No. 1470 10 June 2011

Research-for-development partnership
ICRISAT forms Alliance with National University of Ireland Galway

MOU NUI Galway President Dr James Browne (left) and ICRISAT DG William Dar (right) sign the Research and Education Alliance MoU with Paula Kenny, Third Secretary, Hunger Unit, Irish Aid (left, standing) and Prof Charles Spillane, Chair of NUI Galway Plant Science and Head of Plant & AgriBiosciences Research (right, standing) witnessing.

ICRISAT and Ireland’s partnership in recent years has made significant impacts in helping improve food security, nutrition and health of the poorest of the poor in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa through agricultural development and social assistance.

Elevating this partnership to a new level, ICRISAT and the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway have just established an Alliance towards a people- and poverty-focused agricultural research and education initiative. This Alliance will synergize the expertise of both parties to conduct plant and agri-biosciences research for poverty reduction in the semi-arid tropics, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Likewise, the Alliance will strengthen collaboration among research groups within the NUI Galway Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Cluster and ICRISAT scientists conducting research particularly on the Institute’s mandate crops to improve smallholder productivity and food security.

In a visit to NUI Galway on 3 June, DG William Dar met with its President, Dr James Browne to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organizations. The MoU stipulates joint undertakings in research-for-development, capacity strengthening and related activities; resource mobilization; access to research opportunities and/or degree programs; and exchange of scientific materials, publications and information.

In signing the MoU, Dr Dar stated that “NUI Galway has a range of research expertise in the fields of plant and agri-biosciences which is highly synergistic with ICRISAT’s scientific programs and humanitarian mandate. The MoU builds on the existing research links between NUI Galway and ICRISAT in order to forge a more powerful research alliance to advance food security and sustainability goals in the dryland tropics.”

Outlining a path through which ICRISAT and Ireland, particularly through Irish Aid and NUI Galway, can better work together, Dr Dar delivered a keynote lecture on Harnessing research partnerships toward a prosperous, food secure and resilient dryland tropics. His lecture was part of a range of presentations from scientists and experts within the NUI Galway Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Cluster.

During his visit in Dublin, Dr Dar also met with Frank Flood and Paula Kenny, officials from the Hunger Unit of Irish Aid as well as with Dale Crammond from the Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Dr Dar emphasized that the Alliance with NUI Galway will help further advance the goals of Irish Aid in relation to the Hunger Task Force recommendations to improve smallholder productivity and reduce malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2009, ICRISAT launched the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project with significant support from Irish Aid. Around 395,000 farmers have benefited from the project by having access to certified groundnut and pigeonpea seeds.

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Fourth annual review meeting
Evaluating candidate genes for drought tolerance in chickpea

Chickpea meeting

The 4th Annual Review Meeting of the project Evaluating candidate genes towards enhancement of drought tolerance in chickpea funded by the National Fund for Basic, Strategic and Frontier Application Research in Agriculture (NFBSFARA) was held on 8 June at ICRISAT-Patancheru.

In his inaugural address, DDG-R Dave Hoisington outlined the importance of the crop improvement project, and acknowledged the contribution and support of the chickpea community worldwide that facilitated the development of genomic resources in the crop. He added that chickpea will be an orphan crop only if the community was unable to apply the genome information.

Prof JP Khurana, Chairman, Internal Peer Review Committee spoke on the essence of collaboration and consortium that was established to dissect the complex phenomenon of drought tolerance in chickpea by using functional genomics, structural genomics and reverse genetics tools, involving three leading research centers in India – ICRISAT, Patancheru; the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB), New Delhi; and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi.

Further deliberations on the project’s 4th year progress were made by Drs Srinivasan (NRCPB), Rajeev Varshney (ICRISAT), and Bharadwaj and J Kumar (IARI). Drs Bandyopadhyay, JP Khurana and Dwivedi evaluated the project’s achievements identifying issues to be focused on for the remaining one year of the project. The meeting was attended by other co-investigators of cooperating centers and project personnel including Drs PM Gaur, Mainassara Zaman Allah, M Thudi, K Hima Bindu, Trushar Shah, Rachit Saxena, Manish Pandey, Mr Manish Roorkiwal, Ms Sowmya and Ms Deepa.

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Focus on value-chain approach
Tanzania hosts workshop on enhancing commercialization of finger millet and sorghum

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

The value chain approach converges social and economic dimensions with crop improvement and production systems and creates opportunities by bringing special attention to postharvest and marketing issues.

Recognizing the importance of the value-chain approach, Tanzania’s Department of Research Development (DRD), ICRISAT and the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project held a training workshop on Enhancing the commercialization of finger millet and sorghum productivity in Tanzania on 1-3 June.

The workshop was attended by 30 participants, which included 10 women, from farmers’ groups (15), agro-dealers (4) extension and (5) grain processors (2), seed company (1) and research (3) involved in the finger millet and sorghum value chain from Tanzania HOPE project’s mandate districts of Rombo, Singida, Kondoa, Iramba and Kishapu.

The workshop aimed at empowering participants involved in the finger millet and sorghum value chain segments to: map and carry out business plans, keep records, determine grain prices, form and sustain collective marketing groups, and access market information and credit to improve profitability and efficiency in finger millet and sorghum farming. The sessions also initiated useful linkages between and among the various actors in the value chain.

In his opening address, Sostences Kweka, Deputy Director, Selien Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) underlined the importance of using the value chain approach in research and development to achieve improved efficiency and in enhancing the commercialization and adoption of improved technologies.

