No. 1484 16 September 2011

ICRISAT-BMGF partnership for the poor
Working together to reduce hunger and poverty through agricultural development

(L-R) DG William Dar, Dr Sam Dryden (BMGF Director of Agricultural Development), and DDG-R Dave Hoisington during the meeting in Seattle, WA to strengthen ICRISAT-BMGF partnership in agricultural development.

The partnership between ICRISAT and the BILL & MELINDA GATES foundation (BMGF) is anchored on a shared goal: to reduce hunger, poverty and malnutrition for millions of poor farm families in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa through agricultural development.

To further strengthen this partnership, Director General William Dar and Deputy Director General for Research Dave Hoisington visited BMGF’s main office in Seattle, Washington on 9 September. They met with Dr Sam Dryden, BMGF Director of Agricultural Development; Dr Yilma Kedebe, Senior Program Manager; and Diane Scott, Communication Director.

During the meeting, the BMGF group emphasized the Foundation’s commitment to and strategic alliance with the CGIAR, particularly in implementing the CGIAR reform process. The group also expressed strong support to ICRISAT’s research-for-development programs, particularly to the CRPs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals.

BMGF’s refreshed agricultural development strategy pursues a two-pronged approach: investments in public goods with the highest potential to increase productivity; and focused investments in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, paired with targeted country-level delivery systems and policies to realize productivity goals.

The Foundation’s strategic initiatives are on research and development, agricultural policies, and access to market systems. 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.

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

Dr Hoisington, along with Drs CLL Gowda (Research Program Director - Grain Legumes) and Oscar Riera-Lizarazu (Research Program Director - Dryland Cereals) also met with Dr David Bergvinson (BMGF Senior Program Officer) to discuss the TL-II project, and with Dr Kedebe for the HOPE project implementation. The discussions helped define options to align Phase 2 of TL-II with the new BMGF strategy and its link with CRP 3.5, and realign a few areas that need to be completed in the next six months. Discussions with Dr Kedebe outlined ideas on how to build on lessons learned in the HOPE project over the past two years as it enters into its second half of implementation, and the objectives of the upcoming planning meeting of project partners in October.

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CRPs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals presented to ISPC

ISPC Chair Dr Ken Cassman (2nd from right), with Drs Gowda, Hoisington and Riera-Lizarazu during the ISPC meeting at CIMMYT, Mexico.

Drs Hoisington, Gowda and Riera-Lizarazu participated in the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) meeting on 14-15 September at CIMMYT, Mexico. During the meeting, Dr Riera-Lizarazu presented the CRP 3.6 Dryland Cereal program, while Dr Gowda presented the CRP 3.5 Grain Legumes program. After each presentation, the ISPC members raised a number of questions to better understand strategic issues of both CRPs. Discussions took place with all ISPC members over two days. The ISPC will provide their comments on the two CRPs to the Fund Council by the end of September. The presentation and discussion of the CRPs with ISPC is an important step in reaching the final approval of both programs.

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EU-IFAD Food Facility Program workshop held in Mali

Participants during the field demonstration in ICRISAT Mali.

The European Union-International Fund for Agricultural Development (EU-IFAD) Food Facility Program held a workshop in Mali on 7-12 September. Participants from Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali and Senegal, IFAD, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and ICRISAT attended the workshop.

During the opening session, Adriane Del Torto, Program Officer for IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division and Yaya Nouhoum Tamboura, Mali’s government representative and Commissioner of Food Security, highlighted the objectives of and expectations from the workshop. This was followed by a tour of exhibit stalls set up by Benin, Burundi, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali and Senegal at Hotel Salam showcasing seed products and the progress of implementation of the project.

Country presentations were made on strategies for implementing the Food Facility Program. During the discussions, participants agreed that the program would be better implemented by adopting a participatory approach and the professionalization of producers.

The EU-IFAD Food Facility Program aims to strengthen regional integration by improving food security in West Africa. This is done in partnership with: (1) IFAD which aims to increase agricultural productivity in five countries (Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Mali and Senegal) through availability and access to improved seeds by strengthening the production capacity and distribution in these countries; (2) ICRISAT which aims to enhance the production of millet and sorghum in the region to address serious food security problems due to low rainfall; and (3) ECOWAS which aims to help build capacity to support and manage regional interventions.

