No. 1503 27 January 2012

Food and nutrition security in the drylands
Pigeonpea hybrids performing well in Maharashtra

Maharashtra farmer with his pigeonpea harvest.

Pigeonpea hybrids developed by ICRISAT and its Indian partner institutions show great potentials in contributing to the income and food and nutritional security of resource-poor farmers in Maharashtra, the third largest state by area in India. These hybrids are envisioned to revolutionize the production of the high-protein crop known as “poor people’s meat” not only in the state but across the country as well in the coming years..

Three pigeonpea hybrids namely, ICPH 2671, ICPH 2740 and ICPH 3762 have been identified for on-farm evaluation in the farmers’ fields in five states of India. In the state of Maharashtra alone, 409 on-farm trials were conducted by ICRISAT in 2011 in the districts of Akola, Jalgaon, Washim, Amarawati, Wardha, Yavatmal, Nanded and Latur.

Pigeonpea hybrid seed yield in a Maharashtra farm.

In a recent visit to these locations, an ICRISAT team led by R Rama Rao and L Vidyasagar found various excellent trial performances of the said pigeonpea hybrids. Most farmers have grown these hybrids under rainfed conditions with cotton, soybean, turmeric, and green and black gram as intercrops. Farmers are expecting about 25-30 percent more yields from these hybrids than from local check varieties. Overall, Maharashtra farmers expressed great satisfaction with the performance of the pigeonpea hybrids in their districts, with farmers’ groups planning to popularize these in their respective areas.

The team also visited Ralegaon village in Yavatmal district and observed that crops of ICPH 2740 grown in a one-acre plot in rocky soil are doing very well. In another location ICPH 2740 was grown in a three-acre plot in Raver, Jalgaon. The extent of podding of the hybrids very much impressed most farmers in and around the villages, according to Mukesh Patil, a farmer cooperator. Progressive farmers conducted field days at their respective locations which were attended by about 500 farmers from within and nearby areas. ICRISAT is targeting to expand the hybrid pigeonpea trials to 100,000 hectares in the state.

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ICRISAT-Niamey participates in international forum on ‘Youth & Green Jobs’

The Government of the Republic of Niger and the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) organized an international forum on ‘Youth & Green Jobs’ held on 16-20 January in Niamey under the joint patronage of the President of the Republic of Niger H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou and the General Secretary of the Francophonie H.E. Abdou Diouf.

The Forum aimed to promote green jobs for the youth and to address issues of employment in the context of the green economy. About 400 young people composed of 300 young Nigerians and 100 young Francophone from 30 countries joined the Forum to share their experiences in the field of green jobs.

ICRISAT-Niamey was invited at the exhibition held at the Academie des Arts Martiaux in relation to the Forum to exhibit its work and initiatives in providing science-based green jobs creation. ICRISAT’s exhibit stand showcased millet and groundnut plants and seeds; and seeds and fruits of diversified crops such as onion, lettuce, tomatoes, pomme du Sahel, pummelo, and sesame. Publications and posters presenting ways to create green jobs through the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach were also displayed.

Many young people expressed interest in the works and programs of ICRISAT and in visiting the research station in Niamey. Among those who visited the ICRISAT exhibit stand were Niger Minister of Hydraulic and Environment Issoufou Issaka, and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Hassane Kounou.

Students looking intently at the ICRISAT exhibit.   Niger Minister of Hydraulic and Environment Issoufou
Issaka tries a pummelo at the ICRISAT exhibit stand.

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Strengthening rainfed agriculture research, development and extension in the Philippines

Drs Rex Navarro, Rosana Mula and Myer Mula meeting higher education officials and state university presidents for ICRISAT’s incountry training courses on rainfed agriculture RDE in the Philippines.

An ICRISAT-NARES program of strengthening rainfed agriculture research, development and extension (RDE) is gaining ground in the Philippines. Pursued by ICRISAT in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR), state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local government units (LGUs), this initiative aims to develop, coordinate, monitor and evaluate the implementation of a vigorous rainfed agriculture RDE program to enhance food, nutrition and energy security, improve livelihoods and empower communities in Philippine rainfed areas.

More specifically, the program will (1) adapt, test and promote suitable farming systems and drought-mitigation strategies in Philippine rainfed areas; (2) increase rainwater use efficiency and water availability in rainfed areas through rainwater conservation and rainwater harvesting interventions; (3) enhance livelihood opportunities in rainfed communities through the adoption of appropriate income generating activities for women and small farm holders; (4) support the formulation and advocacy of enabling policies and institutional strategies for rainfed areas; and (5) strengthen capacities and mobilize various stakeholders to harness the full potential of the entire rainfed agriculture value chain.

Dubbed as PHIRARDEP (Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Program) with an initial funding of about US$ 500,000 from the DA, the program has four components: (1) rainfed farming systems innovation; (2) participatory watershed management; (3) strategic social science and policy research; and (4) capacity building, communication and social mobilization.

Drs Suhas Wani and Rex Navarro meeting Mr Inocencio Bolo, an international agriculture expert, on how to replicate Boochetana in the Philippines.

