, a private seed producer, and covers about 525 acres. Created in 1986, it has become one of the most successful seed-producing farms in Niger and benefits from seeds produced with support from WASA. In 2010, the farm produced about 491 tons of certified seed and 7.5 tons of seed base.

The opening day saw AINOMA showcase its successes in Niger and share information on improved quality seeds with farmers and the general public. The event was attended by representatives of Niger’s Department of Agriculture and various partners.

Acknowledging ICRISAT’s contribution to his farm’s progress, El Hadj Salifou Mahamane said, “WASA has been very supportive of AINOMA farm in producing better quality seeds to farmers.” He thanked WASA Niger Seeds Project Coordinator Dr AK Paul Buckner and ICRISAT scientists for contributing to the success of AINOMA.

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KSU discusses collaboration with AIP-ICRISAT


A high level delegation from the Kansas State University (KSU), USA visited the Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP), during their visit to ICRISAT on 04 April to discuss areas of collaboration in agri-business, food processing and food safety. The KSU team was led by Dr April Mason, Provost and Senior Vice-President, KSU. The other members were Dr R Michael Philson, Associate Provost, Office of International Programs; Dr Gary Pierynski, Interim Dean and Director, College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension; Dr Sajid Alavi, Associate Professor, Department of Grain Science and Industry; and Dr Barry Michie, Director, International Program Support, Office of International Programs. This visit was the result of a previous meeting between Dr Sajid Alavi and Dr William Dar held at ICRISAT in June 2010, as a part of exploring collaborative research in the area of food extrusion with NutriPlus.

Dr Kiran Sharma along with his team welcomed the delegation and discussed AIP’s possible collaborative activities with KSU. Various successful products and technologies developed by the clients of AIP were also shown, particularly those by NutriPlus. Dr Mason expressed KSU’s intent to increase its existing knowledge base regarding semi-arid agriculture and related natural resource management issues, and to collaborate with ICRISAT in the area of agri business, food science and technology, and food safety. She also highlighted ongoing research activities at KSU, especially in the areas of agriculture and food processing. The KSU team was happy with the deliberations and expressed their interest to formalize the collaborative activities. The team also had fruitful discussions with Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu and Dr S K Gupta, Dryland Cereals and Dr Isabel Vales, Grain Legumes. Mr Murli Sharma conducted a detailed field visit and tour of the Sat Venture for the KSU team.

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ICRISAT-Bulawayo hosts workshop on food feed crops


ICRISAT-Bulawayo hosted a two-day workshop on food feed crops on 29-30 March, with participants from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The workshop in Zimbabwe was held in response to a meeting on the flagship initiative in eastern and southern Africa that took place in February as well as the submission of a concept note on food feed crops by ILRI.

The workshop, organized by Dr Michael Blümmel from ILRI and Sabine Homann-Kee Tui and André van Rooyen from ICRISAT-Bulawayo, attempted to further understand and evaluate the potential of crop residues to address food and fodder challenges in southern Africa. Participants included representatives from the seed and feed industries, agro-processors, and government and non-governmental organizations.

The two-day deliberations, consisting of presentations as well as lively discussions and breakout group sessions, touched on the availability and potential use of crop residues to feed livestock, particularly during the dry season. The group also discussed the benefits of using crop residues as they are one of the few feed resources that do not need specific allocation of water and land.

The exploitation of genetic potential/variability of the crops grown by farmers to serve a dual purpose of food and feed emerged as a strong need for the region. The next step will be the development of a full proposal around these ideas targeting specific research questions.

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Capacity building on new science tools for monitoring and evaluation of IWMP


ICRISAT and the University of Florida (UF) jointly organized the course Capacity Building on Use of New Science Tools for Monitoring and Evaluation of Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) at ICRISAT, Patancheru on 06-08 April 2011. Twenty participants from State Watershed Nodal Agencies and NGOs participated in the activity.

Dr Mylavarapu Rao briefed the participants about the UF-ICRISAT initiative in capacity building, while Dr SP Wani spoke on “Watershed management: A growth engine for sustainable development.” Scientists and faculty members from ICRISAT, UF, MANAGE, IWMI and the Gujarat State Watershed Management Agency conducted the course covering the use of GIS, remote sensing, simulation modeling, agroclimatic characterization, water budgeting, upstream and downstream mechanism using water level models, economic surplus methods, and knowledge-based entry point activity and participatory research for development methods.

The participants visited on-station watersheds at the ICRISAT campus for a field study on recording weather parameters and groundwater levels, measuring runoff and sediment loss, vermicomposting and other productivity enhancing measures. They also visited the Adarsha watershed in Kothapally and interacted with community members. The course was sponsored by the Ministry of Rural Development, Department of Land Resources, Government of India, and was successfully organized by the watershed team led by Dr Wani.

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ICT for farmers
Mobile phone value-added services for improving soil health

ICT S Aravazhi moderating the workshop session.

Aiming to improve information services to the farming community, ABI-ICRISAT participated in a workshop on Mobile Phone Value-added Services for Improving Soil Health of Farmers on 26 March at Sirkazhi, Tamilnadu. The event was conducted by Ekgaon Technologies, an agri-information and advisory services company based in New Delhi.

Ekgaon Technologies is currently working on an action research project along with Kazhi Kadaimandai Farmers Federation (KKFF) on the project titled “Nutrient Management Decision Support System for Livelihood Security of Farmers” to identify the effectiveness of agro-advisory services. KKFF is one of the implementing partners of ABI-ICRISAT’s Seed Business Ventures (SBV) program in Tamilnadu.

Representing ABI-ICRISAT, S Aravazhi shared strategic inputs during the workshop’s thematic group discussions, and moderated the policy group session on Requirements for the Growth of Indian Agriculture & Small Farmers.

The workshop is part of Ekgaon’s efforts to promote technologies on open standards and tools and to enable community-owned and affordable information management systems. The activity highlighted various issues faced by Rural India in terms of access to agricultural information and how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can help in providing crop value chain advisory and information services to the farming community.

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