No. 1465 6 May 2011

Greening the drylands through microdosing
AGRA Microdose holds evaluation and planning meet in Bamako

Microdosing, Bamako

Microdosing found its way back to the top of the agenda as 22 participants from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger attended the evaluation and planning meeting of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Microdose Project in Bamako on 26-30 April.

Mainstreaming fertilizer microdosing as an important step in increasing food production in the drylands, the participants composed of coordinators of AGRA Microdose, NGOs, extension services and farmer organizations deliberated on scaling out the technique, improving the credit system, and enhancing capacity of smallholder farmers.

ICRISAT-Bamako in Mali, with its various projects on breeding, characterization and fertilization of land as well as installation and promotion of input suppliers, has strong ties with and commitment to AGRA in supporting African governments achieve food security and access to agricultural product markets for smallholder farmers. “In choosing to hold the regional meeting in Mali, you have shown your confidence in the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER),” said Dr Ali Kourouba, Scientific Director of IER, in his inaugural address during the opening ceremony.

The Microdose project evaluation and planning meeting sessions took place under the chairmanship of Dr Andre Bationo, Senior Program Officer of Soil & Health Program (AGRA Accra Office), assisted by Dr Mahamadou Gandah, Regional Program Coordinator AGRA Microdose. Together, they led the presentations and discussions assessing the five main objectives of the three-year program.

The project objectives in the three countries (Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso) are to: (1) scale out the fertilizer microdosing technology among smallholder farmers in the project sites; (2) scale out the inventory credit system (warehouse receipt) to improve access to input and output markets; (3) enhance the capacity of farmers and agro-dealers in integrated soil fertility management; (4) provide science-based solutions to researchable issues backstopping project field activities to improve system performance and sustainability; and (5) document, monitor and assess the impact of the interventions adopted on the livelihood of the smallholder farmers.

The planning meeting included presentations of the work plan by AGRA Country Project Coordinators Dr Jean Baptiste Taonda of Burkina Faso, Mr Diakalia Sogodogo of Mali and Dr Sabiou Mamane of Niger. Presentation and discussion of Communication and Management & Evaluation (M&E) plans with the participants were led by Agathe Diama, Regional Information and Communication Officer and Dr Jupiter Ndjeunga, M&E Specialist.

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Pearl millet training concludes in Patancheru
Demand-driven research and enhanced capacity building urged

Pearlmillet training A Participant receives a certificate from DDG-R Dave Hoisington.

"Research has to be demand-driven and the capacity of those involved in crop improvement research should be enhanced,” stressed DDG-R Dave Hoisington in his address during the final day of the 2nd International Training Course on Pearl Millet Improvement and Seed Production held from 25 April to 3 May at Patancheru. He added that ICRISAT’s commodity-based CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) have given prominence to capacity building of partner institutes to boost the efficiency of crop research programs, and that the training is a step in that direction. He also noted that partnership is an important component of any successful program, and that training provides a platform for scientists across regions to interact and deliver meaningful projects that will ultimately raise the income of smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics. He urged the participants to integrate the technologies learnt during the training into their programs.

A total of 31 trainees from 8 countries (India, Africa and Middle East Asia) participated in the course that covered a wide array of topics on pearl millet improvement and seed production.

Resource persons were drawn from CG centers, the Indian national agricultural research system (NARS), and the private sector. Participants had hands-on experience in crossing techniques and were exposed to pearl millet breeding program in the field. Some also selected breeding lines based on their regional needs.

Pearlmillet training Field visit at Patancheru.

Representing the participants, SP Singh (Indian NARS), Magagi Abdou (WCA), Saoud M Shehab [Western Asia and North Africa (WANA)], and Sachin Vidhale (private sector) spoke on the relevance of the training and appreciated ICRISAT’s efforts in organizing the course.

The training program was primarily funded by the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project, with partial funding from HarvestPlus and the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium. The International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) supported three trainees from the WANA region.

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Food security and improved livelihoods in rainfed areas
ICRISAT assists Philippine NARES map out rainfed agriculture RDE program

RDE Philippine NARES and ICRISAT staff who participated in the workshop to map out a rainfed agriculture RDE program.

