No. 1497 16 December 2011

New office in WCA hub inaugurated
WCA and ESA regional offices celebrate Annual Day

(From L to R) Farid Waliyar, Adama Traore, Abdou Tenkouano and Bino Teme at the inauguration of ICRISAT’s new premises in Mali.

Celebrations, renewed commitments, team-building and some official business marked ICRISAT’s 39th anniversary in its regional hubs in Mali and Nairobi.

It was a day of double celebration at ICRISAT-West and Central Africa (WCA) on 9 December when distinguished guests and staff members gathered at the Samanko station in Mali to celebrate ICRISAT’s 39th anniversary as well as to inaugurate the regional hub’s new premises.

Among the dignitaries present were Dr Bino Teme, Director, Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER); Adama Traore, Member, ICRISAT Governing Board; five chiefs of villages surrounding the station; and representatives of CGIAR institutions hosted by ICRISAT-Mali.

Farid Waliyar addressing the gathering at the Annual Day celebrations in Mal.

In his opening address, WCA Director Farid Waliyar highlighted ICRISAT’s new strategic orientation for the region and urged all staff members and partners to work together for the success of the Institute’s mission and goals. The inauguration of the new WCA building was led by Dr Waliyar, along with Drs Teme and Traore, who both reaffirmed their support to ICRISAT. The celebration was also an opportunity to give away awards and for informal recognition of staff members for their dedicated services and significant contribution to research, resource mobilization and administration.

Eva Weltzien (right) and other staff members shake a leg.

In ICRISAT’s Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) hub, the celebration on 9 December consisted of a fun-filled outing to Sopa lodge on the shores of Lake Naivasha, Kenya, a 1.5-hour drive from Nairobi. Surrounded by waterbuck and giraffes grazing on the lawns of the lodge and the lake lying just beyond the trees, staff members were led into team-building activities by a facilitator.

Games were played to break the ice and integrate new members and their spouses into the group. The games revealed how well the staff can work together as a team, and most importantly, how well as a team they were equipped to be innovative, think outside the box and work together to determine the best person for each task assigned.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) representative Franck Attere (right) presenting a distinction certificate to an ICRISAT staff member.

After a discussion session of what worked well and what did not, ESA Director Said Silim welcomed Dr Lieven Claessens, Principal Scientist, Natural Resources (water and soils), to Team ICRISAT.

It was also a day of showering good wishes: on birthday boy Paul Chege; on Christine Wangari and Bernard Munya who are getting married in December; and on two newborns of staff members Prakash Dixit and Vincent Njunge.

The day ended with a well-deserved lazy lunch that stretched well into the afternoon.


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ICRISAT-ESA: Annual Day in pictures


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ICRISAT-HOPE project holds agri-business training for stakeholders in Ethiopia

Groups work together during the workshop.

The ICRISAT-HOPE project in Ethiopia through the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) and in partnership with ICRISAT-ESA organized a training workshop on Agricultural business planning, management of farmer organizations, product marketing and credit access to farmer groups at the Melkassa Agricultural Research Centre in Nazareth, Ethiopia on 8-9 December. This was part of the training of trainers (TOTs) under Milestones 6.5.1 & 6.5.2 of the project, to train farmer organizations to be able to access finance to support production and purchase of surplus finger millet and sorghum for markets.

Twenty-one participants from the project’s mandate districts in Ethiopia (Guungua, Kobo, Bahirdar, Melkassa, Bako, Diga, Mieso, Shala and Gisangu) representing stakeholders from research, extension, farmer cooperatives, seed enterprises and credit institutions involved in the sorghum and finger millet value chain participated in the workshop. They were trained on basic and practical skills in farm planning, keeping of financial records, managing farmer organizations, product marketing strategies, and principles and practices in mobilizing financial resources by farmer organizations for improved agricultural production and marketing.

Officially launching the training, Dr Getachew Ayana, Director, Melkassa Agricultural Research Centre lauded the fruitful partnership between his institute and ICRISAT in developing improved and suitable sorghum and finger millet technologies aimed at improving livelihoods in semi-arid areas of Ethiopia. He also reiterated that both organizations would be successful only if all the stakeholders in the value chain are brought on board as important drivers in the process of transforming livelihoods of sorghum and finger millet producing farm households.

