No. 1483 09 September 2011

Research programs for sustainable food and nutrition security
CGIAR Consortium Board approves CRPs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

The CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) have ushered in a new era for collaborative research-for-development (R4D). The CRPs bring together a broad range of organizations to link research with development and ground-level action that improve people’s lives. This approach advances the CGIAR’s vision to reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience through high-quality international agricultural research, partnership and leadership.

ICRISAT led partners in developing and getting the Consortium Board’s (CB) approval of two CRP proposals – Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals. The two programs are part of 15 CRPs, each led by a Center from the CGIAR Consortium. The CRPs provide new pathways to improved livelihoods, food security, health, and sustainability of smallholder farmers and consumers of developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

The CRP on Grain Legumes aims to apply crop improvement and related high-priority value-chain interventions to eight crops – groundnut, soybean, chickpea, cowpea, common bean, pigeonpea, lentil, and faba bean. It seeks to maximize benefits that grain legumes offer to smallholder farmers, especially women, by increasing their incomes, securing their food supplies, improving their nutrition and sustainably intensifying their farming systems.

The program unites ten initial core partners, involving hundreds of scientists crossing institutional boundaries. It links with regional grain legume networks and value chains to translate R4D innovations into impacts that benefit smallholder producers and consumers. The partners include four CGIAR centers – ICRISAT, Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); and six others who have complementary grain legume R4D efforts – Generation Challenge Program (GCP), The Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Turkish General Directorate of Agricultural Research (GDAR), and USA Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSP).

On the other hand, the CRP on Dryland Cereals aims primarily to improve the productivity and profitability of four major cereal crops – barley, finger millet, pearl millet and sorghum. The program’s overriding goal is to achieve impacts primarily through higher and more stable dryland crop productivity of smallholder farmers. More specifically it aims to increase incomes and reduce rural poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition, and help reduce adverse environmental impacts (especially in dryland crop-livestock systems).

The program is a global alliance of eight core partners, national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and national and international public and private sector research and development partners which include two CGIAR centers – ICRISAT and ICARDA; GCP; ICAR; Iranian Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO); Institut de Recherche et Développement (IRD); Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD); and Sorghum, Millet and Other Grains Collaborative Research Support Program (INTSORMIL). Also involved are more than 60 NARES in Africa and Asia, 20 advanced research institutes, and 25 CSOs, farmer organizations and private sector companies.

The two CRPs are part of CGIAR’s bold effort to reduce world hunger and poverty while conserving the environment, particularly in vulnerable regions of the world. This effort is being done in an era of recurrent food crises combined with global financial meltdown, volatile energy prices, natural resource depletion, and climate change.

The two CRPs have been endorsed by the CB for consideration and approval at the next Fund Council (FC) meeting subject to the endorsement by the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC), for an initial three-year implementation in 2011-2013.

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Private sector company explores partnership with ICRISAT Niger

(From L to R) Seydou Abdoussalam (ICRISAT Senior Scientist), Frédéric Somé of IAMGOLD and Dr Mahamadou Gandah.

Mr Frédéric Somé from the ecological restoration and biodiversity plants program of IAMGOLD Essakane SA, a mining company based in Burkina Faso, visited ICRISAT Sadoré on 25 August.

Mr Somé met with ICRISAT country representative Dr Mahamadou Gandah to identify possible areas of collaboration, such as date palm, African market garden, rehabilitation of degraded lands (BDL), training in various technologies such as nursery and vegetable production, and bioreclamation of degraded lands.

Future ties will involve ICRISAT supplying Future ties with ICRISAT supplying IAMGOLD Essakane SA with plants and seeds for the mining site target area. By the end of the visit, Mr Somé went back to Burkina Faso with a car full of date palm and vetivers plants from the ICRISAT Sadoré nursery.

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Breaking the hunger-poverty cycle
A fresh strategy for agricultural development

Dr Pingali of BMGF during his seminar presentation.

Reducing hunger and poverty by sustainably improving productivity of poor farming families is the primary goal of BMGF’s refreshed agricultural development strategy,” said Dr Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director, Agricultural Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) during a seminar delivered at ICRISAT Patancheru on 07 September.

In his seminar on Agricultural Development: A Refreshed Strategy, Dr Pingali stressed that “the power of investing in agriculture is clear: agricultural development is two to four times more effective at reducing hunger and poverty than any other sector.”

Channeling its support to sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the need and opportunities are most felt, the Foundation had donated $1.72 billion in agricultural development by the end of 2010. Focused on staple crops and livestock with the greatest impact on the poor, the investments are aimed at agricultural productivity to make poor communities economically stronger and more stable.

