No. 1482 02 September 2011

Strengthening ICRISAT- Philippines partnership
Initiatives to revitalize rainfed agriculture mapped out

Top-level delegation composed of Philippine state university and college (SUC) presidents and government officials during their visit to ICRISAT to study and map out RD&E initiatives for rainfed agriculture.

In the Philippines, dryland agriculture is an important sector as this country is predominantly rainfed, covering three-fourths of the 10 million hectares of its total cultivated area. Important as it is, rainfed agriculture is a neglected sector, receiving little investment and policy support despite contributing about 40 percent of total food production supply in the country.

Rainfed agriculture, however, is now on top of the Philippine government’s agenda as the key to national food security and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Towards this, a top-level delegation visited ICRISAT on 30 August – 02 September to study dryland agriculture and jointly map out agriculture research, development and extension (RD&E) initiatives to revitalize rainfed agriculture in the country.

Officials meet with ICRISAT’s Research Committee.

The visit was done in the context of a new initiative - the Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Program (PHIRARDEP) conceptualized with the assistance of ICRISAT. Led by Dr William Medrano, Commissioner, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Honorable Ana Cristina Go, Member of the House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of the Province of Isabela, the team was composed of state university and college (SUC) Presidents and regional and local government officials.

In an initial meeting with the team, Director General William Dar emphasized that rainfed areas will be the hardest hit by increasing water scarcity, frequent droughts, rising temperatures, new pests and diseases, shorter growing seasons and degraded natural resources brought about by climate change.

To surmount this, the government must pursue adaptation and mitigation strategies to minimize risk and protect the livelihoods of smallholder farmers as well as to empower communities in rainfed areas.

Dr Dar also stressed that SUCs must generate and share science-based information and technology on climate change, particularly with resource-poor and vulnerable communities.

Interacting with a farmer on a visit to Kothapally watershed.

In response, Dr Medrano expressed CHED’s commitment to pursue the incorporation of climate change in the country’s higher education curriculum. He also sought guidance from ICRISAT in adopting the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach to Philippine rainfed areas as a sustainable pathway to get the poor out of poverty for good.

During the meeting with scientists, deliberations focused on ICRISAT’s dryland agriculture innovations which, if applied, are the best bets in surmounting climate change. Discussions focused on drought resistant- and climate change-ready crops (sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea, and groundnut); participative integrated watershed management; and knowledge sharing.

A meeting with the Management Group was also held for the delegation to learn ICRISAT’s strategic management approaches towards institutional transformation. Further steps towards pursuing PHIRARDEP were also discussed especially on capacity strengthening of the Philippine NARES on rainfed agriculture RD&E.

Hon. Ana Cristina S Go, Representative, 2nd District of Isabela, Philippines, hands over a souvenir to Dr Dar, while Dr William C Medrano, Commissioner, CHED (far left) and others look on.

The team also visited ICRISAT’s original benchmark community watershed project in Kothapally; the DuPont Knowledge Center and the ICICI Knowledge Park; ANGRAU, MANAGE and the Institute’s field and laboratory facilities.

To further fortify the partnership between ICRISAT and the Philippines, Memorandum of Agreements (MoAs) were signed primarily for the implementation of collaborative rainfed agriculture RD&E projects, most especially capacity strengthening and the sharing of innovations and scientific expertise on dryland agriculture.

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HOPE for dryland farmers
Farmers’ field day on improved finger millet varieties held in Kenya

Women farmers check out finger millet varieties at the PVS trials in Baringo County, Kenya.

Egerton University in partnership with ICRISAT-ESA organized a HOPE project finger millet field day on 15 August at the Agricultural Training Centre (ATC), Koibatek in Baringo County, Kenya.

The field day was attended by 51 farmers (28 women and 23 men) representing 17 farmer groups in Koibatek District. Lilian Jeptanui and Nancy Njogu from the District Agricultural Office; Paul Kimurto and Bernard Towet of Egerton University; Daniel Otwani, Patrick Audi and Henry Ojulong of ICRISAT-ESA; and staff and officials of ATC Koibatek also attended the event.