Participants of the agri-business training workshop held in Ethiopia.

The training was facilitated by Charles Muigai of The Enterprise Institute, Nairobi, Kenya. Also in attendance were Mekonnen Sime (Project Coordinator in Ethiopia), Alemu Tirfessa (National Sorghum Research Coordinator) and Patrick Audi, representing ICRISAT-ESA.

At the end of the training, some of the recommendations made were: for participants to actively sensitize and train farmers in their mandate districts to empower them to cultivate improved market-preferred varieties of sorghum and finger millet to meet quality standards demanded in the market; strengthen the management of farmer groups by using participatory methods; and empower farmers through training to objectively determine prices for their grain and negotiate with buyers more objectively, as well as to improve their post-harvest handling of sorghum and finger millet in order to supply quality products to the markets.

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WCA Director explores partnership opportunities with UNICEF

Farid Waliyar presents a copy of ICRISAT’s Strategic Plan 2020 to Dr Marcel Rudasingwa of UNICEF, Mali.

ICRISAT’s West and Central Africa Director Farid Waliyar met with Dr Marcel Rudasingwa, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative and in charge of coordinating the UN system in Mali, on 7 December at the UNICEF office in Mali. The meeting was also attended by Médiatrice Kiburente Touré (Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF).

Giving an overview of ICRISAT’s activities in the region, Dr Waliyar stressed on how the implementation of ICRISAT’s strategic plan will ensure better livelihoods for the poor in West Africa. Focusing mainly on food and nutritional security, he said “Sustained efforts are on to find answers to the nutritional problems in West Africa. To improve the nutritional value of staple food crops, we have developed partnerships with many institutions in the region.”

Dr Rudasingwa, on the other hand, pointed out that ICRISAT’s mission converges with UNICEF’s objective of improving the livelihoods of women and children. He also reiterated his commitment to strengthening ties between UNICEF and ICRISAT.

Both Drs Rudasingwa and Waliyar lauded the Government of Mali’s significant efforts towards ensuring food and nutritional safety and security and agreed to support efforts to reduce malnutrition which affects a great part of the population in general and children in particular.

Among other issues discussed during the meeting was the security situation in the region in general and in Mali in particular. The UN system has reiterated its availability to support ICRISAT’s efforts to ensure the security of its personnel, and facilities. It was agreed to establish a working group to make recommendations for review and subsequent action. Both sides underlined the necessity for periodic high-level meetings.

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ICRISAT at IAE Task Force 43 workshop

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a report titled “The Bioenergy and Water Nexus” in partnership with Oeko Institut and Institute for Applied Ecology, Berlin, Germany for the IAE Bioenergy Task 43. The Task deals with Biomass Feedstocks for Energy Markets and is part of the implementing Agreement on Bioenergy, a component of the program on international energy technology collaboration by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Representing ICRISAT, Dr SP Wani attended a meeting in Paris in 2010 towards the preparation of the report as well as the summary for the Task Force 43. He also attended the IAE Bioenergy Task 43 meeting and Australia Bioenergy Workshop held in Sunshine Coast in Australia on 24-26 November 2011, to prepare the report for release during the 6th World Water Forum to be held in Marseille, France in March 2012.

Dr Wani made a presentation on the “Hydrological consequences of jatropha production on wastelands in developing countries” and was involved in discussions contributing to the framework and in writing the report for IAE Bioenergy Task 43.

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I-FINITE project trains University of Zambia staff in DNA extraction and PCR

Learning the ropes of sample preparation for DNA extraction.

The Biotechnology component of the I-FINITE (Increasing groundnut farmer incomes and nutrition through innovations and technology enhancement) project funded by USAID-FTF (2011- 2014) aims at QTL mapping of groundnut rosette disease (GRD) and early leaf spot (ELS) resistance to enable marker-assisted introgression of these traits into Zambian farmer-preferred groundnut germplasm over the next 5-8 years.