Participants were taken to Siby village by Dr Eva Weltzien to meet farmers benefiting from the ICRISAT PROMISO Projects. Back to Bamako, participants visited ICRISAT’s Bamako office. Dr Bonny Ntare, on behalf of WCA Regional Director Dr Farid Waliyar, gave them an overview of ICRISAT projects and the IMOD approach in the region.

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Looking into the future of Indian agriculture

(Inset) Dr Binswanger makes a point during the seminar.

WHAT WILL BE THE FUTURE of Indian agriculture? What will be the status of the country’s agricultural productivity after three decades? Can higher agricultural prices accelerate the growth rate and solve the parity problem? These were some of the important issues discussed during the seminar presentation on The prospects of Indian agriculture and rural poverty reduction – Part II by Dr Hans Binswanger, Member-Advisory Panel, VDSA Project, South Africa, at ICRISAT Patancheru on 15 September.

In his talk, Dr Binswanger presented a study on the role of agriculture in a rapidly growing economy like India using an economy-wide model. The importance of agricultural growth in the economy would become more significant along with the rapidly growing demand for food and agricultural inputs. Given the enormous rise in population in India, food demand cannot be met by agricultural imports alone but requires a faster growth in agricultural productivity and sustained growth in irrigated agriculture.

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Tropical Legumes II project meeting for chickpea in South Asia

The annual review and planning meeting of the Tropical Legumes II (TL-II) project for chickpea R&D in South Asia was held on 5-6 September at ICRISAT Patancheru. The meeting was attended by 30 participants, representing the BMGf (Brian Love, Program Officer), aWhere (John Corbett and Stewart Collis), and representatives of Phase 1 partner organizations (PM Salimath, UAS-Dharwad; DM Mahhur, ARS-Gulbarga; V Jayalakshmi, RARS-Nandyal; and Y Satish, ARS-Darsi), proposed new locations (GC Mishra and D Mishra, Orissa; and SB Mishra, Bihar), and ICRISAT.

TL-II project meeting participants at Patancheru.

Dr CLL Gowda welcomed the participants and provided an overview of the project. Brian Love appreciated the progress made during Phase 1 of the project and explained the future directions of BMGf’s efforts in agricultural development. DDG-R Dave Hoisington congratulated the team for the coordinated efforts in facilitating the adoption of improved chickpea cultivars in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and for integrating TL-I and TL-II activities by making use of the molecular breeding products developed under the first phase.

Highlighting the progress made in Phase 1 (2007-2011), Dr Pooran Gaur (Principal Investigator for chickpea in South Asia) reported the record production of quality seed (1,182 tons breeder; 3,924 tons foundation; and 70,607 tons certified seed) of farmer-preferred cultivars (JG 11, KAK 2, JAKI 9218) which helped in the rapid spread of improved cultivars. The farmer participatory varietal selection (FPVS) trials helped in the quick release of two cultivars (BGD 103, MNK 1) in Karnataka.

Tsedeke Abate (Coordinator, TL-II Project) presented an overview of the Phase 2 activities in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director, MIP provided highlights of the review and planning meeting of Objective 1 held at Patancheru earlier. Jim Corbett, President and CEO of aWhere, gave a presentation on Location Intelligent Monitoring & Evaluation. aWhere will help the TL-II team in these activities in Phase 2.

Plans were made to extend the current chickpea activities in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, as well as in Bangladesh and in two new states in India (Bihar and Orissa) in Phase 2. Project partners presented a detailed progress report of the work done in 2010-11, and the work plan for 2011-12 was finalized.

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Analytical laboratory staff trained on state-of-the-art equipment

CAPACITY STRENGTHENING is part of ICRISAT’s strategy to keep up with the rapid increases in knowledge being generated in agriculture, environment and related sciences. In pursuing this, the Research Program on Resilient Dryland Systems recently acquired three auto-analyzers and a carbon analyzer for the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory which undertakes analysis of soil, plant and water samples. Seven staff members (G Pardhasaradhi, K Srinivasu, PV Satish, M Babu Rao, C Vijayaranganatha, M Pavani Kumari and K Sirisha) underwent a week’s hands-on training at the parent company in the Netherlands that manufactured the equipment. This combination of trained human resources and state-of-the-art equipment will enable the laboratory to handle a larger number of soil and plant samples for analysis.