For participatory varietal selection (PVS), 42 farmers were divided into 3 groups of 17 farmers each consisting of women, men and a mixed group. The groups were consistent in selecting U-15, KNE 814, P224, and Nakuru FM1 (in descending order of preference) as the most preferred elite finger millet varieties in the district. The desired traits of the two most preferred varieties as identified by farmers were high yield, earliness, resistance to lodging, grain color and uniformity for U-15; and high yield, disease and lodging resistance, large fingers and good tillering ability for KNE 814.

Peris Chemtai, one of the participants at the field day who has benefited from the promising finger millet seed varieties, said that “the improved finger millet varieties were earlier in maturity than local cultivars and are a source of high quality dietary energy for our families. The cropping season is early compared to traditional finger millet varieties and other common cereals in the local farming systems.”

Farmers judge the most promising finger millet varieties.

Peris further added that by planting the improved varieties in rows (and not broadcasting as is the tradition) there was a reduction of weeding labor by more than half. Chairperson of the Kambi Moi farmer group Selina Kimutai expressed interest in acquiring credit to expand the production and marketing of U-15, the most preferred finger variety. Egerton University and ICRISAT promised to make a follow up and link the group to one of the many financial institutions operating in the district, especially the Cooperative Bank of Kenya.

Seed sourcing of the most preferred varieties also came up for discussion. The very serious drought early in the finger millet cropping season had disrupted plans of 100 farmers who were provided with ¼ kg of foundation seed to produce informal seeds during the 2011 March-June rains. Only 25% of those are expected to produce about 20 kg each of seed totaling about 500 kg for promotion and up-scaling the following season.

Seline and Roseline (Chemasta farmer group) suggested that this estimated 500 kg of preferred varieties to be produced by the HOPE project be bought as seed by the project at a cost of Kshs 100 (0.9 US$) per kg for promotion and up-scaling purposes for the following cropping season.

The seed supply model for elite varieties has the advantage of linking farmers to agro-dealers and will also help the project identify and promote the most marketable preferred finger millet seed types for subsequent inclusion in the formal seed system.

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ICRISAT team visits Myanmar, strengthens partnership for agricultural development

Dr Dar with Myanmar farmers and researchers during the field visit to Taung Shae village in Nyaung U Township.

Marking a significant development in the long partnership between ICRISAT and Myanmar, Director General William Dar visited the country for the first time on 24-26 August to strengthen collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Research (DAR), Myanmar Agricultural Services (MAS) and Yezin Agricultural University (YAU). He was accompanied by Drs CLL Gowda (Research Program Director - Grain Legumes) and GV Ranga Rao (IPM Scientist and IFAD-EC Project Coordinator to Yezin and DAR).

Welcoming ICRISAT’s team, Dr U Khin Soe, Director General of DAR expressed gratitude for ICRISAT’s long-standing support in strengthening Myanmar’s agricultural research and development activities that have made significant impacts in the farmers’ fields in the past two decades. In response, Dr Dar stressed the need to further strengthen the ICRISAT-Myanmar research collaboration to achieve greater impacts and render more benefits to smallholder farmers. Dr Gowda, on the other hand, emphasized the need for a multi-disciplinary production approach involving legumes and other crops such as sorghum, along with soil, water and nutrient management.

ICRISAT’s team with researchers from DAR.

After the meeting, Dr Dar handed over three motorbikes to Dr U Khin Soe, procured for the implementation of the IFAD-EC-ICRISAT project in three divisions of Myanmar (Magway, Mandalay and Sagaing).

At YAU, the ICRISAT team was received by Dr Tin Htut, University Rector. During the deliberation, Dr Dar pointed out the importance of soil mapping (especially for micronutrients) for efficient use of production inputs.

At the Department of Agriculture and Planning (DAP), Director General U Than Aye welcomed the ICRISAT team on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation. The discussion focused on various ways in which ICRISAT could help strengthen Myanmar agriculture towards improving the nutrition and livelihood opportunities of the people. Dr U Than Aye also raised the possibility of setting up a Dryland Research Institute in Myanmar to serve as a platform in addressing issues such as climate change. Dr Dar expressed support and commitment for such an initiative.

