No. 1488 14 October 2011

Bringing hope to smallholder sorghum and millet farmers
HOPE holds global planning and review meeting in Addis Ababa

Participants of the HOPE Project global planning and review meeting in Addis Ababa.

Under the HOPE Project, the combination of improved technologies (crop varieties and management) with institutional innovations that increase market access and demand will increase productivity of sorghum and millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This will also improve household food and nutritional security and facilitate the transition to market-oriented and viable sorghum and millet economies that enhance livelihoods of the poor.

The first global planning and review meeting of the project “Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) for Sorghum and Millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia” is currently ongoing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting started on 12 October and will conclude on 16 October.

The meeting, attended by collaborating scientists from participating countries in Africa and Asia, is organized by ICRISAT in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), the HOPE Project’s lead partner in the country, and was officially opened by Ethiopia’s State Minister of Agriculture, His Excellency Ato Wondirad Mandefro.

Yilma Kebede from the foundation delivering his remarks.

Addressing the meeting participants, the State Minister emphasized the importance of agricultural research in accelerating the pace of agricultural transformation and realizing food security amidst the looming threat of climate change. He appreciated the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation for its funding support to the project, and thanked ICRISAT for its continued commitment in strengthening the capacity of the Ethiopian NARS.

In his welcome remarks, EIAR Director General Solomon Assefa thanked ICRISAT for choosing Ethiopia to be the host country for the meeting, and spoke of the fruitful collaboration between ICRISAT and EIAR, particularly in the HOPE project.

ICRISAT Deputy Director General Dave Hoisington, on the other hand, acknowledged the EIAR team’s strong support to the HOPE project. Recognizing the attendance of Yilma Kebede, Senior Program Manager of the foundation, he expressed appreciation for its active role in project implementation. He also urged the meeting participants to be open, honest, and critical during the deliberations and to continue working together towards the greater achievement of the project.

Meanwhile, Yilma Kebede highlighted that the HOPE project crops – sorghum and millets – have been identified as high priority crops in the foundation’s refreshed agricultural development strategy. “Excellence in research should be complemented by excellence in product extension and delivery through use of information to improve policy and extend technologies to benefit smallholder farmers,” he added.

HOPE Project Coordinator George Okwach’s presentation on the overview and objectives of the meeting and highlights of project achievements kick-started the week-long project deliberations.

Also attending the meeting are ICRISAT’s Director for Eastern & Southern Africa (ESA) Said Silim; Program Director for Dryland Cereals, Oscar Riera-Lizarazu; and Resource Planning and Marketing Director Peter Ninnes.

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Groundnut producers participate in field day at Samanko

Bonny Ntare (far left) briefing farmers at the ICRISAT groundnut demonstration plots at Samanko.

Sixty farmers and groundnut producers (including 50 women) visited ICRISAT’s regional office in Samanko, Mali, on 5 October for a groundnut field day.

In his opening remarks, Bonny Ntare, Assistant Director for West and Central Africa (WCA), thanked the farmers as well as ICRISAT’s partners – the PLAN MALI, an international development organization for poverty alleviation working in areas with sufficient rainfall, and the Sahel 21, a private organization working in drought-prone areas – for organizing the visit.

Participants were taken on a tour of ICRISAT’s sorghum and groundnut demonstration plots, as well as those of the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF) and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC). Following the plot visit, farmers were asked to rate the different groundnut varieties developed by ICRISAT.

Farmers showed keen interest in ICRISAT’s research in combating foliar diseases, groundnut rosette, aflatoxin contamination and drought, which are major constraints to production. They were also enthusiastic to learn about the short-duration crop varieties.

PLAN MALI has targets to release improved varieties of groundnut to farmers and expand production of groundnut seeds beyond the villages covered by ICRISAT. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Drame of Sahel 21 spoke of their plan to organize a farmers’ field day in their intervention zone in the future.

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Rwanda Minister of Agriculture at Kaliva

Rwanda Minister of Agriculture, Agnes Matilda Kalibata (2nd from left) and members of her delegation receiving ICRISAT information materials from DG Dar.

Director General William Dar met with Rwanda Minister of Agriculture, Agnes Matilda Kalibata at the DG’s Kaliva residence on 25 September. Among the areas discussed during the meeting were possible conduct of joint research-for-development (R4D) programs on pigeonpea, chickpea, crop-livestock integration, and natural resource management. Presently, ICRISAT, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) are working together on a community watershed management program in Rwanda. It was agreed during the meeting that more R4D will be pursued by ICRISAT and ICAR through the south-south collaboration, and that a team will be sent to Rwanda to finalize and concretize the plans.

