No. 1472 24 June 2011

Towards a food secure world
USAID’s Feed the Future initiative begins in Zambia

Feed the Future initiative ICRISAT’s Dr Sam Njoroge (right) discussing efforts to develop, promote and commercialize aflatoxin mitigation practices in groundnut in Zambia.

The Feed the Future (FTF) initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) seeks to combat food insecurity in the developing world by investing in agricultural research and rural development. It is part of the US government’s approach to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger by 2015.

A two-day meeting representing the first step towards a full-fledged initiative to reduce hunger in Zambia was held in Chisamba on 20-22 June. The meeting was organized by the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) to bring all project stakeholders and CG Centers up to speed on the six concept notes that would be featured under the FTF initiative.

ICRISAT is involved in two out of the six concept notes submitted for Zambia. The I-FINITE project aims to improve groundnut farmer incomes and nutrition through innovation and technology enhancement. Another project aims to develop, promote and commercialize aflatoxin mitigation practices in maize and groundnut value chains. Both of these projects will work in the Eastern Province.

The other concept notes focus on combating Vitamin A deficiency through the integration of orange-fleshed sweet potato, disseminating pro-vitamin A maize, improving cassava production and mitigating cassava disease threats, and the sustainable intensification of maize-legume systems. Most of these projects also focus on the Eastern Province though a few of them will also work in other parts of Zambia.

The meeting brought together around 50 participants representing various CGIAR organizations, universities, the Zambian government, the private sector as well as representatives from USAID. Dr Richard Kamona, Director of ZARI, opened the meeting. “It is heartening to be a part of this consultation on the FTF program funded by the USAID,” he said. “These food security research projects will support Zambia’s CAADP implementation and the results from this work will last for a long time in Zambia.”

Alexis Jones of USAID provided the participants with information on the FTF initiative. “The food price crises in 2007-2008 made the long-term challenge of feeding a growing population part of the agenda of policymakers,” she said. She also described the FTF global research portfolio which invests in IPGs in three areas: advancing the productivity frontier, transforming key production systems, and enhancing nutrition and food safety through agriculture.

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Strengthening ties with US partners

DG William Dar and RPM Director Peter Ninnes have been in Washington DC between 20 to 24 June for a series of meetings and engagements with donors, partners and other stakeholders.

The first stop was USAID, where they met with Rob Bertram, Director of the USAID Bureau for Food Security’s Office of Agricultural Research and Transformation and other senior staff to outline the new USAID strategy based on the Feed the Future initiative being led with passion and enthusiasm by Dr Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator. During the meeting, Dr Dar used the opportunity to highlight the importance of the two ICRISAT-led CRPs (Grain Legume Value Alliance and Dryland Cereals). The new USAID strategy favors ICRISAT’s work on legumes and dryland cereals and is also focused on regions and systems in which the Institute has a strong presence. For instance, the Sudano-Sahelian zone is a priority that is at the core of ICRISAT’s work in west and central Africa. Other focus regions and systems include the Indo-Gangetic Plains, the Ethiopian highlands, and maize-mixed systems (including legumes) in eastern and southern Africa.

Drs Dar and Ninnes also met with Dr Jonathan Wadsworth who has recently been appointed as Head of the Fund Office and had some fruitful discussions around the CRPs and donor intentions for the operation of the Fund. Much work remains to be done to fully implement the fund under the auspices of the World Bank and within its working regulatory environment. However, the Fund Office is committed to delivering tangible outcomes and to working with the CG Centers to help ensure smooth work implementation during the reform process.

On 21 June, Drs Dar and Ninnes were privileged to attend the announcement of the World Food Prize Laureates for 2011 at the Benjamin Franklin Room of the US State Department. In lieu of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who was scheduled but unable to attend, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack presided over the proceedings along with other speakers including US Undersecretary of Economics, Energy and Agriculture, Robert Hormats; USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah; and Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn, World Food Prize President. Awarded the Laureates for 2011 are former presidents John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil.

Drs Dar and Ninnes also participated in a Feed the Future Forum organized for the US research community by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) under the patronage of USAID and USDA and with contributions from a number of US agencies in what is being referred to as a “whole of government” approach to the pressing issues of food and nutritional security across twenty priority developing countries for the US aid program. Many of the issues discussed and proposed pathways for impact resonate with ICRISAT’s new strategy, especially the theme of linking smallholder farmers to markets. It was also a great opportunity to meet with partners in the US academic community and to reinforce relationships with a number of universities and CRSP programs.

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ICRISAT trains agricultural research and extension staff in Asmara, Eritrea


ICRISAT in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) of Eritrea organized a four-day training for agricultural research and extension staff in Eritrea on 14-18 June, as part of the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets project. The HOPE project aims to improve sorghum productivity in the three zones of western lowlands, highlands and eastern lowlands of Eritrea.

Twenty five participants underwent training on participatory varietal selection (PVS) approaches, sorghum and pearl millet seed production, and integrated Striga and pest and disease management, from ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) staff Patrick Audi, McDonald Bright Jumbo and Eric Manyasa.

Focus group discussions zeroed in on major production constraints in the three regions, namely drought and lack of sorghum seed of improved varieties as well as Striga in the western lowlands. Early-maturing sorghum varieties were most preferred by farmers. ICRISAT variety ICSV 111 IN was favored in the western lowlands and highlands while Hijery was most preferred in the eastern lowlands. Striga resistance was the chosen trait in the western lowlands; palatability, high stalk yield and ratoonability in the eastern lowlands; and disease resistance in the western lowlands and highlands.

The response to the workshop was overwhelming, with participants recommending the use of demonstration plots/field days and radio as the best channels for promoting improved sorghum technologies. They also expressed their interest for ICRISAT to publish a user’s manual on PVS and participatory technology delivery mechanisms.