BMGF’s refreshed agricultural development strategy is a two-pronged approach: investments in public goods with highest potential to impact productivity; and focused investments in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, paired with targeted country-level delivery systems and policies to realize productivity goals. These investments are expected to help increase poor farmers’ agricultural productivity, creating a ripple effect of self-sufficiency across communities in the targeted regions.

The Foundation’s strategic initiatives are in the areas of research and development, agricultural policies, and access to market systems. Some of ICRISAT’s mandate crops are among the priority value chains in these initiatives, namely sorghum, millet and groundnut in sub-Saharan Africa, and chickpea and groundnut in South Asia.

Dr Pingali also emphasized its commitment to partnerships with developed and developing worlds, as well as with public, private and nonprofit sectors in carrying out BMGF’s work. He also stressed the Foundation’s commitment to and strategic alliance with the CGIAR, particularly in implementing the CGIAR reform process.

BMGF is currently ICRISAT’s top donor, supporting major research-for-development programs on tropical legumes (TL-II), dryland cereals (HOPE), and village dynamics studies (VDS).

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HOPE Project showcases improved finger millet varieties in Uganda

Farmers checking a plot of Seremi 2 finger millet during a PVS assessment in Bungatira village, Gulu District.

The Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project partners in Uganda led by the Serere Research Institute in Soroti and Victoria Seeds Ltd, in collaboration with ICRISAT-ESA, organized a four-day field visit from 17- 20 August for 60 farmer groups. The visit was conducted in the Northern Zone of Uganda – Bungatira village in Northern Gulu, Akaidebe “A” and Agoba Dong villages in Oyam District, and Alira village in Apac District.

Participating were 35 farmers (20 women and 15 men) in Gulu District; 120 farmers (70 women and 50 men) in Oyam District; 30 farmers (20 women and 10 men) in Apac District. Also in attendance were farmer group leaders Dennis Ongora of Victoria Seeds and Robert Opulot of Serere, Patrick Audi and Henry Ojulong of ICRISAT, and leaders of local church parishes and civil organizations.

The field days showcased 7 improved finger millet varieties developed by the Serere Research Institute, out of which Seremi 2, Seremi 1 and Pese 1 were consistently selected as the most preferred (in descending order of preference) by farmers in the mandate districts.

Seremi 2 was the most preferred variety in the Northern zone for its large seeds, good taste, good color, early maturity, high shelling percentage, good brewing qualities and resistance to blast disease. Farmers of Akaidebe “A” and Alira and Agoba Dong villages reported that finger millet was more important than maize as a source of food for farm families. Because of its early maturity, majority of households depended on it as an energy food source early in the season before the other cereals matured or when the rains failed. They ranked finger millet high as a food security crop, followed by maize, sorghum and rice. According to the farmers, most cultural ceremonies in the villages use finger millet to make traditional brews and foodstuff.

Farmers in Oyam District with finger millet heads of their favorite variety Seremi 2.

The Serere Research Institute, a key project partner in Uganda, has successfully partnered with the Soroti Sorghum Producers and Processors Association (SOSPPA), a 300-member Community-Based Organization of 13 affiliated farmer groups in Ikiere Sub-county, Serere district. Charles Oile and Zeblalon Ejomu, secretary and treasurer of SOSPPA, respectively, reported that during the April-July 2011 cropping season, members of six affiliate groups trained in finger millet agronomy and seed production by the national extension system of Uganda (NAARDS) produced 12 tons of seed of Seremi 2 for further upscaling and adoption. Seventy-year-old farmer John Oonyu who owns 3 acres of farmland and has a 13-member household said he had harvested 200 kg of seed of Seremi 2 on ¼ acre of land.

The HOPE project, through the Serere Research Institute, has already bought 1000 kg of the seed (at 40% more than the grain price as agreed by SOSPPA officials) to be packed into 1-kg packs and distributed by Victoria Seeds to at least 1000 farmers from the 60 groups HOPE project collaborates with in the Northern zone of Uganda during the current September-November 2011 cropping season.

The SOSPPA officials sought training assistance for their farmers in value addition and linkage to finger millet processors.

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Pursuing public-private partnerships
Consultation meeting with HPRC partners held

To strengthen the IMOD approach and obtain feedback on future research on sorghum, pearl millet and pigeonpea hybrids, members of the Hybrid Parents Research Consortia (HPRC) convened for a consultation meeting on 7 September at ICRISAT Patancheru.

(From L to R) Drs CLL Gowda, Dave Hoisington and Oscar Riera-Lizarazu during the consultation meeting.

The meeting involved 33 scientists from HPRC’s 25 partner seed companies, representatives from the All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project (AICPMIP) and the Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR), along with 27 ICRISAT scientists. Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Program Director-Dryland Cereals, welcomed the participants and briefed them about the meeting’s objectives. Inaugurating the meeting, DDG for Research Dr David Hoisington acknowledged HPRC as an excellent example of public-private partnership in research and development for the benefit of smallholder farmers. Meanwhile, Drs CLL Gowda and Riera-Lizarazu briefed the participants about the latest developments on CRPs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals, respectively.

