No. 1486 30 September 2011

65th Governing Board Meeting
Enhanced fundraising plan approved, science and institutional health lauded

The ICRISAT Governing Board at its 65th meeting in Patancheru.

In pursuing its mandate over the years, ICRISAT and its partners have shown that it can make a difference in helping reduce poverty, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the dryland tropics. But the work is far from done. Today, the world’s dryland poor faces ever increasing and new challenges that will require more coordinated efforts by the Institute with its partners. Mobilizing financial, human and technological resources are needed in pursuing its new strategy anchored on inclusive market oriented development.

Ensuring a stable, increasing and continuous funding base while enhancing science and institutional health highlighted the 65th ICRISAT Governing Board (GB) meeting held in Patancheru on 21-24 September. To set into full motion the implementation of its Business Plan, the Board approved ICRISAT’s Fundraising Plan to be carried out in conjunction with the new strategy.

As stressed by the Board, the Fundraising Plan shall serve as the blueprint in working within the new CGIAR funding processes and mechanisms, and in vigorously pursuing bilateral programs and new partnerships. It shall promote ICRISAT as an organization that can deliver, together with its research-for-development (R4D) partners, solutions for smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Governing Board meeting session.

Part of the Fundraising Plan is laying the groundwork for the implementation of the ICRISAT South-South Initiative (IS-SI), which was launched during the last GB meeting in March, to boost India-Africa partnerships on
agricultural R4D.

Relatedly, the GB acknowledged the Institute’s vigorous ongoing efforts towards more strategic targeting of resource mobilization, especially around larger projects, accounting for at least 80% of new funding. Since the March GB meeting, an additional US$36 million has been raised from such mega-projects as TL-II, HOPE and

The Board also reiterated the need for the Institute to sustain financial health through full cost recovery and treasury investments. Taking all factors into account, the budget for 2011 and 2012 were approved by the Board.

The Governing Board with the Management Group.

Another highlight of the meeting was the GB’s acknowledgment of ICRISAT’s leadership in developing and getting approval of two CRP proposals (Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals) by the CGIAR Consortium Board. To be implemented by a global alliance of core partners and national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the two programs are driven by their potential impact that will benefit more people than ever before.

The four-day meeting was recognized by the GB as one of the most well-organized, efficient, seamless and productive gathering they had in recent past, expressing their appreciation in the excellent meeting and field tour arrangements, and the many opportunities they had interacting with the staff, particularly with the young scientists. They also acknowledged the Institute’s commitment in maintaining a good balance of science and institutional health, financial strength and stability, and staff morale and development.

Other decisions made by the GB include gender and diversity policy action plan updates and scientific/management staff succession planning.

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65th Governing Board Meeting in pictures

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Project meeting on heat tolerance in chickpea held at Patancheru

Participants of the project meet on heat tolerance in chickpea.

The Second Annual Review and Work Planning Meeting of the project “Improving Heat Tolerance in Chickpea” supported by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) was held at ICRISAT Patancheru on 15 September.

The meeting was attended by collaborating scientists from the Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Kanpur; Punjab University, Chandigarh; Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University, Jabalpur; Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad; and ICRISAT Patancheru.

In his remarks during the meeting, Dr N Nadarajan, Director, IIPR-Kanpur, emphasized the importance of heat tolerance in chickpea in view of the changing scenario of chickpea cultivation in India and the possible effects of climate change. He also congratulated the project team for the remarkable progress and achievements made in the last two years.

Dr Pooran Gaur, Coordinator, provided the project’s two-year progress highlights. He reported that several genotypes which can tolerate high temperature (>35oC) stress at reproductive stage have been identified by multilocation evaluation of chickpea reference set and selected breeding lines. Contrasting genotypes for sensitivity to heat stress (highly tolerant and highly sensitive) are being studied to understand mechanisms of heat tolerance at the reproductive stage. Genetic populations are being developed for molecular mapping of genes for heat tolerance.