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Bhoochetana a key factor for 5.9% agricultural growth rate
Government of Karnataka bags Leadership in Agriculture Award 2011

The Government of Karnataka’s Department of Agriculture received the Leadership in Agriculture Award for 2011 from Agriculture Today at a ceremony on 14 September in New Delhi. The award was presented to the State of Karnataka for its policy initiatives in catalyzing growth in the farm sector.

The citation for the award, while lauding Karnataka for its rich biodiversity, credited timely policy initiatives of the State Government, such as the ICRISAT-supported Bhoochetana, for helping the State reach 5.9% growth rate during 2010-11 compared to the negligible growth rate during 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The award was received by Mr Sandeep Dave, IAS, Principal Secretary, on behalf of the Government of Karnataka from Mr Balram Jhakar, Mr Salman Khurshid and Mr Harish Rawat. Present on the occasion were Dr KV Sarvesh, Director, Agriculture and Dr Mudbi Babu Rao, Commissioner, Agriculture, Government of Karnataka; and Drs K Krishnappa and SP Wani of ICRISAT.

Earlier on 13 September, the Bhoochetana team led by Drs SP Wani and KV Sarvesh also met with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.

During the meeting, Dr Wani gave a presentation on Bhoochetana: A mission to enhance productivity and incomes of rainfed farmers in Karnataka. Present during the gathering were Mr PK Basu, Secretary, Agriculture and Joint Secretaries Mr EK Majhi and Mr Mukesh Khullar; Dr Gurbachan Singh, Commissioner, Agriculture; Mr B Rath, Deputy Commissioner; and other officials. Their interactions underlined the importance of assessing multi-nutrient deficiency in soils of India and the need to amend them to unlock the potential of rainfed agriculture. Also present was Dr Prabhat Kumar, ICRISAT Business and Country Relations Director.

Bhoochetana uses a science-led holistic approach for improving the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in rainfed areas of Karnataka through the adoption of new technologies and soil test-based application of nutrients in dryland areas. ICRISAT’s watershed team has been technically supporting Bhoochetana since 2009.

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BREAD project review and planning meeting held

Participants of the BREAD project meet at Patancheru.

The 2nd Project Review and Planning Meeting of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored project on BREAD “Overcoming the domestication bottleneck for symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes of UC Davis-ICRISAT-FIU” was hosted at ICRISAT Patancheru on 4-6 September.

In his welcome address, Dr CLL Gowda emphasized the importance of legumes for biological nitrogen fixation (BNF), and expressed appreciation on the revival of research in this area at the Institute. On behalf of the ICRISAT Project Team, Dr Dong-Hyun Kim summarized the progress of field experiments while Mayank Kasshyap presented achievements in greenhouse experiments. Presentations were also made by Drs Doug Cook, R Varma Penmetsa, Pooran Gaur, L Krishna Murthy and S Gopala Krishnan. Detailed work plans for year 2 were made after extensive discussions. Dr Eric von Wettbern from the University of Florida, Ms Emily Bergmann from UC-Davis and Ms P Swathi from ICRISAT also participated in the meeting.

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Third HOPE project planning meeting held in Tanzania

Third HOPE planning meeting participants in Tanzania.

The Department of Research and Development (DRD) through the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) along with ICRISAT-ESA held the third HOPE project planning meeting in Arusha, Tanzania from 6-7 September. The meeting was attended by 25 partner participants from both public and private institutions in Tanzania.

The public institutions were represented by SARI, Lake Zone Agricultural Research Development Institute (LZARDI) in Ukiriguru; Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) in Uyole; ARI-Makutupora; and ARI-Humbolo and District Agricultural and Livestock Development Offices (DALDOs) from Singida Rural, Kondoa, Kishapu, Iramba, and Rombo. SUBA-Agro and SEEDCO Tanzania Ltd and Tanzania Association of Seed Traders (TASTA) represented the private sector.

During the opening session, Dr Mary Mgonja from ICRISAT-ESA and Dr Friddah Mgonja, National HOPE Project Coordinator in Tanzania reviewed the project activities for the five objectives – baseline survey, sorghum breeding, finger millet breeding, market linkage and technology delivery, and seed supply. Planned activities for the third year, especially for the next cropping season that starts in November 2011 and ends in June 2012 were also discussed.