Some of the issues discussed during the meeting include: productivity enhancement in postrainy season sorghum and the narrow genetic base of postrainy season sorghum as a major reason for lack of heterosis; the need to infuse new germplasm from outside India; emerging research priorities in pearl millet, particularly the need to diversify restorers for the underutilized A4 and A5 CMS systems; and strategies for research and development for improved pigeonpea hybrids and their effective seed production.

Participants of the HPRC consultation meeting.

Participants were introduced to the new tools of crop improvement through presentations by Drs Riera-Lizarazu and Rajeev Varshney. Discussions centered on new dimensions of private sector partnerships with suggestions to elevate the partnership beyond HPRC, link farmers to markets to strengthen the IMOD approach, and engage in partnership with the Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP).

The active participation of OP Yadav, Project Coordinator, AICPMIP and Dr Aruna Reddy from DSR added a new dimension to this public-private sector consultation exercise. A new Advisory Committee for 2012-2013 was constituted. SK Gupta from JK Agri-Genetics, RS Mahala from Pioneer Overseas Corporation, AR Sadananda from Vibha Seeds, and PP Zaveri from Biogene-Agritech were unanimously elected as members from the private sector.

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Molecular breeding for pulse improvement projects hold planning and review meet

The Annual Planning and Review Meeting of two projects – “Translating genomics research for pulse improvement (CEG Phase-II) and “Deployment of molecular markers in chickpea breeding for developing superior cultivars with enhanced disease resistance”, both funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India (GOI) was held at ICRISAT Patancheru on 29 August.

In his inaugural address, Director General William Dar outlined the importance of embracing modern genomics approaches in breeding programs for chickpea and pigeonpea, the leading pulse crops in India.

Dr Dar also underlined the importance of capacity building to ensure the sustainability of molecular breeding in pulse crops in India. Dr CLL Gowda (Research Program Director-Grain Legumes) identified popular varieties for molecular breeding that would help in the release of improved varieties. Briefing the participants about the two projects, Dr Rajeev Varshney, CEG Leader and Project Coordinator spoke about setting up an SNP genotyping facility with an investment of US$200,000 at ICRISAT that would bring down the cost of genotyping.

Dr Dar makes a point during the planning and review meeting.

Project progress reports were delivered by Dr Shailesh Tripathi, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi; Drs Subhojit Datta and Aditya Pratap, Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur; Dr LB Mhase, MPKV, Rahuri; Drs Anita Babbar and Suneeta Pandey, JNKVV, Jabalpur; Drs G Anuradha, Yamini and M Suresh, Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Hyderabad; Dr DM Mannur, Agricultural Research Station (ARS), Gulbarga; and two presentations were made by Dr Varshney on behalf of the ICRISAT project teams.

The meeting was attended by co-investigators and project personnel from ICRISAT and from other centers including Drs Pooran Gaur, KB Saxena, Isabel Vales, Mamta Sharma, Abhishek Rathore, Trushar Shah, Mahendar Thudi, Siva Kumar, and Rachit Saxena.

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ICRISAT-HOPE project website launched

Dr Dar along with ICRISAT staff during the inauguration of the HOPE website at Patancheru. Also seen on the plasma screen (right) via video conferencing is HOPE project coordinator Dr George E Okwach at ICRISAT-Mali.

ICRISAT launched an interactive website ( for its flagship project Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The launching was led by Director General William Dar at Patancheru on 2 September.

The website was developed in tune with ICRISAT’s mandate to maximize and encourage the use of open source technology in academics and research activities and also as part of its Strategic Plan to use ICT in enhancing communication and collaboration between ICRISAT and its partners. It uses a WordPress Blog platform as web server which facilitates collaborative publishing from various ICRISAT locations and interaction with partners.

Launching the website, Dr Dar said, “The drylands of Asia and Africa are among the poorest and most food-insecure in the world. Together with partners, we launched the HOPE project in 2009 to ensure food security in these regions. While the impacts our project made were there on the ground, we have today gone one step further to launch the site to ensure greater visibility of our efforts.”

Dr Dar thanked the project team and partners spread across East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa, and South Asia, especially its Coordinator Dr George E Okwach, and Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Research Program Director-Dryland Cereals. Dr Okwach spoke on the development of the website and the challenge to keep it updated with the latest developments.

The ICRISAT-HOPE project seeks to help smallholder farmers increase the yields of the two dryland cereal crops (sorghum and millet) in West Africa (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria), Eastern Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) and in four states of India (Rajasthan, Haryana, Gujarat, and Maharashtra). It is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).


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