No. 1469 03 June 2011

Pursuing purposeful partnerships
ICRISAT shares PPP model in Zurich workshop

pearlmillet (From left to right) Lloyd Le Page, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers; Marco Ferroni, Executive Director of Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture; and DG William Dar during the PPP workshop in Zurich, Switzerland.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are a progressive way of widening stakeholder access to innovations, enhancing product development and linking farmers to markets. By coming together, the private and public sectors are better synergized to address contemporary challenges related to poverty and food security in the developing world.

Aiming to further strengthen ICRISAT’s Public-private partnerships (PPP) to stimulate agricultural investment and innovation, DG William Dar joined a two-day high-level workshop on Public-private partnerships for agricultural innovation: removing the barriers held in Oerlikon, Zurich, Switzerland on 31 May – 1 June.

Sponsored by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), in association with the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers and the Global Access to Technology for Development (GATD), the workshop brought together global experts and stakeholders to discuss options for the creation and launch of a PPP innovation platform. The said platform includes several fundamental elements to generate more productive and innovative PPPs such as linking and networking prospective partners; identifying innovative solutions that will support Intellectual Property Rights, enabling resource poor farmers to access proprietary technology and overcoming misconceptions about public goods, IP and technology ownership; and providing financial incentives for public and private partners.

Attended by CGIAR representatives, private agribusiness/seed and agriculture and food companies, apex bodies, NARS, international donors, and non-profit finance organizations, workshop deliberations revolved around current perspectives and challenges in PPP, identifying and removing barriers by generating solutions and options, and mapping out a PPP innovation platform.

There was a consensus during the workshop to pursue the creation of a public-private partnership facility for smallholder agriculture using a value chain approach tied up with funding mechanism. It was also agreed that an inventory of existing successful PPPs must be done for upscaling the more successful ones. Syngenta Foundation and IDRC will move this process forward.

During the discussions, Dr Dar shared ICRISAT’s lessons and experiences in three successful cases of PPP: the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC); the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP); and the Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC).

As the precursor of the Institute’s PPP initiatives and the first of its kind in the entire CGIAR system, HPRC’s contribution in enabling small-scale farmers gain access to high-yielding hybrid cultivars was highly recognized and appreciated by the workshop participants. The Sorghum and Pearl Millet HPRC was formed in 2000, with the goal to increase the scope of accessibility to better hybrids by the poor farmer through effective public-private partnerships. With HPRC, ICRISAT conducts basic research on germplasm diversification and enhancement. Diverse hybrid parents are then shared with partners, including private-sector seed companies, who select useful parental lines, test hybrid combinations and choose promising hybrids for niche markets. Seed companies then mass produce seed of promising hybrids, market seed of hybrids using the vast network of dealers in rural areas, and thereby enable small-scale farmers get access to high-yielding hybrid cultivars.

In 2004, the HPRC consortia arrangement was modified to consist of three crops: sorghum, pearl millet and pigeonpea. Under this arrangement, each private sector member provides a small grant each year for sorghum, pearl millet and pigeonpea for a five-year period. Currently, half of India’s 8.5 m ha of sorghum is planted to hybrids, with 30 of the more than 50 commercial hybrids based on ICRISAT-bred lines. About 60% of 10 m ha of pearl millet is planted to hybrids, with 60 out of 85 commercial hybrids based on ICRISAT-bred lines.

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Breaking the poverty cycle in the drylands
Tropical legumes improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia


Greater production and productivity of tropical legumes is improving the lives of people in the drylands. Through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)-funded project on Tropical Legumes, improved crop cultivars and management are enhancing food and nutrition security and farmers’ income leading to improved livelihood in drought-prone areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

During the first three years of this initiative popularly called Tropical Legumes (TL-II) project, participating NARS released as many as 40 varieties of legumes, and produced over 93,000 metric tons of improved legume variety seeds. An estimated 9.6 million households have benefited from the project through access to seed of improved varieties under the fast-track participatory varietal selection and accelerated seed production and distribution system. More than 51,000 extension staff and farmers have been reached through formal training programs, farmer field schools, field days and seed fairs.