According to reports, at least 85% of the scheduled activities have been executed and farmer preferences for improved varieties of sorghum and finger millet in the six HOPE project mandate districts in Tanzania have been established through participatory varietal selection (PVS), demonstrations and field days. Among the major production challenges identified were the problem of birds, the limited availability of quality seeds, and unreliable product markets.

The third year’s focus will be on promoting preferred varieties identified in PVS; initiating and sustaining seed supply mechanisms through variety release; production and distribution of certified seed through seed companies and their agents, and stimulating production and distribution of community-based seed.

At the end of the meeting, 1,500 kg of foundation seed of sorghum varieties Macia, KARI Mtama1, Hakika, Wahi, Tegemeo, Pato and Sima and 500 kg of foundation seed of finger millet varieties U15, UFM149, and P224 were distributed for community-based seed production in the six districts.

Also highlighted in the meeting was the need to improve farmer linkage to input and output markets. Two collaborating farmer groups each from the six mandate districts were identified for training in postharvest handling techniques. They will subsequently be linked to East African Breweries Ltd (EABL), Nyirefam and other processors and traders for improved sorghum and finger millet grain marketing. The same groups will also be linked to credit and input supply institutions in the mandate districts. It was also agreed that all research trial materials from ICRISAT for the next cropping season starting in November 2011 would reach the six districts by October 2011.

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ICRISAT and Philippine universities sign agreement to revitalize rainfed agriculture

Seated (L-R): CHED Commissioner William Medrano; DA-RFO 2 Regional Executive Director, Dr Lucrecio R Alviar, Jr.; ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar; Rep. Ana Cristina Go, 2nd District of Isabela; Vice-Mayor Roberto M.Agcaoili, San Mateo, Isabela. Standing (L-R): Dr Samuel O Benigno, QSC; Dr Serafin L Ngohayon, IfSU; Dr Maria Luisa R Soliven, CMU; Dr Romeo R Quilang, ISU;
Dr Elpidio T Magante, BISU; Dr Jesus Antonio G. Derije, USM; Atty. Benjamin P Sapitula, DMMMSU; and Dr Roger P Perez, CSU.

Revitalizing rainfed agriculture research, development and extension (RD&E) is now on top of the agenda of Philippine state universities and colleges (SUCs) in their efforts to contribute to national food security and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the country.

Seven Philippine SUCs recently signed Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs) with ICRISAT primarily for the implementation of collaborative rainfed agriculture RD&E projects, most especially technology adaptation, capacity strengthening and sharing of innovations and scientific expertise on dryland agriculture. The MOA signing was done in conjunction with the visit to ICRISAT of a top-level delegation from the Philippines on 30 August – 02 September 2011.

The MOAs were signed between ICRISAT represented by Director General William D Dar, and Philippine SUCs represented by their respective Presidents, namely: Dr Roger P Perez, Cagayan State University (CSU); Dr Jesus Antonio G Derije, University of Southern Mindanao (USM); Dr Maria Luisa R Soliven, Central Mindanao University (CMU); Atty. Benjamin P Sapitula, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU); Dr Elpidio T Magante, Bohol Island State University (BISU); Dr Samuel O Benigno, Quirino State College (QSC); and Dr Serafin L Ngohayon, Ifugao State University (IfSU).

Also signed was an MOA between ICRISAT and the Department of Agriculture - Regional Field Office No. 02 (DA-RFO 2) represented by its Regional Executive Director, Dr Lucrecio R Alviar, Jr., specifically to boost Cagayan Valley’s food security and agricultural growth and development through improved rainfed agriculture. An earlier MOA has been signed between ICRISAT and the Isabela State University (ISU) represented by its President, Dr Romeo R Quilang who was also with the delegation.

Under the MOAs, ICRISAT will provide Philippine partners access to the Institute’s cutting edge technologies related to rainfed/dryland agriculture for adaptation and commercialization in the Philippines. It will also work with Philippine SUCs and DA-RFO in pursuing an integrated and unified RD&E approach to strengthen, invigorate and hasten the development of existing rainfed farming systems in the country. This approach is envisioned to serve as the country’s proactive defense to mitigate drought, land degradation and other risks arising from climate change.

Funded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the top-level delegation’s visit to ICRISAT was in the context of a new initiative with the DA Bureau of Agricultural Research
(DA-BAR) – the Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Program (PHIRARDEP). The team was led by CHED Commissioner William Medrano with Rep. Ana Cristina Go of the 2nd District of Isabela.

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