Long neglected in the past, rainfed agriculture research has been recently boosted in the Philippines. On 28-29 April, the Philippine national agricultural research and extension system (NARES) mapped out a rainfed agriculture research, development and extension (RDE) program with initial funding from the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the intercession of ICRISAT DG William Dar. Drs KB Saxena, Suhas Wani and Rex Navarro participated in the two-day workshop to develop the program.

Organized by the DA Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) with assistance from ICRISAT, the workshop was attended by more than 100 senior staff of the Philippine NARES. The program will develop, coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation of a vigorous rainfed agriculture RDE program to enhance food, nutrition and energy security, improve livelihoods and empower communities in Philippine rainfed areas. More specifically the program aims to:


  • Adapt, test and promote suitable farming systems and drought-mitigation strategies in Philippine rainfed areas;

  • Increase rainwater use efficiency and water availability in rainfed areas through rainwater conservation and rainwater harvesting interventions;

  • Enhance livelihood opportunities in rainfed communities through the adoption of appropriate income generating activities for women and smallholder farmers;

  • Support the formulation and advocacy of enabling policies and institutional strategies for rainfed areas; and

  • Strengthen capacities and mobilize various stakeholders to harness the full potential of the entire rainfed agriculture value chain.

The program has four components: (1) rainfed farming systems innovation which will develop cutting edge innovations and demonstrate new business and funding models on profitable farming systems for major crops/trees; (2) participatory watershed management which will develop sustainable watershed-soil-environment management systems with and for smallholder farmers; (3) strategic social science and policy research which will generate strategic information to determine impact pathways and guide decision-makers in formulating policies supporting sustainable dryland agriculture; and (4) capacity building, communication and social mobilization which will share timely information and knowledge, strengthen human and institutional capacities, and mobilize partners and stakeholders on the application and utilization of rainfed agriculture innovations and policies.

In the Philippines, agriculture is predominantly rainfed, covering three-fourths of the 10 million hectares of cultivated area. Over the last three decades, the bulk of agricultural RDE investments, policy support and infrastructure development has been devoted to favorable irrigated lowland areas. Yet, dryland agriculture contributes about 40 percent of the total food production in the country.

Pursuing an integrated and unified RDE approach is envisioned to strengthen,invigorate and hasten the development of existing rainfed farming systems. The program will serve as the country’s proactive defense to mitigate drought, land degradation and other risks arising from climate change.

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Improving productivity and livelihoods in the drylands
Tata-ICRISAT-ICAR Model watershed and WUE projects hold review and planning meet

Review meetingWatershed Principal Scientist SP Wani speaking during the review and planning meet.

The Tata-ICRISAT-ICAR Model watershed and water use efficiency (WUE) projects’ review and planning meeting was successfully held at Indore on 20-22 April. More than 70 representatives from consortium partners, namely the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS), Directorate of Soybean (DOS), Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), National Centre for Agro Forestry (NCAF), agricultural universities, NGOs and scientists from ICRISAT participated in the meeting.

During the inaugural session, Dr SK Srivastava, Director, DOS, strongly advocated the research for development approach to increase farmers’ income and improve their livelihoods. Highlighting the importance of water and soil conservation practices in achieving sustainable higher productivity, he expressed his organization’s intent to join the consortium for activities in Madhya Pradesh.

Presenting an overview of 2010-11 project interventions, SP Wani stressed on the importance of the consortium approach in participatory learning and in achieving maximum impact in community development projects. He also showcased success stories on substantial crop productivity increases, income generating activities, and rainwater harvesting and its efficient use in the project areas.

The focus of the presentations during the technical sessions varied from resource management to resource use efficiency and productivity enhancement in different eco-regions of the country.