TL-II is a multi-institute project involving the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and ICRISAT. It is also a multi-country initiative involving  national agricultural research systems (NARS) in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in ESA; Mali, Niger and Nigeria in WCA; and India. Moreover, it includes advanced research institutions (ARIs), private sector companies, civil society organizations (CSOs) and  farming communities. TL-II also collaborates with other donor-funded projects on legumes in all participating regions/countries for optimum synergy and complementation.

On 16-18 May, representatives from partner institutes, national programs, and other donor-funded projects met for the WCA Regional Planning Meeting held at IITA Campus, Ibadan, Nigeria. During the meeting, the progress of Phase 1 activities was reviewed and the plan for Phase 2 was drawn up. National partners from Mali, Niger and Nigeria also presented their respective draft country strategy for legumes.

The ESA Regional Meeting, meanwhile, was held at Lilongwe, Malawi on 22-25 May. The meeting was inaugurated by Ms Margaret Loka Mauwa, Hon. Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Malawi. Aside from ICRISAT, IITA and CIAT scientists, national partners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe joined the meeting, as well as representatives of other partners, namely Soil Health/AGRA, PASS/AGRA, GCP, N2Africa, SIMLESA, P4P/WFP and FAO.

David Bergvinson, Senior Program Officer, BMGF, addressed the participants of the meeting via teleconference. ICRISAT was represented by Drs Dave Hoisington, CLL Gowda, Cynthia Bantilan, Tsedeke Abate, SN Nigam, BR Ntare, J Ndjeunga, Hakim Abejige at the WCA meeting; and Tsedeke Abate, SN Silim, ES Monyo, Moses Siambi, Alastair Orr, Dave Harris, N Gangarao, Franklin Simtowe, Kai Maush, and Isabel Vales at the ESA meeting.

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Malawi farmers benefit from ICRISAT-NASFAM- McKnight Foundation project

Sibiry CLL Gowda and farmers around a ventilated stack (Mandela cork) of groundnuts in the field.

Now in its second phase of implementation, the McKnight Foundation-funded Collaborative Crops Research Program (CCRP) in ICRISAT-Malawi has made significant impacts on the livelihoods of Malawian farmers, particularly in the District of Mchinji. This was reported by CLL Gowda, Program Director for Grain Legumes, based on his recent visit to the site.

The project, initiated in August 2006, was implemented by ICRISAT and the National Smallholder Farmers Association in Malawi (NASFAM). It successfully developed community seed banks; trained NASFAM field officers, government extension officers, lead farmers and other stakeholders on various aspects of groundnut production; carried out technology demonstrations on the management of aflatoxin and groundnut rosette disease; and involved farmers in participatory variety selection.

According to Chrispin Phiri, a farmer of Mvunguti club, only 5 out of 30 members were beneficiaries of the “seed pass-on” program, but by the end of the third year, all members had access to sufficient seeds to plant one hectare each of groundnut. 

The project was also instrumental in establishing another club which provided 33 members access to seeds of improved varieties. Similar successes have been reported in all the 90 clubs participating in the program in Mchinji. These clubs are now able to supply an average of 10 tons of seed of improved groundnut varieties to ICRISAT’s Seed Revolving Fund.

Majority of the farmers in the target area are now raising a minimum of 0.5 ha of groundnut of the improved variety Nsinjiro (ICGV-SM 90704) through the program, compared to 0.1-0.2 ha before the project started. By cultivating improved groundnut varieties, women farmers reported a reduction in malnutrition diseases among their children. They are now also able to meet hospital costs, pay school fees and fulfill other domestic needs.

Stella Fenodi, a farmer, was able to buy several goats as well as five bags of fertilizer for her maize farm through earnings from groundnuts in the last two years; she is now planning to purchase a cow. Farmers expressed appreciation of the project’s “learning by doing” approach as having far-reaching results, encouraging other neighboring non-member farmers to get involved.

