No. 1478 05 August 2011

Public-private partnership for the poor
DuPont Pioneer explores partnership with ICRISAT

The DuPont Pioneer high-level team headed by Dr John Sopper, Senior Vice-President for Crop Genetics & Development (6th from right) with Dr Dar and ICRISAT senior scientists at the SatVenture.

Purposeful partnership offers big opportunities for pro-poor agricultural investment and innovation. Under its new strategic plan to 2020, ICRISAT pursues partnerships with the private sector through collaboration in priority research areas to achieve its vision of a prosperous, food-secure and resilient dryland tropics.

Committed to harness purposeful partnerships with the private sector, ICRISAT opened its doors to DuPont Pioneer to become a strategic partner in mobilizing cutting-edge science and technology for the dryland poor. Towards this, a high-level research leadership team headed by Dr John Sopper, Senior Vice-President for Crop Genetics & Development of DuPont Pioneer visited ICRISAT on 3 August.

The DuPont Pioneer team in a meeting with ICRISAT senior staff led by DDG-R Dave Hoisington to identify key priority research areas of mutual interest to both organizations for possible collaboration.

The DuPont Pioneer team was received by Director General William Dar, who provided an overview of ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach – a dynamic progression from subsistence towards market-oriented agriculture and a pathway to prosperity for smallholder farmers.

During the visit, various areas of mutual interest were discussed by the DuPont Pioneer team with ICRISAT scientists led by DDG-R Dave Hoisington. Key priority research areas include: IMOD and seed systems, hybrid pigeonpea, doubled haploidy in pearl millet and constraints to its productivity (heat tolerance and downy mildew resistance), seed production technologies, crop biotechnology and sweet sorghum for bioethanol. Other aspects of transgenic research including drought tolerance, pest resistance, biosafety and capacity building were also discussed. Other ICRISAT senior staff present during the meeting are Drs CLL Gowda, Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Peter Ninnes, Vincent Vadez and Kiran Sharma.

Dr V Vadez giving a briefing of ICRISAT’s rainout shelter and phenotyping facilities in evaluating drought tolerance.

The DuPont Pioneer team visited the rainout shelter and was briefed by Drs Vincent Vadez and L Krishnamurthy on the phenotyping facilities in evaluating drought tolerance. The team was also introduced to ICRISAT’s initiatives on translational research on transgenic crops and genetic engineering by Drs Kiran Sharma and Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur during their visit to the PTTC facilities.

To further strengthen the groundwork for potential partnership, Dr Dar with Drs CLL Gowda and Kiran Sharma met with another high-level team from DuPont Pioneer over dinner on the same day. The team was composed of John Bedbrook, Vice-President, DuPont Agricultural Biotechnology; Barbara Mazur, Vice-President for Research Strategy; Rich Broglie, Director, Global R&D Strategy; Howard Hershey, Director, Rice Trait Development; and KV Subbarao, Country Manager.

Dinner-meeting with the high-level team from DuPont Pioneer: (left to right) CLL Gowda, WD Dar, KV Subbarao, J Bedbrook, B Mazur, R Broglie, H Hershey and KK Sharma.

During the dinner meeting, potential collaborative research areas were explored including the need to develop a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations. Dr Dar likewise emphasized the need for follow-up activities such as mutual visits and communication toward developing collaborative research proposals.





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AIP-ABI Agribusiness Innovation Camp
Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship through agribusiness incubation

Dr Dar addressing participants of the AIP-ABI agribusiness innovation camp.

Going full steam ahead with its objective of fostering agro-enterprises, the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of the Agribusiness Innovation Platform @ ICRISAT (AIP) conducted an agribusiness innovation camp on 29 July to select proposals from innovators/entrepreneurs and explore opportunities for commercializing innovations in agribusiness.

AIP-ABI has emerged as a champion in nurturing and incubating technologies and enterprises, and is now a model for facilitating the creation of competitive agribusiness enterprises through technology development and commercialization.