Dr Dar hands over motorbikes meant for the IFAD-EC- ICRISAT project to DAR Director U Khin Soe.

The team also visited the Dryland Crop Research, Nyaung U Farm, where groundnut and pigeonpea on-farm research is being undertaken. During the visit to the Taung Shae village of Nyaung U Township, Dr Dar interacted with farmers and got first-hand information on various farming constraints they are currently facing.




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ICRISAT strengthens ties with China

Drs Dar and CLL Gowda with Dr Ren Wang, Vice-President (Outreach and Extension), CAAS.

To further strengthen ICRISAT’s ongoing partnership with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Director General William Dar and Dr CLL Gowda met with CAAS officials and staff during their visit to Beijing, China on 22 August, coinciding with their participation at the 2nd Asian Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) Conference.

Drs Dar and Gowda met with Dr Tang Huajun, Vice President (International Cooperation) and Dr Ren Wang (former Director, CGIAR Secretariat) who is now Vice-President (Outreach and Extension) of CAAS. Other CAAS staff present during the discussion were Drs Lubiao Zhang, Director General, International Cooperation; Feng Dongxin, Deputy Director General, International Cooperation; Liao Boshou, Deputy Director, Oil Crops Research Institute, Wuhan; and Zong Xuxiao, Head of Breeding, Crop Research Institute, Beijing.

According to the CAAS team, the Chinese government is increasing funding support to agriculture and food production, and science and technology is likely to get major emphasis. Although rice, wheat and maize will still get highest priority, the Chinese government is increasing focus on diversification involving fruits and legumes and dryland farming. International projects (such as those with the CGIAR Consortium) with Chinese scientists as principal investigators can be submitted for funding by the Chinese government.

Dr Dar reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to work with CAAS, and indicated that ICRISAT scientists concerned would work with their Chinese counterparts to prepare proposals on groundnut, chickpea, pigeonpea, sorghum, climate change research and dryland farming (including a Center of Excellence on Dryland Agriculture or CEDA).

South-South collaboration between China and sub-Saharan Africa, with ICRISAT as a partner was also identified as a major vehicle for research collaboration (e.g. Sudan and West and Central Africa countries).

China is also likely to increase its contribution to the CGIAR in 2012. Discussions with Dr L Boshou suggested the possibility of increased funding support to ICRISAT for the establishment of a joint research laboratory for aflatoxin research and the setting up of a groundnut bacterial wilt working group. It is likely that these joint initiatives will attract funds from China’s Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST). Dr Hari Sudini (Groundnut Pathologist) was involved in these discussions, and will be working with Dr L Boshou in preparing a joint project proposal on groundnut diseases.

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NutriPlus Knowledge Program workshop on food safety

AIP’s NutriPlus Knowledge Program is organizing a three-day workshop on “Ensuring food safety through the implementation of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) system,” to be held at ICRISAT on 28-30 September.

HACCP is an internationally recognized systematic approach developed to assure customers about the safety and quality of food supplies. It aims to educate organizations about the processes and production steps and conditions critical to food safety in the pursuit of consumer protection. It has also been made mandatory by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The workshop has been designed to familiarize participants with modern HACCP systems and guidelines for their application as defined by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The system will help reduce the risk of food safety-related illnesses originating in food processing establishments and food products.

For details, please email

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National workshop on capacity building for watershed management

Dr SP Wani addresses participants of the workshop.

A national workshop on Capacity development strategy preparation for decentralized watershed management was held on 24-25 August at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. This was part of the GTZ/GIZ – Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India (GoI) project on “Strengthening capacity building for decentralized watershed management” being implemented by ICRISAT in the last two years. ICRISAT, GTZ/GIZ, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE) are the national consortium partners in this project. Three pilot states – Karnataka, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand – have been selected for the operationalization of the consortium approach for capacity building for decentralized watershed management.

