No. 1477 29 July 2011

Andhra Pradesh and ICRISAT
Partners in Inclusive Market-Oriented Development

(From left to right) Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, DG William Dar, HRO Director Hector Hernandez and FETS Program Leader Prabhakar Reddy in a meeting to further strengthen AP and ICRISAT partnership.

Almost four decades since ICRISAT was established, the Institute and the Government of Andhra Pradesh have been actively working together to end poverty, hunger and environmental degradation in the State. Working mainly in the northern, central and southern districts, the partnership has generated pro-poor agricultural innovations and investments that enhanced agricultural productivity and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

To renew their commitment as partners in Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD), Director General William Dar met with Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy on 26 July at the latter’s office in Hyderabad.

Accompanied by HRO Director Hector Hernandez and FETS Program Leader Prabhakar Reddy, Dr Dar expressed gratitude to the Chief Minister for his Government’s hospitality and steadfast support to ICRISAT for almost 40 years. The partnership has allowed ICRISAT to conduct global, high-quality and impact-oriented research-for-development, but adaptable to and directly benefiting the State and India.

The Chief Minister, on the other hand, recognized ICRISAT’s contribution in empowering dryland agricultural communities and building long-term resilience in the State. In the last 5 years, AP has recorded a growth of 7.5%, much higher than the Indian Planning Commission’s target of 4% for the agricultural sector. The State which depends mainly on rainfed agriculture, achieved this level of growth by mobilizing agricultural innovations despite the challenges of drought, unpredictable rains and floods in recent years.

To date, a total of 185 high-yielding, disease- and pest-resistant ICRISAT varieties of sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut have been released in India, and many of these are adapted in AP.

ICRISAT scientists have also given groundnut farmers in Anantapur district new hope through farmer-participatory on-farm varietal selection of nine groundnut varieties. The average yield of ICGV 91114, the variety most preferred by farmers, is 23% more than other common varieties and provides 36% larger returns per hectare.

About 80% of the chickpea area in AP is cultivated with improved varieties developed by ICRISAT and Indian NARS, ushering in a revolution in chickpea production in the State. AP, once considered a low productive State for chickpea due to its warm and short-season environments, now has the highest yield levels in India, recording a 9.3-fold increase in production (from 95,000 to 884,000 t) in the past 10 years because of 4-fold increase in area (163,000 to 628,000 ha) and 2.5-fold increase in yield levels (583 to 1407 kg ha-1).

Following the success of the Adarsha watershed model in Ranga Reddy district, the Government of AP has joined forces with ICRISAT to scale up the concept to 150 watersheds covering five districts which aims to increase crop productivity by up to 120%.

To facilitate the creation of competitive agri-business enterprises through technology development and commercialization, ICRISAT established the Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP) at ICRISAT with the Government of AP in 2003.

The partnership between AP and ICRISAT makes for an exciting synergy toward ending poverty and hunger not only in the State but also in 55 dryland countries where more than 600 million of the world’s poorest live.

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Maize-pigeonpea intercrop showcased at Tanzania field day

Hai District Commissioner Mr Norman Sigala describing the benefits of maize-pigeonpea intercropping to journalists.

A major effort is underway to improve productivity and market linkages of smallholder pigeonpea farmers in Tanzania. As part of this effort, the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) based in Arusha in collaboration with ICRISAT conducted a field day on 6 July in Mungushi village, Hai District of Kilimanjaro Region, under the aegis of the AGRA-funded project on “Improving soil fertility, productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Tanzania through intensification and diversification of pigeonpea cropping systems.”

The field day aimed at demonstrating maize-pigeonpea (ICEAP 00040) intercropping on a 10-acre plot that had been managed by applying 20 kg of P-based fertilizer (microdosing) to optimize yield. The plot is owned by the Lutheran Church, which is working closely with SARI.

The field day was attended by 384 people – farmers, traders, government officials, and journalists; ICRISAT scientists Ganga Rao and Stephen Lyimo; and Rose Ubwe, Frank Mmbando and Philemon Mushi from SARI.

A lunch of dishes made from pigeonpea at the field day.

In his remarks, guest of honor Hai District Commissioner Mr Norman Sigala thanked AGRA for funding the project and sought further support to sustain productivity in the region. He urged the farmers to adopt maize-pigeonpea intercropping for better land use. ICRISAT scientist Ganga Rao also informed participants of the various ICRISAT-bred improved pigeonpea varieties available at SARI. He also highlighted strategies to promote formal and informal seed production and delivery systems to sustain quality seed availability of farmer-preferred pigeonpea varieties. After the field day, Ganga Rao visited the on-station experiments at SARI (trials and seed multiplication plots) and on-farm experiments at Babati, Kondoa and Karatu districts.