To this end, a training workshop for the technical staff of the University of Zambia was held on 5-9 December at ICRAF, Nairobi, where the biotechnology activities of ICRISAT-ESA have recently moved. The USAID-FTF-funded course focused on groundnut and the basic techniques of DNA extraction and PCR, which will be established there during the course of the project.

Participants of the training workshop held in Nairobi.

Attended by 10 university lecturers and technical staff from the Departments of Plant Science, Biological Science and Soil Science, the course imparted individual hands-on laboratory practice in DNA extraction and PCR, providing participants with extensive theoretical background on the use of molecular markers in crop improvement, with special focus on marker-assisted trait introgression. They were also trained on leaf sample preparation and shipment, DNA extraction, DNA quantity and quality tests, electrophoresis and SSR genotyping.

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ICRISAT takes part in 6th conference on Krishi Vignan Kendras

SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer, Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) delivered a lecture on “Technology Incubation and ZTM & BPD Experience of NARS” at the 6th National Conference on Krishi Vignan Kendras (KVKs) jointly organized by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (KNKVV) on 3-5 December at JNKVV, Jabalpur.

The theme of the conference was “Preparing farmers 4 secondary agriculture”, with a view to giving secondary agriculture a boost to reduce post-harvest losses and allow farmers to get better returns from their harvest, create new job opportunities to retain rural youth in agriculture, and improve processing technologies to follow changing consumption patterns.

Presentations were also made by the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI) Business Planning & Development Units (BPDs) of ICAR: Archana Suman (ICAR), Dr Puneet Kumar (Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar), Dr RP Nachane (Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology, Mumbai), Dr Leela Edwin (Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, Cochin), Dr D Nag (National Institute of Research on Jute and Allied Fiber Technology, Kolkata) and Dr SK Rao (JNKVV, Jabalpur).

About 600 Krishi Vignan Kendras attended the conference which had over 1200 delegates deliberating on six themes. Among the key dignitary who attended was Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar.

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ICRISAT-BMZ/GTZ final project workshop held in Patancheru

Participants of the ICRISAT-BMZ/GTZ final project workshop.

The ICRISAT-BMZ/GTZ project on “Sustainable conservation and utilization of genetic resources of two underutilized crops – finger millet and foxtail millet – to enhance productivity, nutrition and income in Africa and Asia” (funded by BMZ, Germany), was successfully completed at a final workshop held during 15-16 December at ICRISATPatancheru. Collaborating scientists from Germany, Kenya, Uganda and the Indian centers (Mandya, Nandyal, Vizianagaram and Dholi) and scientists from ICRISAT-Patancheru participated in the workshop.

The project was implemented in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in Africa and in India during 2008-2011 to assist NARS partners to more effectively utilize the genetic diversity of these two crops to enhance productivity, rural livelihoods and household food and nutritional security.

Dr CLL Gowda, Research Program Director for Grain Legumes welcomed the delegates. Delivering the inaugural speech on behalf of Director General William Dar, Dr Gowda said that over three billion people, mainly women and children across the world, are currently micronutrient malnourished (minerals and vitamins), resulting in egregious societal costs. “Finger millet and foxtail millet are among the hardiest crops grown in Africa and Asia and these crops can be ‘biofortified’ further with micronutrients through plant breeding, without negatively impacting crop productivity,” he added. Dr Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, Research Program Director for Dryland Cereals, chaired the inaugural session.

Presenting the project activities and achievements during the past four years, Principal Investigator Dr HD Upadhyaya informed that in both crops, core and mini core collections had been developed after a multienvironment evaluation. Location-specific promising genotypes have been identified for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania in Africa and Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Bihar in India, through farmer participatory evaluation and selection. Genetically highly diverse and unique accessions for many important agronomic traits including yield component traits, calcium, iron, zinc and protein content have also been identified.

More than 4000 farmers actively participated in 236 on-farm evaluation-cum-demonstrations conducted over the years in all the four countries. Greenhouse and field screening technologies for diseases, salinity and drought and PCR-based protocols for genotyping have been standardized for both millets.

Workshop participants emphasized the importance of finger millet for food security, commerce and industry and as a health food in Africa, and lauded the timely launching and successful operation of the project which had rejuvenated interest among farmers, consumers and governments.

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