Inaugurating the camp, DG William Dar said, “There is a need to create a sustainable, inclusive, resilient, profitable and healthy agricultural sector to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers to the ‘perfect storm’ faced by the world. ICRISAT’s new strategic approach to 2020, IMOD or Inclusive Market-Oriented Development is a dynamic progression from subsistence towards market-oriented agriculture.”

Agribusiness innovation camp participants.

Dr Dar further emphasized the urgency for entrepreneurs to develop innovative products, processes and concepts and integrate them into existing agricultural systems in order to lead to a sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth. “Such an approach calls for agriculture to be viewed as a ‘venture’ rather than a livelihood option. However, every venture has risks associated with it. This is where business incubators play a vital role,” he added.

The process of selecting the innovations began when 100 innovators responded to an advertisement regarding the camp, from which 50 were screened to participate. The selected innovations will be funded for prototype development and commercialization under the TePP-DSIR programme of the Government of India. Mr Aravazhi of ABI gave the participants a briefing on the eligibility, funding, and project management details of the TePP program.

The TePP Monitoring Committee chaired by Dr JR Rao of NAARM-ICAR evaluated 15 innovations and approved seven proposals for Micro Techno-preneurship Support (TS) (up to 75,000 or US$ 1,700) and TePP Project Fund (TPF) (up to 15 lakhs or US$ 33,700).

Among the interesting innovations recommended were a rice transplantor, power weeder, and extraction of compounds responsible for controlling glucose and commercialization of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi lingzhi mushroom), solar crop harvesting robot, cattle pregnancy detection kit, sensor for studying soil characteristics for agriculture automation, and biofuel production from agrowaste.

Also present during the occasion were: Dr J Durga Prasad, Vaishnavi Biopower (P) Ltd; Dr Sanjith Aradhya, SeedWorks India Pvt Ltd; Dr Vijaya Lakshmi, CDAC, Hyderabad; and Mr SM Karuppanchetty, Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, Mr Aravazhi and Mr Jonathan Philroy of ABI-AIP.

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Enhancing millet and sorghum productivity through knowledge sharing
ICRISAT launches participative radio campaign in Mali

Participants of the radio campaign training with farmers in a village near Bamako.

knowledge sharing to strengthen capacities and stimulate impact-oriented innovation is a critical focus area of ICRISAT’s strategic plan to 2020. Along with this, 25 rural radio broadcasters, seed producers, farmers and extensionists from all over Mali met on 23-28 July, to enhance capacities in sharing knowledge on striga management.

Held at ICRISAT-Bamako and sponsored by the Projet Mil et Sorgho (PROMISO), the training program was inaugurated by ICRISAT-WCA Director Farid Waliyar. PROMISO is funded by the European Union (EU) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). It is coordinated and managed by ICRISAT-WCA scientist Eva Weltzien and Samba Traore from the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER).

The activity aims to increase the productivity of millet and sorghum by training rural radio broadcasters in sharing knowledge on effective striga management. Trainers David Mowbray and Bartholomew Sullivan from the Farm Radio International adopt a participative approach in collecting and broadcasting information about technologies and new varieties to farmers.

Interview session with village farmers.

During the training, participants were introduced to the results of the PROMISO project on soil fertility and striga management. Likewise, they were trained on various aspects of rural broadcasting like story development, emphasizing the human angle, and broadcast formats and gadgets.

Participants also undertook village immersion near Bamako and interacted with farmers using the techniques they had been taught. The videos they shot were then edited and processed for broadcast.

An exchange of feedback between participants and trainers was done towards the end of the course. According to Kadiatou Dembele, a radio broadcaster from Sikasso region, “the workshop gave me an idea about how striga is a big challenge for farmers because of its impact on crop productivity. It also exposed me to available techniques and striga management options. When I go back to my radio station, I would like to undertake a series of interviews on striga management options. I’m sure it will benefit farmers in the vicinity of the broadcast area.”

Participants suggested an extension of the training to a larger audience of rural radio broadcasters in Mali.

In his closing remarks, Dr Waliyar reminded the trainees on the importance of communication and knowledge sharing with farmers who are the main beneficiaries of agricultural research.