Some interesting achievements from the project areas include: application of soil test-based nutrient management approach in enhancing crop yields adopted in neighboring non-watershed villages; groundnut variety ICGV 91114 becoming popular in target regions, particularly in Tonk district of Rajasthan; market-driven crop diversification due to availability of more water, particularly in Gumla and Saraikela districts of Jharkhand; and women-centric activities like vermicomposting, Gliricidia nursery, and seed banks promoted across the target regions, as well as biomass generation and recycling for crop productivity and improved quality seeds. In target regions, particularly in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states, complimentary cattle rearing-based livelihoods were enhancing incomes and livelihoods of women farmers through market-oriented development activities.

Scientists from ICRISAT, CRIDA, DOS, CAZRI and NCAF recommended various management strategies to enhance water use efficiency and agricultural productivity in the arid and semi-arid regions. The participants also visited the Ringnodia watershed in Madhya Pradesh showcasing artificial insemination of cattle breeding initiated by BAIF.

participants of meeting


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Delegates from Niger seed multiplication centers and AID visit ICRISAT–Sadoré

ICRISAT Sadore Field visit with ICRISAT Scientist Hassane Bissala.

ICRISAT-Niamey on 28 April received two important delegations from Niger.

First was the visit by the seed multiplication center heads (19 participants) being trained at the National Seed Laboratory of the Niger Agriculture Department. The visit was part of the training session on sampling and analysis of seeds. It gave the students the opportunity to appreciate ICRISAT’s genebank and seed laboratory.

The second group of visitors (14 participants) at Sadoré was composed of representatives from four seed producers’ union of the NGO Appui aux Initiatives des Populations (AID). They came to explore collaboration in the production of improved seed varieties.

Farid Waliyar WCA Director Farid Waliyar addresses the visitors.

In his welcome address to both delegations, WCA Director Farid Waliyar introduced ICRISAT’s mandate and explained the institute’s global and regional partnership. The delegates had a field observation tour/demonstration of the center, particularly on seed multiplication techniques, germination tests, testing of varietal purity, drying method for adequate preservation of seeds, physiological and seed laboratory, and the genebank.



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Groundnut oil project gets the thumbs up from GoI


With groundnut oil surging on sustained demand, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI, has approved funding for the ICRISAT project on “Development and promotion of promising varieties/lines with high yield and high oil content with enhanced O/L ratio for enhancing production and quality of groundnut oil in drought-prone environments to boost the income of small and marginal groundnut farmers in India.” The 4-year project begins in April 2011.

Other project partners include the Directorate of Groundnut Research, Junagadh; Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore; Junagadh Agricultural University; and Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Tirupati.

To develop the workplan for year 1 and finalize the budget allocation to project partners, an informal meeting of all collaborators was held on 20 April at ICRISAT-Patancheru. The ICRISAT team was represented by SN Nigam, P Janila, R Varshney, M Pandey and AGS Reddy. Grain Legume RPD CLL Gowda in his welcome message emphasized that cultivation of groundnut varieties with high oil content will increase the net returns to both farmers and processors, and will consequently revive the groundnut economy in India.

The overall goal of the project is to enhance groundnut oil productivity by promoting cultivation of high-yielding varieties with high oil content with enhanced O/L ratio in rainfed cropping systems. The project will harness both conventional and molecular tools in achieving its objectives. Current groundnut varieties in cultivation generally record an oil content of less than 50%. ICRISAT has recently developed high-yielding groundnut breeding lines with oil content reaching up to 57%.

The project, which will be led by SN Nigam, aims to transfer these varieties to farmer fields, further improve the varieties with high O/L ratio using marker technology, and identify markers for high oil and O/L ratio traits.

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ICRISAT impact stories to be showcased on national TV

Dr S Reddy ICRISAT Scientist S Reddy speaks of the Institute’s success in groundnut research.

A TEAM FROM the national television channel Doordarshan visited ICRISAT on 3 May to cover two impact stories to be telecast in special bulletins for farmers. The crew visited groundnut fields at Patancheru and interviewed ICRISAT experts on India’s booming groundnut production and industry.

The team along with IWMI staff also visited Adarsha watershed in Kothapally village and interviewed local farmers on the impact of the watershed project on their livelihoods. The watershed project has enhanced water-use efficiency in the village through the introduction of drip and furrow irrigation. Vermicomposting by the womens self-help group members has changed the lives of the people in the village.

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