No. 1479 12 August 2011

ICRISAT and Jain Irrigation Systems
Public-private partnership on water management for the poor

Drs Dar and Wani observing a pre-monsoon sown cotton crop grown using drip irrigation system in Padmalaya model watershed at Pathri, Jalgaon.

Sustainable water management, along with better market opportunities and community empowerment and capacity building are critical in ending poverty and hunger in the dryland tropics.

The partnership between ICRISAT and Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd (the world’s second largest micro-irrigation company) is anchored on a shared goal of empowering poor dryland communities through sustainable water management. To further strengthen this partnership, Director General William Dar and Dr Suhas Wani went to Jalgaon, home to Jain Irrigation on 4-6 August to meet its founder, Mr BH Jain and to identify key areas for future collaboration.

Drs Dar and Wani with Mr BK Jain (2nd from left), Chairman of Jain Irrigation Systems, and Dr PS Soman (far right), Vice-President.

During the visit, Mr Jain shared his “dream to change the way Indian farmers do agriculture.” This motivated him to establish the company and promote cutting-edge technology for the country’s sustainable agricultural growth. He also expressed keen interest in strengthening Jain Irrigation’s ongoing collaboration with ICRISAT on integrated water management and environmental protection, and in expanding activities to other regions of the world.

Dr Dar, on the other hand, highlighted ICRISAT’s work on watershed management and crop improvement. He stressed that public-private partnership (PPP), particularly with seed and irrigation industries, is an innovative approach in mobilizing improved technology for smallholder farmers. PPP and Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) are the key components in linking farmers to markets towards prosperity in the dryland tropics, he added.

ICRISAT pigeonpea variety (background) grown at Jalgaon station with drip irrigation using solar power pump.

Possible areas for further collaboration were also identified during the visit. These are: unlocking the potential of rainfed areas through high-value crops with supplementary irrigation; enhancing water-use efficiency; and empowerment of stakeholders through capital asset development.

ICRISAT and Jain Irrigation have an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on watershed management for enhancing water-use efficiency and improving livelihoods of farmers. In Jalgaon, ICRISAT is also implementing one of its model integrated watershed management program supported by GOI’s Department of Agriculture (DoA) in partnership with JalaSRI of Moolji Jaitha College, Jalgaon.

Solar panels for irrigation solar system.

Jalgaon, a three-hour trip from Aurangabad, is a hilly area generally with denuded hills. The few hillocks covered with lush green vegetation, known as Jain Hills, are attributed to the integrated watershed management approach introduced by Jain Irrigation. The holistic approach starts from rainwater harvesting to producing high-value crops (e.g., mango, pomegranate, guava, banana, etc.) and food processing including tapping solar power energy.

Drs Dar and Wani were welcomed at Jain Hills by Mr Anil Jain, Director for Marketing of Jain Irrigation. Dr Soman, Vice-President took the team around Jain Hills, showcasing various activities such as water management, water-use efficiency, renewable energy, tissue culture, biotechnology and food processing. Mr Atul Jain, Chief Marketing Officer, also took the team to Jain’s state-of-the-art production facilities where precision irrigation products are produced using microprocessor-controlled systems under strict quality control measures. 

The team also visited the Padmalaya Model Watershed at Pathri in Jalgaon district, where they were accorded a traditional welcome program attended by students and farmers. In the interaction that followed, farmers spoke of how the various interventions under the watershed project − among others, rainwater harvesting, soil conservation, efficient use of water, balanced nutrient management, wasteland rehabilitation, vermicomposting, and monitoring of runoff and soil loss − are giving them increased income and better livelihood opportunities.

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Analyzing spillover benefits of ICRISAT’s research

MPI staff discuss spillovers and their quantitative assessment with Jeff Davis.

To achieve its aspirational targets of halving poverty, hunger and malnutrition in the dryland tropics, ICRISAT generates products and innovations that help the poor participate in Inclusive Market-Oriented Development. The global significance of these outputs depend on their potential for wide application across countries and regions.

Conducted by the Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies (MIP), spillover research also falls under the critical focus area on monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment. It builds on earlier qualitative assessments of spillovers conducted in 2004 and linked to the IPG potential of ICRISAT’s downstream work and global futures project.

As part of the Institute’s research agenda to determine the spillover benefits of its innovations, Jeff Davis (former Program Leader, Impact Assessment and Policy Linkage, ACIAR) visited ICRISAT from 25 July to 12 August to carry out a thorough analysis of the past and likely future direct and indirect spillovers. This is in consonance with the 6th EPMR’s suggestion for “a thorough analysis of past and likely future research spillovers between Africa and Asia to guide ICRISAT resource allocations between those two regions.”

Jeff’s discussions with the MIP research team composed of MIP Director Cynthia Bantilan, Kai Mausch, D Kumaracharyulu, Kamanda Josey, S Nedumaran, GV Anupama and Irshad Mohammed, and with inputs from ICRISAT breeders and NARS partners, covered experiences in spillovers research, concepts and definitions, methodological approaches in determining quantitative estimates of benefits and key parameters required.

