No. 1462 15 April 2011

ICRISAT-CIAT-IFAD final workshop on biofuel project
Harnessing biofuels for enhanced smallholder livelihoods


With a looming energy crisis and climate change at the forefront of everyone’s mind, there has never been a better time for alternative energy solutions to shine,” said DG William Dar.

Speaking at the two-day final workshop of the ICRISAT-CIAT-IFAD biofuels project Linking the poor to global markets: Pro-poor development of biofuel supply chains, Dr Dar emphasized that biofuels are essential to the economies of nations as fossil fuels are predicted to be depleted by 2050, and that each country must have long-term approaches on biofuel crops R&D along with policies to sustain the value chains of these crops. He identified three key drivers of biofuels R&D: economic security, not at the expense of food security as the earth needs to feed 9.2 billion people by 2050; environmental sustainability; and energy security. He added that a key part of the commitment is making bio-energy opportunities work for the poor.

William Dar
Dr CLL Gowda, Dr Dar, Dr Nguyen Van Bo, President of VAAS and Dr Bui Chi Buu, Deputy Director of IAS, took the opportunity during the meeting to discuss modalities to strengthen ICRISAT-Vietnam NARS research partnership.

The final workshop held on 14-15 April in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, aimed to assess the progress made by the project over the years to better address a range of issues as new alternative energy solutions evolve. The ICRISAT-CIAT-IFAD project was launched three years ago to enhance the productivity of three important biofuel crops – sweet sorghum and cassava for bioethanol and Jatropha for biodiesel.

The biofuel project exemplifies ICRISAT’s purposeful partnership approach in the conduct of innovative agricultural research and capacity building initiatives. With ICRISAT as the project executing agency, its partners are from universities and national programs (both public and private sectors) all actively engaged in R&D in sweet sorghum and Jatropha. Similarly, CIAT and other partners from Colombia, China and Vietnam are involved in cassava feedstock research and its use in bioethanol production.

During the meeting, Dr Dar congratulated the research teams of ICRISAT, CIAT, MMSU (Philippines), Nong Lam University (Vietnam), and nongovernment organizations for meeting all the deliverables of the project, developing improved cultivars and production techniques and transferring them to the private sector whenever possible.

Dr Rabindranath Roy, IFAD representative added that the achievements of this project and the gaps identified will go a long way in encouraging donors and countries to further support research on the three crops.

Dr Belum Reddy, project coordinator gave a brief outline of the project, while Dr CLL Gowda chaired the session on cassava and co-chaired the concluding session on general discussion. The meeting was hosted by the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS), the Institute of Agricultural Sciences (IAS) and the Nong Lam University, and was attended by key scientists and managers from partner organizations in India, Vietnam, China, Philippines, Colombia and Mali.

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Focus on higher education, agricultural growth and poverty alleviation
DG addresses graduates, receives honorary degrees from Philippine universities

William Dar

In the context of globalization and efforts towards food security and poverty reduction, innovative higher agricultural institutions should reinvent themselves to meet the changing needs of rural communities and economies. In this framework, producing graduates who can lead the path to a sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth becomes the major challenge.

This is the main message of the commencement address delivered by DG William Dar as guest of honor during the 37th Graduation Rites of the Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC), Philippines, on 12 April. Speaking to 314 graduating students and their parents, PAC officials and visitors, Dr Dar challenged universities in the country to evolve into dynamic academic institutions, not only in teaching but in mainstreaming R&D interventions necessary to win the fight against food insecurity and poverty, particularly in rural communities.

William Dar
Dr Dar receives the Doctor of Humanities honorary degree from PAC President Jun Soriano.

He added that beyond its traditional role, higher agricultural education must provide a stimulating environment for scientific and technological advances to flourish, balanced by a commitment to bring science-based information and technology to the awareness and reach of potential users, particularly the resource-poor farmers.

Elaborating on ICRISAT’s core value of “Science with a human face,” indicating a commitment to put people’s welfare first when setting priorities, Dr Dar urged PAC and other universities to tread the same path. In harnessing “Education with a human face,” he stressed the need to incorporate socio-economic dimensions in the academe, particularly to contribute in shaping a sustainable and inclusive Philippine agriculture, and in fighting poverty and food insecurity in the country.

William Dar
Visit to the PAC-ICRISAT Sweet Sorghum and Pigeonpea Production-cum-Research Station.

During the Commencement rites, Dr Dar was conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities by PAC President Jun Soriano. The said degree was awarded in recognition of Dr Dar’s “dedication to the cause of the poor through his role as an excellent R&D global leader.”