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FAO – ICRISAT workshop on AGROVOC VocBench

Participants of the FAO – ICRISAT workshop on AGROVOC VocBench at Patancheru.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) of ICRISAT jointly organized a three-day workshop on ‘AGROVOC management, applications and use of VocBench’ for AGROVOC managers and editors from South and Southeast Asia on 12-14 October. Sixteen participants from six countries (Italy, Thailand, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Bangladesh and India) attended the workshop which was conducted by NT Yaduraju of KSI and Gudrun Johannsen of FAO.

AGROVOC (Agricultural Vocabulary) is a structured controlled vocabulary covering terminology in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food and other related domains, containing nearly 40,000 concepts and is available in 20 languages including Hindi. With the advent of applications based on Web 2.0, ICRISAT has contributed substantially to revising and refining this multilingual thesaurus. AGROVOC has now been converted from a term-based knowledge organization system with traditional thesaurus relationship to a conceptbased system.

VocBench is a freely accessible web-based working environment to manage the AGROVOC Concept Scheme. VocBench was designed and developed by FAO in collaboration with Kasetsart University, Thailand. A hands-on training on using VocBench was given to the participants of the workshop. Users are invited to test the VocBench at

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ICRISAT-Mali hosts USAID food security workshop

(L to R) Peter Ninnes, Eric Shutler, Rob Bertram and Farid Waliyar during the workshop.

Bringing together CGIAR Centers conducting research in West Africa’s Sudano-Sahelian zone, the Ethiopian Highlands and eastern and southern Africa mixed systems, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organized a workshop on “Food Security and Sustainable Intensification of Agricultural System: Planning the Research Agenda” on 6-7 October hosted by ICRISAT-Bamako.

The workshop is part of a series of meetings being conducted by USAID to discuss and identify important agricultural production constraints, researchable topics and partners in each of the three regions. The workshop discussed key areas like improved productivity, nutrition and food safety, and the sustainable intensification of key farming systems in the three regions.

Addressing the workshop participants, Rob Bertram, Director of Agriculture, Technology and Research Office, USAID emphasized that, “We want to be able to think of holistic and integrated research strategies to improve overall farming system performance in terms of environmental, economic, yield, and nutritional considerations.” This, he added, is given the challenging conditions faced by African farmers, particularly the difficulty in attempting to sustainably intensify farming systems while focusing on only one or a few value chains, the changing climate, and the importance of risk reduction.

In his opening remarks, ICRISAT Director for West and Central Africa (WCA) Farid Waliyar thanked the USAID for its initiative to work on a common platform with CGIAR Centers around the issues of food security and sustainable intensification of agricultural systems towards planning the research agenda for the three regions.

Deliberations focused on the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) and regional farming systems most relevant to West Africa (with emphasis on northern Ghana), specific researchable issues, tradeoffs between risk reduction and resilience offered by more complex systems and the potential benefits of simplified systems, and the role of mechanization and irrigation.

These discussions will enable the mapping out of research areas in the region and the identification of potential research themes and priorities, with an emphasis on what can be accomplished with USAID.

The event culminated with a field visit to ICRISATSamanko’s sorghum and groundnut fields, nutritional banks, indigenous fruit tree genebank, AVRDC and WASA demonstration plots, and ongoing activities in the village of Siby (near Bamako).

The workshop was also attended by Peter Ninnes (ICRISAT Resource Planning and Marketing Director), Eric Shutler (Deputy Team Leader, USAID/Mali AEG), and Rebecca Black (USAID Mission Director, Mali). About 22 participants from Niger, Mali, Kenya, India, Nigeria and the UN attended the workshop, including representatives from IITA, ILRI, AVRDC, ICRAF and ICRISAT (Mali, Niger and India).

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Seminar on successful agribusiness ventures inspires budding entrepreneurs

(L to R) Prabhakar Reddy,
SM Karuppanchetty, KK Sharma, Samar Gupta and Dinabhandu Sahoo during the seminar.

It wasn’t in vain that the late Steve Jobs, a great innovator and an entrepreneur, during his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 pronounced “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

This was reinforced at the seminar on “Inspiring Agribusiness Start-ups” under the NIABI Best Practices Seminar Series on Entrepreneurship & Innovation organized by the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program at ICRISAT Patancheru on 12 October. The NIABI seminar series is intended to serve as a platform for budding entrepreneurs to have the opportunity to listen to and learn from the successful entrepreneurial journey of others to start-up ventures/entrepreneurs in agriculture.

Welcoming the participants of the seminar, KK Sharma, Principal Scientist (Biotechnology) and CEO, Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) at ICRISAT explained that the objective behind the seminar is to inspire agribusiness start-ups through examples. SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ABI-ICRISAT, introduced the three speakers who shared the secrets of their success and provided insights into identifying business opportunities, setting them up and dealing with the challenges of a business venture.

Dinabhandu Sahoo, a scientist from the Department of Botany at the Delhi University, in his presentation “Algae – changing the world” described how he transformed the lives of the fishing community in Chilka Lake, Odisha by introducing seaweed cultivation adopting a community-based development approach. His profitable ‘farm the ocean’ technique kick-started a Blue Revolution along the country’s eastern coastline.