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AGRA President visits ICRISAT-Mali

(From left to right) Dr B Ntare (Assistant Director, ICRISAT-WCA), Dr F Waliyar (Director, ICRISAT-WCA), Dr N Ngongi (President, AGRA), and Dr F Attere (AGRA).

Dr Namanga Ngongi, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), accompanied by Dr Franck Attere also of AGRA visited ICRISAT-Mali on 29 July. They met with ICRISAT-WCA Director Farid Waliyar and Assistant Director Bonny Ntare.

During the visit, Dr Waliyar presented ICRISAT’s new strategic plan to 2020, highlighting the importance of pursuing an Inclusive Market-Oriented Development approach in empowering and building long-term resilience of dryland communities of WCA. The AGRA Microdosing Project was discussed during the visit.

AGRA has given ICRISAT a three-year mandate since 2009 for backstopping and coordinating the Fertilizer Microdosing and Inventory Credit System Project in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. ICRISAT carries out this work in partnership with IER in Mali, INERA in Burkina Faso and INRAN in Niger.

Dr Ngongi acknowledged ICRISAT’s contribution to the success of the AGRA Fertilizer Microdosing Project. He added that as part of its new focus, AGRA shall aim to explore ways for the private sector to increase investment in the agriculture value chain in Africa. He is also encouraging financial institutions to explore investment opportunities in new technologies such as fertilizer microdosing. In Nigeria, banks are getting more involved in the credit system; so is the case in Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia.

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Biometrics expert at soil test crop response seminar

DR ABHISHEK RATHORE, Senior Scientist, Biometrics, delivered a talk on “Online data management and analysis of coordinated trials” at the National Seminar on Soil Test Crop Response (STCR) correlation on 29 July at the Indian Institute of Soil Science (IISS), Bhopal.

His talk covered experimental data management, handling and its automated analysis. He also demonstrated online software that captures data generated by cooperating centers, which he developed while on a project for the All India Coordinated Project on STCR in 2008.

Upon the request of the STCR Project Coordinator, Dr Rathore also conducted a one-day training program for STCR staff on designing and developing a web-enabled fertilizer recommendation software system based on geospatial locations.

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Changing culture at ICRISAT Open Space Discussion addresses work-life issues

HRO Director H Hernandez facilitating the OSD session.

Cultural change is vital in elevating the growth and achievements of ICRISAT to a higher level. This involves creating time and space for the staff to deeply and creatively engage on issues relevant to them. One such critical area is ensuring that the staff deliver better results and with a higher level of commitment by maintaining a good balance between work and their personal lives.

For the third time, an Open Space Discussion (OSD) was organized by the Human Resources and Operation (HRO) office revolving on the topic “Work Life Issues at ICRISAT.” Held in Patancheru on 29 July and attended by 25 scientists and managers, the OSD discussed how to boost staff productivity while attaining a higher level of achievement and enjoyment on and off the job.

Team discussions on work-life issues.

HRO Director Hector Hernandez facilitated the OSD session which was an offshoot of a staff survey conducted early this year where only 17% agreed with the statement “in my life, I feel that I have good balance between work and family.”

The goal of the OSD was to get to know more about work-life issues directly from the staff, and for them and the management to be able to directly address their concerns. The 25 participants were grouped into five smaller teams, who were asked to respond to three questions: 1) what are the work-life (WL) issues confronting the staff?; 2) what can ICRISAT do to address these WL issues?; and 3) what WL issues would the participants like to see covered in a formal WL program.

Reports of the five teams have been summarized for review by management and will be processed by a consultant who will assist in crafting a work-life effectiveness program for ICRISAT.  A Work-Life Effectiveness Workshop is planned in the 2nd semester of 2011 for Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Participants identified these issues during the OSD:  it is very possible to maintain work-life balance; positive thinking never limits anyone; prioritization is the key to WL balance; interaction with supervisor is vital to WL balance; WL balance will require a major shift in the mindset of the staff.

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