Principal Investigators from participating institutes also presented their respective two-year progress reports. The work plan for 2011-12 was reviewed and finalized after thorough deliberations.

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Watershed management book launched

Launching of the watershed management book.

The book “Integrated Watershed Management in Rainfed Agriculture” published by CRC Press, UK and edited by Suhas P Wani, Johan Rockström and KL Sahrawat was launched on 23 September by Governing Board (GB) Chair Nigel Poole and Director General William Dar during the poster session of the 65th GB meeting in Patancheru.

The book, according to Dr Wani, is an important international public good based on the holistic watershed research done by ICRISAT since 1976 in Asia and in Africa. It contains 13 chapters from renowned experts in various areas of watershed management.

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On World Health Day
ICRISAT promotes healthy & safe nutritious snacks

Sorghum and millet based health foods.

At last week’s UN assembly, India announced the launch of a nationwide program to combat noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) starting April 2012. In 2008 in India, over 5.2 million people died of NCDs like cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Change in lifestyle and diets especially among urban population are largely to blame. With rising incomes, people tend to eat more but not necessarily better. Consuming empty calories and more processed food, the average Indian citizen eats more refined grains and products that contain high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates (not diabetic friendly), in addition to consuming foods having high fat and salt content.

ICRISAT celebrated World Heart Day on 29 September by advocating the importance of physical well-being with emphasis on wholesome, healthy diet. India’s booming snack food industry, estimated at US$2 billion per year, is where ICRISAT envisions the potential to turn over a new leaf.

The NutriPlus Knowledge Programme (NPK) of the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) has tackled the challenge of producing healthier, more nutritious snacks. First, instead of deep frying, they use extrusion technology. Pressure and heat are combined without oil to cook crispy balls or sticks resulting in a light, crunchy and tasty product.

But most importantly, these snacks are made with flour from sorghum and millet – cereals with a higher nutrition value than rice and wheat. Sorghum and millet have plenty of qualities: they are rich in dietary fiber especially resistant starch and hence are diabetic friendly, are gluten free, rich in antioxidants and vitamins, and in nutrients such as iron and phosphorus

In addition to introducing better, healthier and safer fast food for consumers, sorghum and millet snacks will create new markets for these crops. Given they are only grown by small subsistence farmers, this exciting market opportunity could help link poor farmers to the dynamic Indian agro-food industry, ultimately increasing their incomes and reducing poverty.

ICRISAT’s food technology researchers are also looking into partnerships with the private sector and development organizations to find solutions for post-harvest issues and explore new markets for dryland crops such as sorghum and millet. Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar is the leading scientist for ICRISAT’s NPK Program. “In addition to the health snacks, we are looking at several other exciting possibilities to raise the value of these nutritious grains to have an impact on smallholder farmers who grow these crops,” said Mazumdar. “We would like to research the possibility of sorghum or milletbased enriched biscuits for school feeding programs in Asia and Africa. We could also develop and promote simple processing technologies and innovations for mothers to prepare nutritious baby foods in families where malnourishment is an issue,” Mazumdar added.

Director General William Dar highlighted the value of this food technology research for reducing rural poverty. “By tapping into the health-promoting properties of dryland crops like sorghum and millet we can help address an urgent public health issue at the same time as creating new markets for these subsistence crops, which are produced mostly by smallholder farmers,” said Dr Dar.

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Food for Peace project NGOs visited ICRISAT-Sadoré

On 20 September, ICRISAT-Sadoré received visitors from three non-government organizations (NGOs) – the Hellen Keller International (HKI), AFRICARE and Mercy Corps – working together in the Food for Peace project. The visit aimed to identify possible research collaborations in the area of food security. The team included Dr Bamba Ibrahim from HKI, Pascal Payet from AFRICARE, and Midou Amadou from Mercy Corps.

Visitors from NGOs along with ICRISAT staff at Sadoré.