Dr Dar, along with FETS Program Leader M Prabhakar Reddy, visited the ALIAS (Alternative Low Inputs for Agricultural System) Center  to observe the PAC-ICRISAT Sweet Sorghum and Pigeonpea Production-cum-Research Station.

Prior to this, Dr Dar was invited as guest at the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) on its 65th Commencement exercises, where he was conferred a Doctor of Science (Rural Development) degree, Honoris Causa. Awarded by USM President Jesus Antonio Derije, the honorary degree was in recognition of Dr Dar’s commitment to promote research for development initiatives that benefit the people, bring major improvements to the lives of small-scale producers and food-insecure farmers all across the nation and the globe as well, and help reduce hunger and vulnerability especially in the rural areas.

William Dar
Dr Dar receives a Doctor of Science (Rural Development) degree, Honoris Causa from USM President Jesus Antonio Derije.

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ICRISAT holds international policy dialogue on climate change in Sri Lanka

International policy fialogue Participants of the ICRISAT-SLCARP Stakeholder Consultation and Policy Dialogue.

As part of the Asian Development Bank-funded project on Vulnerability to climate change: Adaptation strategies and layers of resilience, ICRISAT organized a Stakeholder Consultation and Policy Dialogue on 05 April at The Sovereign, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Chief guest of the occasion, Hon Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane, Agriculture Minister of Sri Lanka, emphasized that agricultural production being sensitive to climate change, it is important for farmers to be made aware of its possible threats.

The Minister expressed hope for the collaboration between scientists from Sri Lanka and ICRISAT to produce outputs that will help the Sri Lankan government, policymakers and various stakeholders including rural communities to face the challenges posed by the changing climate. Guest of honor, AE Karunatilake, Secretary of Agriculture, reiterated his government’s commitment to addressing the challenges of climate change and various grassroot adaptation strategies that would suitably fit into the country’s draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, which will be unveiled in due time.

The policy dialogue was attended by key players of policy and planning in the government, especially from the Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Finance and Planning; international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI); apex research institutions representing rice, coconut, forestry and rubber; University of Peradeniya; Disaster Management Centre; Science Foundation; and the Munasinghe Institute for Development and Transparency International. The constellation of 32 participants shared their views and deliberated on the findings of the project and its seamless integration into the national policy.

The Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research and Policy (SLCARP) led by Project Nodal Officer Frank Niranjan organized the event, with support from Director of SLCARP, Prabath Wimal Kumara. In addition, over 13 participants from SLCARP actively took part in the discussions and organization of the event.

ICRISAT was represented by Naveen Singh, Uttam Kumar Deb and MVR Murty, while GGSN Rao represented the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), ICAR.

During the closing session chaired by SLCARP Chairman JD Samarasinghe, the road map and the way forward was conceptualized with a resolution to be presented to policymakers.

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Niamey hosts annual meeting of BMZ project

BMZ Participants of the BMZ meeting in Niamey.

In order to discuss the progress made in year 1 and to plan for year 2, partners of the Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) - funded project on Tackling abiotic production constraints in pearl millet and sorghum-based agricultural systems of the West African Sahel led by Bettina IG Haussmann held its meeting in Niamey on 04-07 April.

To better understand the relative importance of low soil phosphorus and drought stress in this interdisciplinary project, cereal breeders cooperate with plant physiologists, plant nutritionists, soil scientists and farmers in Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. It also intends to enhance sorghum and pearl millet productivity in the West African Sahel.

The project is unique as it brings together scientists from various ICRISAT locations like India, Mali and Niger, as well as the University of Hohenheim (Heiko Parzies and Ludger Herrmann), University of Kassel (Andreas Buerkert), NARS cereal breeders, and farmers from four West and Central Africa (WCA) target countries.

Despite some difficulties encountered during the 2010 field trials, the project was considered to be on track, and experiences gained in year 1 will certainly contribute to the achievement of the final project outputs.

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Wheat and rice biofortification group meets at Patancheru


Deputy Director of the HarvestPlus Challenge Program, Wolfgang Pfeiffer visited ICRISAT on 06-13 April to discuss with its staff recent changes in the HarvestPlus staffing structure, and to attend the All India Coordinated Rice Workshop.

Coinciding with the visit of Dr Pfeiffer, Director of HarvestPlus-India Biofortification Program, KN Rai organized a one-day group meeting on 11 April for the Indian NARS partners involved in wheat biofortification research, and a one-day group meeting on 12 April for those involved in rice biofortification research.