In his closing remarks, NARI Director General Dr Iyassu G Tatios thanked ICRISAT for its support in improving food security in Eritrea, particularly through the release of six sorghum and three pearl millet varieties.

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Improving smallholder farmers’ access to seeds
ICRISAT-WASA Seed Project holds pre-season workshop in Nigeria

The West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA) project works towards establishing a sustainable commercial seed industry capable of ensuring that smallholder farmers have affordable, timely and reliable access to high quality seeds and planting materials.


On 7-8 June, a two-day pre-season workshop was organized by the ICRISAT-WASA Seed Project (SP) at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Nigeria. This workshop reviewed project accomplishments with partners in 2010 and mapped out its workplan for 2011.

In his welcome address, Prof Isa Onu representing the Director of IAR, highlighted the basic problems of the Nigeria seed industry such as poor quality seeds, weak marketing channels, low yields and shortage of trained manpower. He also expressed satisfaction at the WASA-SP’s success in addressing these concerns.

The review focused on hybrid seed development; demonstration of popular varieties marketed by seed companies; marketing support linkage program; sourcing of breeder and foundation seed for seed companies; special training on application of DUS and VCU testing; policy advocacy; and capacity building for seed producers, agro-dealers, and quality control officers, among others.

Reports of hybrid trials conducted in 2010 were on maize, sorghum, vegetables and millet. Presentations were made on variety release committee requirements, with participating seed companies and the distribution of seed samples for 2011 trials and demonstrations.


The workshop was attended by 66 participants from the National Institute for Horticultural Research (NIHORT), Ibadan; National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Ibadan; National Rice and Maize Centre, Ibadan; Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Maiduguri; Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Samaru-Zaria; representatives of Agricultural Development Programs from Benue State and Federal Capital Territory, (FCT); agro-dealers from Kano, Katsina, Zamfara, FCT, Kaduna and Benue States; Premier Seed Nigeria Limited, Zaria; Da-allgreen Seed Nig. Ltd., Zaria; Manoma Seed Nig. Ltd., Funtua; Maslaha Seed Nig. Ltd., Gusau; the Seed Project Co. Ltd., Kano and Nagari Seed Nig. Ltd., Zaria.

ICRISAT Country Representative Hakeem Ajeigbe spoke on ICRISAT’s renewed presence in Nigeria with its country office in Kano as well as partner support to the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) and Tropical Legumes II projects.

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ABI-ICRISAT shares PPP model at DOR stakeholders’ meeting

ICRISAT shared its models on engaging the private sector to accelerate the adoption and impact of research innovations during the stakeholders’ meeting on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) in the Oilseeds Business. Organized by the Directorate of Oilseeds Research (DOR), the meeting was held on 14 June at Rajendranagar, Hyderabad, and was attended by over 30 delegates from the seed, biofuel and bio-products industry, processing companies, the academe and NGOs.

ICRISAT was represented in the meeting by Karuppanchetty and Purushotham from the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program. During his presentation on Technology commercialization initiatives @ ABI-ICRISAT, Karuppanchetty highlighted ABI’s various incubation models and partnership opportunities through co-business incubation.

DOR Director Vara Prasad also presented the Directorate’s programs and activities, and expressed interest in collaborating with ICRISAT in commercializing DOR technologies through the various PPP modes of ABI.

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Communicating biotechnology
Colloquium on demystifying crop biotechnology for the Asian media


Scientists and world leaders believe that crop biotechnology holds the key to food security and poverty reduction in the developing world. Yet, public misunderstanding about biotechnology due to lack of science-based information poses a big challenge in harnessing its full potential.

Understanding and enhancing the role of the media in communicating crop biotechnology will be the focus of a media colloquium on Demystifying Crop Biotechnology: Issues and Concepts for the Asian Media. To be held on 27 June 2011 at the Taj Krishna Hotel, Hyderabad and ICRISAT-Patancheru, the event will be part of the 20th annual conference of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) on 24-27 June 2011.

The colloquium is jointly organized by AMIC, ICRISAT, the Department of Biotechnology-Government of India (DBT-GOI), and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA).

Being the primary source of scientific information, the media plays a crucial role in communicating crop biotechnology. This role should be optimally harnessed to inform, educate and mobilize the public as an enlightened user of crop biotechnology products and decision makers to come up with supportive policies.

“Armed with information on the tremendous opportunities offered by crop biotechnology in enhancing food security, agricultural production and yield, reducing poverty, improving livelihoods and promoting a nation’s growth, the media will help consumers better understand and support agri-biotechnology,” says ICRISAT DG William Dar.

Biotechnology and communication experts will participate in the colloquium to share contemporary challenges, issues and concerns related to crop biotechnology, as well as enhance the appreciation and understanding of media practitioners and researchers on the subject. The first part of the colloquium will be held in the morning of 27 June at the Taj Krishna Hotel while the second part will be in the afternoon at PTTC in ICRISAT-Patancheru.

In the first part of the colloquium, Dr Clive James, ISAAA Chair and renowned biotechnology expert, will speak on Global State of Crop Biotechnology. DG Dar will deliver the inaugural address while Prof Ang Peng Hwa, Chairman of AMIC and Mr SR Rao, Advisor to DBT-GOI, will deliver special addresses. The second part will be devoted to a tour of PTTC at the ICRISAT campus and a dialogue with the media.

An apex media event in Asia, AMIC’s conference draws over 300 delegates across the globe annually, including media scholars, communication practitioners, media industry professionals, policymakers, researchers and academicians. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, its annual conference will be held for the first time in Hyderabad, India with the theme “Taking Stock of Media and Communication Studies: The Challenges and Opportunities of Globalization, New Media and the Rise of Asia.”

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