ICRISAT Niger country representative Dr Mahamadou Gandah gave the visitors an overview of ICRISAT and the changes taking place within the CGIAR system. Various research areas related to the NGOs’ interests were also discussed with ICRISATNiamey scientists and research assistants.

The group expressed desire to collaborate particularly in the area of gender poverty reduction, increasing women’s welfare, and improving children’s nutrition in Maradi, Zinder and Tahoua regions in Niger. Various technologies developed by ICRISAT were showcased during the visit namely fertilizer microdosing, bioreclamation of degraded lands (BDL), AMG techniques, warrantage system (inventory credit), seed production at community level, and food processing.

ICRISAT’s possible involvement in a five-year project to be submitted to USAID by the end of this year was discussed, with Mercy Corps as the focal point for future discussions.

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ICRISAT hosted workshop for IBP developers

IBP workshop participants.

A two-day workshop for developers of the Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP) Configurable Workflow System was held on 27-28 September at Patancheru. The workshop brought together team members from the International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT), International Visitors from NGOs along with ICRISAT staff at Sadoré. Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Generation Challenge Program (GCP), the private sector and ICRISAT representing the critical mass required to develop the system for the IBP.

Components being developed by each sub-team – IB Fieldbook, Genotyping Data Management System and R-based Analytical Pipeline – were reviewed and assessed. Work plans for the next year were discussed and requirements for standardization and integration were developed.

“Good progress has been made and thanks are due to ICRISAT for providing good facilities and a great environment for collaboration,” said Graham McLaren, Principal Investigator of the IBP project.

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Pearl millet downy mildew resistance training course in Niger

(Left) Participants of the training course. (Right) Drabo Inoussa scoring DM infection on pearl millet seedling.

A three-day training course on pearl millet greenhouse downy mildew screening protocol was conducted under the umbrella of the HOPE Project at Sadoré on 21-23 September. Participants from national pearl millet research programs in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria were joined by a PhD student from Nigeria for the tri-lingual course (English, French and Haussa) led by ICRISAT’s Tom Hash and Harouna Dodo.

Building on materials developed previously for comparable training programs by the pathology team at Patancheru, the course introduced the use of the recently established greenhouse downy mildew screening facility at Sadoré. Participants received hands-on training in all aspects of the screening protocol except initial establishment of the pathogen isolates – from preparation of the potting mixture and sowing of test entries to ensure rapid germination and uniform seedling emergence, through production of inoculum, inoculation of the pot-grown seedlings, scoring of disease incidence, statistical analysis, and interpretation of screening

Participants found the protocol to be an interesting complement to conventional field screening for resistance. Several components of the protocol were identified that can be adapted to improve the effectiveness of field-screening even before the physical facilities required for full implementation of the greenhouse screen are available.

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Writeshop on building climate resilient agriculture in Asia

Participants of the writeshop.

As part of Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded project ‘Vulnerability to Climate Change – Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience’ a writeshop was organized at ICRISAT Patancheru on 26-30 September. Five country partners from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand and India attended the writeshop, the objective of which was to harmonize project research reports for integration into government policy development programs.

Director General William Dar met the participants and encouraged them to bring about newer dimensions and prescriptions in mainstreaming climate resilient agriculture in Asia. Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director – Market, Institution and Policies welcomed the participants, expressing confidence that the workshop will result to meaningful integration of key messages from the country-level research findings.

Dr Naveen P Singh, Project Coordinator gave a brief introduction and purpose of the writeshop, highlighting information gaps in country-level reports to be addressed during the week.

Resource persons Wijaya Jayatilake, Sociologist (Sri Lanka) and GGSN Rao, Agro-meteorologist (India) provided valuable suggestions in enriching the reports. The participants worked together in finalizing the country-level reports, and in consolidating and synthesizing regional-level findings to come up with Policy Briefs for dissemination to the various participating countries.

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