One of the major constraints identified by the participants was the insufficient supply of high-quality seed. As reported by the proprietor of Nyirefarm, a grain processing company in Arusha, the productivity of finger millet and sorghum is not optimized due to inadequate supply of quality seeds. While most farmers buy their seeds from the informal market, they were willing to pay a premium price for certified seeds. The farmers also expressed interest in acquiring a suitable grain thresher for both sorghum and finger millet. HOPE project promised to follow up on the threshers and certified seeds of improved varieties in order to enhance delivery of quality grain to Nyirefarm and other processors.

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Stakeholder consultation on adaptation strategies to climate change

As part of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded project on Vulnerability to climate change: Adaptation strategies and layers of resilience, the Field Crops Research Institute (FCRI) of Thailand and ICRISAT jointly organized a stakeholder consultation on 31 May and a policy dialogue on 1 June in Bangkok, Thailand.

Climate Change meeting

Mr Dumrong Jirasutat, DDG, Department of Agriculture (DOA), Thailand inaugurated the stakeholder consultation while MCS Bantilan, MIP Program Director briefed the participants on the scope, objectives and outputs of the project. Dr Seree Supparatit, Managing Director of the Sirinthorn International Environmental Park delivered the keynote address.

Presentations on issues related to climatic variability and vulnerability, impact of climate change on rice and cassava, farmers’ perception and adaptation to climate change, modeling the impact of climate change, and policy directives for climate resilient agriculture were presented by scientists from Thailand and ICRISAT.

Various farmers from the study villages of Chokchai and Chatturat districts of Thailand also participated in the discussions and reiterated their needs to address climate variability. Delegates from international agencies such as ADB, World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) also participated in the meeting. 

The policy dialogue was attended by key players from Thailand’s policy and planning organizations. Advisor to Thailand’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr Jesada Kaewkullaya, delivered the keynote address. Emerging policy suggestions based on the research findings of the project were likewise presented.

ICRISAT was represented in the event by Dr Bantilan, Naveen Singh, Piara Singh, MVR Murty, Nedumaran Swamikannu and Byjesh Kattarkandi.

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Malawi farmers benefit from improved groundnut varieties

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

Farmers in the Kasungu District of Malawi are experiencing the impact of ICRISAT’s efforts in improving livelihood opportunities in the area through the introduction of improved groundnut varieties. This was observed by the team of CLL Gowda, ES Monyo, Senior Scientific Officer Harvey Charlie, and CARE Malawi Monitoring and Evaluation Officer Clement Bisai at a gathering in Tililimodzi and Tchesa Farmers’ Field Schools (FFS) in Traditional Authorities (TAs) Mwase and Kaomba on 21 May 2011.

ICRISAT, in collaboration with the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) Malawi and the Sumader Association of Family Entrepreneurs (SAFE), implemented a three-year project Support to vulnerable groups to achieve food security to improve and sustain food security for the poor in three selected TAs of Kasungu District, namely Njombwa, Kaomba and Mwase. The project contributed towards building the capacity of farmers through various interventions ranging from community seed banks, recommended cultural practices for groundnut production and linking them to markets.

Malawi Participants from Tililimodzi Farmers’ Field School in TA Mwase discussing the project impacts with CLL Gowda.

“Since the project started, I have been able to multiply seeds on my own through ICRISAT’s assistance and for the past two years, have been harvesting 16 bags of 40-kg each of high yielding groundnut variety from the same piece of land I used to harvest only 4 bags with my traditional variety,” said Mrs Janet Tenganani, a 67 year old farmer. She added that she uses the proceeds from the groundnut produce to pay school fees for her two grandchildren. According to her, the high yielding potential of ICRISAT’s groundnut variety ICGV-SM 90704 (Nsinjiro) has really transformed her life in just a short period of time. ICGV-SM 90704 is a medium duration variety, which yields around 2 t/ha and is resistant to groundnut rosette disease.

Village headman Malangano also noted that the introduction of improved groundnut varieties has reinvented groundnut production in his area, referring to ICGV-SM 90704 and ICGV-SM 99568, which are slowly replacing areas planted to local Chalimbana and tobacco.

The visit was primarily aimed at assessing the short- and medium-term benefits of the CARE Malawi/ ICRISAT-SAFE project that concluded on 31 March.

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ICRISAT learner-participants bag IFAR fellowships


Of the 40 qualified applications received by the International Forum for Agricultural Research (IFAR) board for 2011, 13 were awarded with the fellowships based on the panel’s recommendations. Out of 13 winners, 3 awards were received by ICRISAT learner-participants namely: R Pushpavalli (to receive the Ravi Tadvalkar Fellowship), Egamberdieva Dilfuza and Sameera Sastry. Each awardee will get a grant amount of US$ 11,000 including $1,000 for books, journals or equipments.

IFAR annually provides small grants to professionals from the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in developing countries. The award given to the youngest woman grantee each year will be designated as the Ravi Tadvalkar Memorial Scholarship, in recognition his many contributions to the organization as IFAR’s first treasurer and secretary, his commitment to capacity building in developing countries, and his concern about diversity and gender issues.

IFAR also manages the IFAR Wilfried Thalwitz Scholarship established in his memory by the family and friends of the late CGIAR Chair for research linked with CGIAR centers.

Nominations for these awards must be sponsored by CGIAR Centers, and the work programs proposed by applicants must be closely linked with the program of a specific center. Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with Center scientists when preparing their project proposals for submission to IFAR.

This year the nominations were evaluated by an international panel composed of Kanta Mohapatra (Chair) Principal Scientist, Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture, India; Manuel Lantin, Scientific Adviser, CGIAR Fund Office; and Harry Palmier, Senior Partnership Officer, Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR).


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