As part of this exercise, the team will present a seminar on 12 August at the CF Bentley Conference Room. The seminar will illustrate the importance of spillovers and examples of their preliminary quantitative measurement for several ICRISAT focal areas.

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Science-based and sustainable solutions to the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa

(Excerpts from the ICRISAT Media Factsheet, August 2011)

Drought is not new in the dryland tropics, but this year has seen the worst in six decades, inflicting untold suffering on 12 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.

In Somalia, nearly half of the population (almost 3.7 million people) is facing an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. The UN reports that the prevalence of acute malnutrition and mortality rates has surpassed famine thresholds in Middle Shabelle, the Afgoye corridor and Mogadishu.

Worse, food prices in this country have gone up by as much as 270 per cent in the past year. Famine is likely to spread across Somalia’s south in the next four to six weeks, and may last until December.

What can be done?

Growing drought-resistant, climate change-ready crops

Working with our partners in India and sub-Saharan Africa, ICRISAT’s top priority is to find ways to help extricate vulnerable dryland communities out of hunger and poverty for good. For instance, our research has shown that dryland crops such as sorghum, millet, pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut can thrive and yield well in drought-prone areas.

Dryland cereals – sorghum and pearl millet – are important in ending hunger and malnutrition in drought-prone areas of Africa. Sorghum is the fifth most important cereal crop and is the dietary staple of more than 500 million people. Aside from food, sorghum provides feed and forage for dryland communities.

Pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut are drought- resistant crops that thrive well in areas with very scarce water. These crops are nutritious and a good source of livelihood for drought-plagued communities.

Institutionalizing incentives in cultivating dryland crops

To promote drought-tolerant crops on a large scale, farmers must be convinced that these are their best bets for higher income. The G20 has highlighted the need to set up such strategic food reserves to cope with future crises in food. Along with this, farmers need to be linked with markets, while governments must procure the produce to provide sustainable incentives in cultivation.

This inclusive market-oriented approach will greatly help achieve sustainable food security and reduce the vulnerability of dryland communities especially during emergencies.

Assessing and managing climate risk

Recurrent drought and seasonal variability in rainfall is one of the big challenges in the dryland tropics. Hence, strategies must be designed for farmers to mitigate the adverse effects of poor seasons and optimize opportunities during better times.

ICRISAT models show that even under a climate change setting, crop yield gaps can still be significantly narrowed down with improved management practices and adapted germplasm for warmer temperatures.

Reforming seed aid and seed policy

Access to seeds by smallholder farmers especially during disasters and emergencies is one of the biggest challenges in improving farm productivity. This must therefore be ensured primarily by strengthening local seed systems.

In this context, seed aid could be used to catalyze local high-value certified seed business for drought-stricken poor communities to generate income. A possible model is in Malawi where ICRISAT and partners trained farmers to produce improved groundnut seeds that were bought back to create a seed revolving fund.

Seed aid should also involve the community’s retailers using a voucher system, where farmers are given vouchers to exchange for seeds and other inputs. If humanitarian operations use market-based approaches such as this, it will facilitate Africa’s transition to sustainable economic development.

Conserving soil and water and rehabilitating degraded lands

Conserving soil and water is the cornerstone of sustainable natural resource management in Africa. ICRISAT and partners developed an easy-to-implement conservation measure suited to poorer smallholder farmers in drought-prone areas. These include microdosing and various conservation technologies that concentrate limited water and nutrients close to the plant roots.

Rehabilitation of degraded lands through an ICRISAT-led Desert Margins Program (DMP) was also extensively demonstrated in Africa. A science-based initiative, the DMP was implemented by ICRISAT with partners making 30,000 hectares productive for 250,000 families in nine African countries.

Fertilizer microdosing

Research has shown that poor soil fertility, rather than drought, is the major food-production constraint across much of semi-arid Africa. Surveys show that only a few smallholder farmers apply fertilizer in these drought-prone regions.

To address this problem, ICRISAT and partners developed a “microdosing” technique that involves the application of small, affordable quantities of fertilizer with the seed at planting time or as top dressing 3-4 weeks after emergence. This technique enhances fertilizer use efficiency and improves productivity.

Combined with FAO’s warrantage system (inventory credit), microdosing increased sorghum and millet yields up to 120% and incomes by 50% on more than 200,000 households in Africa.


Detecting poisonous aflatoxin

Agricultural products are often invaded by fungi that can produce poisonous substances called mycotoxins. Among mycotoxins, aflatoxins are a serious health hazard. Groundnut, maize, sorghum, pearl millet and other food products are contaminated by aflatoxin on a global scale.

Aflatoxin contamination becomes very serious when drought occurs as the crop matures. Many countries reject imported agricultural products that exceed certain levels of aflatoxin, costing farmers millions of dollars each year in losses.