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CFC-FAO-ICRISAT biofuel project meeting held

THE FIRST ANNUAL REVIEW MEETING of the CFC-FAO-funded project on Enhanced livelihood opportunities of smallholders in Asia: Linking smallholder sweet sorghum farmers with the bioethanol industry was held in Manila, Philippines on 24-25 May, facilitated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD).

Among those who participated in the meeting were ICRISAT scientists and partners from China, India and the Philippines. Chairing the inaugural session, Jocelyn Eusebio, Director, Crops Research Division, PCARRD, emphasized the need for farmers, industry and policymakers to work in tandem to develop a sustainable sweet sorghum for ethanol value chain. Acknowledging the challenging nature of the project, FAO representative Astrid Agostini hoped that lessons from the project would help in shaping biofuel policies and value chain.

Ashok Kumar, ICRISAT Senior Sorghum Breeder, presented a summary of the project results from China and India during year 1. The technical session on program reports saw presentations by SS Ambekar, (MAU), Ch Ravinder Reddy (ICRISAT), Zou Jiangin (SRI, China) and Alfred Hui (ethanol distillery owner, China). Parthasarathy Rao and Basavaraj (ICRISAT) made presentations on the project program in India and China, featuring industry experiences, baseline and socioeconomic characterization of target areas, gender issues and biofuel policies in both countries. Day 2 involved developing workplans for year 2. The plenary session saw a thorough discussion of the workplan, its finetuning and its approval at the Steering Committee meeting.

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Welcome and Adieu


Alina Paul Bossuet and Jérôme Bossuet joined ICRISAT-Patancheru on 1 June as Marketing Communication and Multi-media Specialists. Alina and Jérôme will be jointly sharing this position.


Alina, born in Kolkatta, India, is a British national. She has an Honors Degree in Human Sciences from the University of Oxford. She has extensive experience and expertise in on-line, print and broadcast media outreach; website designing and content development; preparing brochures, media materials, newsletters, videos, photography; and PR strategy, campaigns and social media. She managed award-winning PR campaigns and as an independent Public Relations Consultant she prepared photo-essays and radio projects for the BBC World Service and BBC News Online, Geographical Magazine, and New Internationalist. She worked with the BBC, The Times, Independent, Observer and Herald, NDTV, Metro TV and Reuters Alertnet for her online media outreach projects.


Jérôme, a French national, has a Masters of Sciences (life sciences, economics, engineering, social and human sciences) degree from the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon. He has been an independent consultant in international development program evaluation and fundraising. He has extensive experience and expertise in international development program management and coordination, project monitoring and evaluation, rural development through participatory approach, capacity building, and networking and liaison with donors, government, private and non-profit sectors.


L Suri Naidu, an Indian national, joined ICRISAT on 30 May as Special Project Scientist to work on Groundwater Hydrology and Remote Sensing/GIS for IWMI based at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

Naidu has a Masters Degree in Hydrology from Andhra University, India.  Before joining ICRISAT, he worked as Project Assistant at the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, India on the study of surface and groundwater measurement, recharge estimation, pollution, etc, for assessment and management. 

We welcome Alina, Jérôme and Naidu to Team ICRISAT and wish them all success.



V Balaji, who joined ICRISAT in May 2001, left his post as Program Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation on 31 May. 

Expressing his contentment during his term at ICRISAT, he said in a message, “It is with deepest regret that I am leaving ICRISAT. I consider             the time I spent at ICRISAT to be the most memorable part of my career. When I joined ICRISAT in 2001, the turnaround was just beginning. By 2011, ICRISAT has emerged as one of the largest centers in the Consortium, and has the biggest budget ever in its long history. Such a remarkable transformation has been brought about by a determined Director General (DG) who leads a dedicated set of staff constituting Team ICRISAT. I am glad I had an opportunity to be a part of ICRISAT when this impressive and far-reaching change took place. My family and I are grateful to the DG and to Team ICRISAT for their trust, advice and support on all occasions. I keenly look forward to continued association with colleagues here through new collaboration. I wish the DG and the Institute continued success.”

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