Five scientists from five institutes participated in the wheat group meeting, while 9 scientists from 4 institutes participated in the rice group meeting. These meetings were follow-up actions after the 07-09 February 2011 meeting organized by HarvestPlus, Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), GoI, in New Delhi.

In both group meetings, participants deliberated on various issues related to micronutrient research thrust areas, micronutrient analysis, and multilocation trials and data validation. In addition, participants discussed high micronutrient germplasm sources and access to these sources, biofortification research capacity building, mainstreaming of biofortification research, likely expansion of such research activities at the Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR) and Directorate of Rice Research (DRR), and high-zinc cultivar identification, release and delivery plans.

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Yes You Can!
Innovating Despite Constraints


A total of 16 scientists and managers participated in the first webinar titled Yes You Can! Innovating Despite Constraints held at Patancheru on 12 April and facilitated by Hector Hernandez of HR & Operations.

David Horth and Dan Buchner, both having over 30 years of experience in design and innovation capabilities working for the US-based Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and Organization Innovation, were the key presenters. The one-hour session focused on four objectives: uncovering insights to inspire innovative ideas, reframing constraints to enable the team to innovate, trying ideas in low-cost risk ways before knowing if they were right, and persuasively demonstrating and selling ideas to others in the organization.

Sponsored by CCL, the participants appreciated the basic content of the webinar, the good examples given by the presenters, the clear-cut demarcation between business as usual and innovative thinking, brilliant ideas of merging constraints and paradoxes to create a new image, and the coherent presentation.

During the session, participants suggested more interactions among the webinar group and the need to get examples closer to the ICRISAT environment. The same webinar will be hosted for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa (WCA) this month.

The webinar is a web-based system – a fast way of learning new innovative materials or information from industry experts – designed for the convenience of managers and specialists alike to fit any time schedule.  It can be either live or on-demand.  For ICRISAT, webinar topics shall be based on the key cultural change areas, shared values and core competencies.

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Niamey bids adieu to Bettina Haussmann

Bettina receives a farewell gift from WCA Director Farid Waliyar.

On 06 April, ICRISAT-Niger held two farewell ceremonies in honor of Bettina IG Haussmann, Principal Scientist, Pearl Millet Improvement and WCA Regional Genebank Management. In the morning, a ceremony attended by all ICRISAT staff was organized at the Sadoré station. In the evening, Bettina had a farewell party at the ICRISAT Training and Visitors Centre (TVC), Niamey, which was attended by around 100 colleagues, partners and friends from ICRISAT, INRAN, IRD, University of Niamey, representatives of NGOs and farmer organizations in Niger, and project partners from NARS and ARIs from Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, India and Germany.

Bettina joined the ICRISAT Sahelian Centre in March 2005. During the six years of her stay, she was very successful in project acquisition and won twice the ICRISAT WCA Resource Mobilizer Award. Her projects covered a whole range of activities from basic research on pearl millet diversity in WCA and genetic resource characterization and conservation to more development-oriented, highly participatory research projects for system’s diversification and efficient technology transfer. With the BMZ-funded project, she was able to revive regional cooperation in pearl millet improvement in the WCA region. All her projects were partnership-based and highly supportive to the partners. Together with INRAN-Niger and Fuma Gaskiya (a farmer organization in Niger), she also won the ICRISAT Outstanding Partnership Award 2010.

In his message, WCA Director Farid Waliyar underlined the high scientific quality of Bettina’s research and the strong partner networks she had been able to establish for the region. Assistant Director Jupiter Ndjeunga reported the first impacts that were clearly visible from the massive seed production and commercialization activities initiated by Bettina especially in Niger and Nigeria. Dr Roger Zangre from INERA (Burkina Faso) underlined Bettina’s significant contribution to regional cooperation, financial support and capacity strengthening dedicated to the national pearl millet breeding programs in the region.

In her farewell speech addressing ICRISAT staff at Sadoré, Bettina encouraged everyone to continue to fully engage in ICRISAT’s work, despite the difficult times Sadoré is currently facing. With the full engagement and dedication of all, she expressed confidence that the station would continue to attract new scientists to serve the poor people in the Sahel, and to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and environmental degradation in the WCA region.

Bettina is leaving ICRISAT to move to Germany to join her family. From there she will continue to support  the crop improvement program at least until end of June 2011. Team ICRISAT thanks Bettina for her significant contribution to ICRISAT and wishes her and her family all the success in future endeavors!

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