To address this challenge, ICRISAT devised a fast, simple and affordable ELISA test kit for detecting aflatoxin. This low-cost innovation has resurrected the ailing groundnut industry in Malawi by opening exports to Europe.  

An urgent plea

Drought and other adverse environmental conditions are regular challenges in the dryland tropics. With climate change, this is expected to worsen and if not addressed now, could inflict more damage to people, crops and livestock in the future.

The international development community must go beyond quick fix solutions to pursue science-based sustainable approaches as demonstrated by the foregoing initiatives. To prevent disasters like the one affecting the Horn of Africa, development investments for the dryland tropics must be significantly increased and sustained.

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Farmers’ participatory variety selection of chickpea held in Tanzania

(From left to right) Robert Kileo (LZARDI), Mustafa (chickpea farmer), ESA Director Said Silim and Ganga Rao.

Mustafa is one contented farmer from Misungwi district in Tanzania. When his cereal crops failed due to drought this year, the improved varieties from ICRISAT and the Lake Zone Agricultural Research & Development Institute (LZARDI) came to his rescue, giving him a good harvest of 30 bags of chickpea.

Mustafa is one of the chickpea farmers from Misungwi, Kwimba and Shinyanga districts who attended the chickpea field day on 27 July in the Lake Zone of Tanzania. Jointly organized by ICRISAT and LZARDI under the aegis of the Tropical Legumes II project, the event was attended by 32 chickpea farmers and 14 scientists. The activity was aimed at enhancing chickpea production and productivity in the area.

ICRISAT was represented by ICRISAT-ESA Director Dr Said Silim and Ganga Rao, with Dr Robert Kileo, lead chickpea scientist from LZARDI in Ukiriguru, as host. Showcased at the field day were desi and kabuli chickpea advanced yield trials, along with participatory varietal selection (PVS).

Dr Kileo welcomed the participants and discussed the PVS methodology with farmers. At the end of the exercise, majority of farmers selected five desi (ICCVs 07114, 97128, 97114, 97125, and 97126) and five kabuli (ICCVs 95423, 95311, 00302, 07306, and 92311) chickpea varieties. These were preferred based on early maturity, drought tolerance, resistance to fusarium wilt, pod numbers, seed size and market-preferred seed traits.

While thankful to LZARDI and ICRISAT for their support that has resulted in resilience and increased productivity of chickpea, the farmers also expressed concern about poor market linkages.

On 28 July, LZARDI and ICRISAT scientists visited on-farm sites in Shinyanga, Magu, Nzega and Misungwi districts that have been severely affected by drought. Farmers in these areas reported that although rice and maize had failed, they were happy to be able to harvest chickpea.

On 29 July, the scientists met at the LZARDI office, where Dr Silim emphasized that sorghum and groundnut are also important in the region and expressed ICRISAT’s interest in collaborating with Tanzanian counterparts. Meanwhile, the Zonal Director thanked ICRISAT for its research support on chickpea, noting that the crop has moved from being a low to a high priority crop in the area.

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Pigeonpea Orissa project launched

Participants of the pigeonpea Orissa project workshop.

A two-day launch-cum-workshop of the project ‘Introduction and Expansion of Improved Pigeonpea (Arhar) Production Technology in Rainfed Upland Ecosystems of Orissa’ was held at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 9-10 August. The four year project (2011-2015) has a total funding of $2.29 M.

In his inaugural address, Director General William Dar highlighted the importance of partnership in research-for-development. “Synergies and convergence of efforts and resources will have to happen to achieve greater heights,” he said. He also emphasized that apart from enhancing the food and nutritional security and income generation of underprivileged farmers in Orissa, the project would seek to mitigate the adverse effects of climate variability on production and livelihoods in the State through improved varieties and hybrids dovetailed with hands-on training in crop production and management.

The Government of Orissa was represented by Dr S Das (Assistant Director for Pulses) and SK Sahu (Deputy Director for Pulses). Speaking on the occasion, Dr Das appreciated ICRISAT’s initiative considering it was the first time Orissa was having a project of this nature. He reiterated the importance of strengthening local capacity including NGO participation, procurement of local seed from the ongoing project, and purchase of village-level dhal processing machines.

Also present at the launch were Drs CLL Gowda, KB Saxena, MG Mula and other ICRISAT scientists; local partners from the Office of the Deputy Director of Agriculture namely, A Mishra (Kalahandi), SC Biswal (Naurparha), and KC Ojha (Rayagada); representatives from four NGOs (Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan, Orissa Professional Development Service Consultants, Loksebak, and Juba Jyoti Jubak Sangha); and three District Coordinators and a State Coordinator hired by ICRISAT.

During the meeting-cum-workshop to prepare the work plan for the project cycle, presentations were made on pest management (GV Ranga Rao), disease management (Mamta Sharma), and pigeonpea seed production (MG Mula and RV Kumar). Participants were also taken on a field visit to showcase some pigeonpea technologies on use of high-yielding varieties and research on waterlogging, seed production blocks and agronomic practices.

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