Women farmers check out the seeds on display.
Eight farmers who participated in the trials shared their experiences on how they were able to harvest 25 bags of maize per acre (up from 8-10 bags) and 8-10 bags of pigeonpea per acre (up from 2-3 bags). Describing the benefits of growing pigeonpea, they encouraged other farmers to grow it as well. They went on to explain that in maize-pigeonpea intercropping, the slow growth of pigeonpea in the early stages offers little competition to the companion maize crop. After the maize is harvested, pigeonpeas grow faster into the dry season using residual soil moisture. Growing pigeonpea then becomes a ‘bonus crop’ costing farmers little extra in labor.

Participants also got to taste Bonko, Mseto, Dhali, Ng’ande – dishes from pigeonpea prepared by farmers who had been trained in pigeonpea utilization two days before the field day.

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When small is beautiful
Strengthening utilization of improved sorghum varieties in Mali

Mini seed packs of hybrid sorghum being handed over to an agrodealer from Dialakoroba in Kati district, Mali.

As part of the HOPE project’s goal to increase adoption of new technologies, farmers’ organizations and seed and fertilizer sellers during the past two months have been working together with ICRISAT in developing a strategy of selected seed diffusion based on “mini-packs.”

In Mali, ICRISAT along with five agrodealers distributed more than 60 kg of eight selected varieties of sorghum in June and July at sale points in the districts of Koutiala, Kati, Dioïla, Siby and Tominian.

The NGO Citizen Network Forever for Africa (CNFA) through its “Agrodealer Strengthening Program in Mali” has also been involved in this partnership. ICRISAT provided agrodealers with mini-packs of certified seeds while CNFA gave them insights into input management and selling.

This collaboration will improve farmer’s access to quality certified seed. The technology utilization strategy of mini-packs allows interested farmers to test the varieties under local conditions. The whole strategy thrives on advantages such as diversified seed sale points, mini packaging (100 g or 500 g), and varietal diversity. Mini-packs are directly packed by seed cooperatives such as ULPC (Union Locale des Producteurs Céréaliers) in Dioïla and COPROSEM (Coopérative des producteurs semenciers du Mandé) in Siby.

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HOPE project holds field days in Western Kenya

Jackline Omondi from Ukwala division admires her lush finger millet crop of variety U-15.

Through its HOPE Project, ICRISAT in partnership with Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and other collaborators including extensionists, farmer groups and community-based organizations held four field days in Chakol, Amukura and Butula Divsions of Busia County and Ukwala Division of Siaya County in western Kenya on July 11, 12, 14 & 19, respectively.

About 200 farmers, half of them women, 25 high school students and representatives of 28 local farmer agricultural groups attended the field days. Participants actively took part in participatory variety selection (PVS) to identify the most preferred finger millet varieties out of eight which were included in the trials. U-15 was judged the most preferred finger millet variety across all PVS sites due to its early maturity, high yield, and good grain color, resistance to lodging and tolerance to blast disease. It could be an ideal candidate for official release in the near future.

Jackline Omondi, a widow, whose plot hosted one of the field days, said “I used to harvest 3 bags of finger millet grain per acre using traditional varieties. But now after adopting the improved varieties in combination with row planting and microdosing, I harvest about 8 bags of grain per acre. This improvement in harvest has helped me to pay the school fees for my children. More importantly, my family is now food secure.”

Farmers appreciate food products made from finger millet.

The effect of microdosing on finger millet with fertilizer was demonstrated in all the sites. While the microdosed plots showed well-formed finger millet fingers and grain, those without microdosing had very poorly formed fingers or none at all, convincing the farmers about the positive effect of the technology.

Four local agro-input suppliers (one each from the field day sites) displayed their products, including seed of finger millet variety P224 (a released ICRISAT/KARI variety), fertilizers and other farm inputs. Akuranut Development Trust (ADT), a community-based Farmer’s Bank for Saving and Credit, detailed the services and products available to local farmers. Eastcom Foods displayed finger millet products such as plain finger millet flour, finger millet flour blended with soya or cassava. Farmer groups showed keen interest in visiting Eastcom Foods to learn about finger millet grain value-addition and processing activities. Cakes, buns, biscuits, porridge and local beer made from finger millet and prepared by farmer groups in collaboration with extension services were displayed on the field days.

During the discussions following PVS, Mr Caleb Omondi, District Agricultural Officer, Teso South District reiterated the nutritional importance of finger millet to the health of children and the old in providing dietary calcium and iron. He also noted that finger millet (and not maize) has the greatest potential to provide food security for the fast growing population in Western Kenya, because of its resistance to storage pests, stable farm gate prices and its nutritional qualities. He emphasized that farmers had appreciated the superior performance of improved finger millet varieties, especially U-15, and therefore requested that its seeds be made available before the next planting season in January 2012. HOPE project has estimated that about 1 ton of clean seed of U-15 and P224 varieties was multiplied through selected farmers from the four sites and will be purchased by the project for informal seed marketing and distribution to more than 1000 farmers before the next season.