Participants of the seminar at Patancheru.

Have a passion for what you do; start slowly, not on a mass scale; do a thorough research; be hands-on as an entrepreneur; and be ready to travel a lot to identify new opportunities – these are Samar Gupta’s mantra for successful start-ups. A liberal arts major and third generation businessman, he took on the reins of Trikaya Agriculture, a family business growing and selling exotic fruits and vegetables like dragon fruit, broccoli, iceberg lettuce and many others under Indian climatic conditions. Spread over eight farms (from Pune to Ooty) and an aggregate of 225 acres, his venture generates an annual turnover of Rs 8.5 crores (US$ 1.7 million).

The third speaker, Satyajit Singh, was an IAS aspirant who had his own distribution network. Life changed when he stumbled upon makhana (fox nut) and went on to set up Shakthi Sudha Industries that manufactures value-added products from makhana. He described how by working through efficient backward and forward linkages, he was able to transform the livelihood of families engaged in producing makhana. Offering them better procurement rates (and eliminating middlemen), providing training to improve productivity, and minimizing risks and ensuring sustainable income generation, he helped ensure a steady supply of raw materials for his firm.

The seminar was broadcast via videoconference to co-business incubation partners of ABI – Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) at Cochin, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Viswa Vidyalaya (JNKVV) at Jabalpur, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) at Coimbatore and Anand Agricultural University (AAU), Anand.

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LIVES Project Inception Workshop

Inception meeting participants at Patancheru.

A one-day inception meeting was organized by Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) on 10 October as part of The Commonwealth of Learning (COL)-assigned project on Coordinating and assessing the effectiveness of mobile phone-based learning among rural communities of India using Learning through Interactive Voice Educational System (LIVES).

The project aims to study the scope of LIVES vis-àvis the interests of stakeholders such as rural masses, extension and development agencies, financial institutions and mobile phone service providers. The project partners include the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Raichur and two NGOs – the Mann Deshi Foundation, Maharashtra and the VIDIYAL, Theni District, Tamil Nadu.

The meeting was attended by participants from CRIDA (Hyderabad), UAS (Raichur), Krishi Vigyan Kendra (Mahabubnagar), VIDIYAL and Mann Deshi Foundation. The activities to be handled by each partner and the timeframe were discussed and finalized. The meeting was convened by NT Yaduraju and P Modi from ICRISAT.

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Mali to host first African JECAM site

This 26 March 2011 WorldView-2 scene of a smallholder farm in Lakamané, Mali illustrates, at 50 cm resolution, the power of remote sensing, here for conservation agriculture. In the upper-left quadrant, what appears as tied ridges in fields are actually remnants of the orthogonal furrows for 2010 and 2009 cropping seasons. Dominant furrow orientation can be draped on digital elevation models to monitor soil and water conservation practices by smallholders.
2011 © DigitalGlobe / PS Traoré.

During the 3rd Crop and Rangeland Monitoring (CRAM) Workshop held in Nairobi on 26-30 September, ICRISAT secured Sukumba and Koutiala districts of Mali as the first African Joint Experiment for Crop Assessment and Monitoring (JECAM) site.

The overarching goal of JECAM ( is to reach a convergence of approaches and develop satellite monitoring and reporting protocols and best practices for a variety of global agricultural systems. The JECAM experiments, developed in the framework of GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring and Agricultural Risk Management, will facilitate international standards for data products and reporting, eventually supporting the development of a global system of systems for agricultural crop assessment and monitoring.

The endorsement of the Mali site will give access to an unrivaled supply of in-season satellite data, both optical and microwave, at metric and weekly resolutions compatible with smallholder fields and crop phenology. PS Traoré, who spearheads this initiative on behalf of ICRISAT, will apply WorldView-2, Hyperion, LISS-4, TerraSAR imagery for crop identification and area estimation, tillage and residue mapping, crop condition/stress monitoring, and assimilation for yield forecasting. Microwave data will allow all-weather imaging. Linkages with the AgMIP and CCAFS projects are under development.

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CSIRO scientists visit ICRISAT-Samanko

ICRISAT’s Eva Weltzien briefing CSIRO scientists at the Samanko demonstration plot.

Three scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Drs Tim Ellis, Neil Huth and Mike Webb, visited ICRISAT-Samanko on 10 October. They are involved in four farming systems projects recently implemented by national program partners in West Africa under the AusAID-CORAF program.

Following their visit to Mali, the CSIRO team traveled to Burkina Faso, where they met with Dr Fatondji Dougbedji, ICRISAT-Niger and co-principal investigator of the farming systems project “An integrated cereal-livestock-tree system for sustainable land use and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Sahel (CerLiveTreeS).” The project will be implemented by a consortium of partners led by the coordinating institution, INRAN, and covering Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

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