Welcoming the participants, Ms Ilona Porsche, Program Coordinator, Natural Resource Management Program, India gave a backgrounder of the project. Dr Alok Sikka, NRAA, highlighted ICRISAT’s meta-analysis results and indicated that capacity building has been identified as the weakest link for scaling-up the watershed program in India. Mr Stefan Helming, GTZ/GIZ Country Director, highlighted the 30-year collaboration between GTZ/GIZ and India in the area of watershed management and underlined the urgency for strengthening capacity building to scale-up the government’s integrated watershed management programs.

On behalf of the consortium, Dr SP Wani presented the objectives and framework for the two-day workshop, which were to: share capacity building lessons and experiences from the three pilot states; and develop a draft national capacity development strategy for decentralized watershed management through participatory consultation with the experts. Following the presentation of objectives and framework, a presentation on Capacity building for decentralized watershed management was delivered by Mr Rajeev Sharma.

Since 1999, ICRISAT has developed, refined and evaluated the consortium approach for integrated watershed management, and has further adopted it in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh in scaling up the Andhra Pradesh Rural Livelihood Program with technical backstopping from ICRISAT. Based on the learning that would emerge from the three pilot states, a national strategy for capacity development for decentralized watershed management will be formulated as a major output of the project.

Mr Rath, Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture representing the Ministry of Agriculture and Ms Savita Anand, Joint Secretary, Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development also addressed the participants during the workshop.

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ICRISAT at Bharath Utsav - 2011

ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) was showcased at the Bharath Utsav - 2011 held on 18-24 August at the PG College of Science grounds, Saifabad, Hyderabad. The event was jointly organized by the Rural Action for Integrity and Social Education (RAISE) and the Andhra Pradesh Council of Science & Technology (APCOST).

As many as 200 organizations like the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO), Indian Air Force (IAF), National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and private industries took part in the exhibition.

The exhibition served as an opportunity for ICRISAT to promote its Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives, as well as the activities, products and services of its flagship programs under AIP – the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program, NutriPlus Knowledge Program and Innovation & Partnership Program – to the student community.

Bharath Utsav - 2011 is a unique program celebrating success stories of India in the fields of science, technology, industry and management in order to inspire and ignite young students’ minds to innovate.

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Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) explores ties with ICRISAT

Dr Dar welcomes Dr G Sreeramulu, Senior Research Scientist, HUL, Bangalore, during his visit to ICRISAT.

India’s largest fast-moving consumer goods company, the 75-year-old Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) has expressed interest in collaborating with ICRISAT particularly in understanding the role of millets in developing healthy food products. This is consistent with HUL’s new initiative of open innovations.

As part of HUL’s efforts to promote sustainable agriculture, Dr G Sreeramulu, Senior Research Scientist at its Research Center in Bangalore, visited ICRISAT on 29 August. During his meeting with Director General William Dar, Dr Sreeramulu discussed opportunities to collaborate with ICRISAT. Welcoming the initiative, Dr Dar said that the Institute looks forward to a fruitful collaboration with Unilever and highlighted the strong synergy between the objectives of both organizations in line with the inclusive market-oriented development (IMOD) approach.

Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar also presented an overview of ICRISAT’s activities and initiatives of the NutriPlus Knowledge Program of AIP in engaging with the private sector to promote dryland crops through value addition. Dr Sreeramulu also had a tour of the Applied Genomics Laboratory (AGL). During his farm visit, he expressed appreciation of the facilities and activities at ICRISAT and assured that HUL would initiate steps to formalize its ties with the Institute. Mr Purushotham and Mr Aravazhi from AIP also took part in the discussions.

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Dr Lieven Claessens, a Belgian national, joined ICRISAT on 1 September as Principal Scientist on Natural Resources (Water and Soils). He will be based in Nairobi.

Lieven has a PhD in Production Ecology and Resource Conservation from Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Prior to joining ICRISAT, he was with the International Potato Center (CIP), Nairobi as Environmental Scientist in the Crop Management and Production Systems Division.

Team ICRISAT welcomes Lieven, his wife Diana and their children to ICRISAT.

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