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Coping with climate change
Building climate-resilient agriculture in Asia

Participants at the ADB stakeholders’ consultation and policy dialogue in Hanoi.

Aiming to provide science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches for climate change adaptation in semi-arid regions of Asia, ICRISAT in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) organized a stakeholders’ consultation workshop for Asia and a policy dialogue for Vietnam on 21-22 July in Hanoi. The activity was participated by seven partner countries – India, China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Vietnam.

In his opening address, Dr Nguyen Hong Son, Director General, Institute of Agriculture and Environment (IAE), VAAS stressed how the ongoing ADB project on Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience has helped showcase Vietnam’s efforts to tackle climate change.

The workshop provided opportunities for regional scientists and managers to identify and prioritize the sectors most at risk and to develop gender equitable agricultural adaptation and mitigation strategies as an integral part of agricultural development in the most vulnerable areas.

MIP Program Director MCS Bantilan shared with the participants the ICRISAT’s experiences in climate change mitigation. She stressed that poor farmers are the worst affected by climate change and also the most vulnerable to its impacts.

“Innovations in agricultural institutions, crop and resource management, the role of women, social capital and social networks are necessary to enhance the vulnerable sector’s capabilities to respond to climate change,” Dr Bantilan added.

According to ADB representative Dr Cindy Malvicini, the outcome of the project would serve as inputs in reorienting ADB’s developmental strategy in South Asia.

During the session on “A guide for policy directives for climate-resilient agriculture in Vietnam,” Dr Atiq Rahman of BCAS, Bangladesh stressed the importance of multi-dimensional perspectives in finding ways to move forward and face the challenge of climate change. ICRISAT’s Dr Naveen Singh presented a proposed policy matrix to serve as a roadmap in building a climate-resilient agriculture in Vietnam. 

The policy dialogue’s keynote addresses were delivered by HE Dr Dao Xuan Hoc, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and Dr Nguyen Van Bo, President of VAAS, Vietnam. The global initiatives against climate change were presented by Dr Atiq Rahman, Dr B Venkateswarulu (ICAR) and Dr PK Aggarwal (CCAFS), India highlighting policy trends towards climate change adaptation & mitigation and mainstreaming activities to tackle climate change.

Several representatives from international organizations including FAO, ACIAR, UNDP, JICA, OXFAM, CIDA, IRD, CIRAD; farmers, NGOs and print and electronic media participated and showed keen interest in the outcome of the project. 

The ADB project is expected to generate valuable outputs that will have policy and livelihood implications in climate-change vulnerable areas in Asia. It will also seek to develop a useful information repository that will be analyzed to inform policy decisions on critical issues affecting the future of agriculture and livelihoods in the rainfed SAT.

The Vietnam research team composed of Pham Quang Ha, Tran Van the, Mai Van Trinh and others from IAE, Vietnam actively participated and contributed to the success of the workshops. ICRISAT was represented by Cynthia Bantilan, Program Director, MIP, Naveen P Singh, Project Coordinator, Uttam K Deb, R Padmaja, MVR Murty and Byjesh Kattarkandi, and CRIDA was represented by Dr VUM Rao.

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ICRISAT participates in Virtual Crop Model workshop in Florida

Virtual Crop Model workshop participants at Gainesville, Florida.

As a part of the Global Futures Project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Florida (UoF) with support from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), organized a Workshop on Virtual Crop Model from 11-15 July at Gainesville, Florida. Attended by crop modelers, physiologists and economists from seven CGIAR institutions (IRRI, CYMMT, ICRISAT, CIAT, CIP, ICRAF and IFPRI) involved in the project, its objective was to calibrate two to three popular cultivars of CG mandate crops developed and released by various centers in their target regions.

The calibration was done using the existing multilocation yield trail database available within each CGIAR center. These calibrated base cultivars will be used to develop the virtual promising technologies identified at different centers to evaluate research benefits on welfare and food security in the changing socio-economic and environmental conditions using IMPACT modeling framework.

The workshop was conducted by renowned crop modelers Jim Jones and Ken Boote, Asseng Senthold and Porter Cheryl from UoF, and Gerrit Hoogenboom from Washington State University. ICRISAT was represented by Dr Piara Singh and Dr Nedumaran who presented the yield trail and weather data collected from Asia and WCA region and calibrated the two popular cultivars from each region using DSSAT crop model. Participants from the CG centers also discussed the data gap in existing yield trail data used for crop modeling and the workplan for developing virtual promising technologies using the DSSAT crop model.

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