Along with this, ICRISAT has kicked off a series of in-country training courses in priority regions in collaboration with DA-BAR, SUCs and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Participated in by senior agriculture faculty members and regional and local government agriculture officials, these courses aim to enhance the capacity of Philippine NARES partners in rainfed agriculture RDE. Early this month, the first training course was conducted for the cool and elevated region of the Cordilleras in northern Philippines hosted by the Ifugao State University (IfSU). Dr Suhas Wani was one of the presentors, together with program partners. Others will be conducted for northern lowland regions (Mariano Marcos State University on 07-12 May 2012), central regions (Bohol Island State University on 09-13 April), and southern regions (University of Southern Mindanao on 02-08 July 2012).

Related to the foregoing, a series of study tours and residential training courses are also being held at ICRISAT and participated in by top state university and government agriculture officials including senior state university researchers. Last month and early this year, a series of mobilization meetings with national partners were held by Communication Director Rex Navarro in preparation for the incountry training courses.

In the Philippines, agriculture is predominantly rainfed, covering three-fourths of the 10 million hectares total cultivated area. Upland and rainfed areas are inhabited by almost 20 million people, most of whom are very poor.

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Training on composting and farmers field school trials on integrated Striga management in Niger

Field agents and trainers after filling up a compost pit at Dantchiandou..

A team from ICRISAT-Mali and ICRISATNiger traveled to Dantchiandou on 7 January: to collect data from the cluster-based farmer field school trials on integrated Striga and soil fertility management (ISSFM) for pearl millet, microdosing of mineral and organic fertilizer, and pearl millet varieties; and to evaluate the agronomic and economic benefits of trial treatments with farmer trainers from Dantchiandou, Bokkesay and Fallanga.

These farmer trainers are expected to feedback collected information to participants in their villages, thus transferring knowledge and skills to a large number of farmers. Results showed that despite the unfavorable conditions and late sowing of the cowpea intercrop, ISSFM is more productive and profitable than the farmer practice and that combining organic fertilizer with mineral fertilizer as a microdose is more productive and profitable than applying either one separately.

On 8-9 January, field agents of seven unions of the farmer organizations Mooriben and FUMAGaskiya joined the team in Dantchiandou to attend and participate in the training on improving organic fertilizer using the composting technique. The training was a combination of participatory group training, lectures on the advantages of composting and its process, video presentations, and hands-on training with the construction and filling of a compost pit.

Composting is relatively laborious and is not a common technique in Niger. Nevertheless, field agents were very interested in the technique and the potential benefits of compost in comparison to regular manure. Several unions have decided to construct a compost pit themselves at their respective sites as an example. The idea is to use the produced compost in future trials and compare the effect of compost relative to other (non-composted) organic fertilizers such as cow dung and farm yard manure.

The team then continued to collect data and perform participatory economical analyses with farmer trainers from four villages in Falwel and three villages in Bokki. Both the ICRISAT-HOPE and PROMISO-2 project funds were used to complete these trainings and activities. Data collection and analyses in other sites are on-going and will be reported under the HOPE project.

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ABI-SFAC agribusiness campaign continues

Agribusiness camp at Birsa Agricultural University.

As a follow-up activity to promote the venture capital scheme of the Small Farmers’ Agri-business Consortium (SFAC), ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program conducted two more agribusiness camps at the Business Planning and Development (BPD) units of Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), Kanke, Ranchi and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Izatnagar on 21 January.

ICRISAT was represented by Mr SM Karuppanchetty, COO, ABI at the agribusiness camp in BAU, and by Mr Aravazhi, Deputy Manager, ABI at the activity in IVRI. The camp at BAU was attended by 81 entrepreneurs and 7 bankers. The panel evaluated 15 proposals and recommended 12 proposals under the SFAC scheme. At IVRI, 127 participants from different fields attended including 75 entrepreneurs, 11 representatives from national and private banks and 2 from insurance companies, and the rest from the scientific staff of IVRI, Izatnagar and CARI, Izatnagar. The panel evaluated 14 proposals and recommended 3 proposals under the scheme.

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My 2012 Annual Letter

Bill Gates

Bill Gates visits a Basa (a temporary family shelter built by farmers in their fields) and meets with farmer Ram Udgar Yadav at Guleria village, Bihar, Khagaria District, India.

My job is to learn about global health and development – and to travel to poor countries to meet farmers who can’t grow enough food, mothers who can’t keep children healthy, and heroes in the field who are doing something about those emergencies. Very few people can devote the time to really understand these complex problems. Even fewer can actually meet the people who are struggling to overcome them. That is why I write an annual letter every year.

I want people to know about the amazing progress we’ve made. I also want them to see how much more progress it will take before we live in a truly equitable world.

In this year’s letter, I focus on food and agriculture (though I also provide updates about all the global health and U.S. education work we do). When I was in high school, a popular book called The Population Bomb painted a nightmarish vision of mass starvation on a planet that has outgrown its carrying capacity. That prediction was wrong, in large part because researchers developed much more productive seeds and other tools that helped poor farmers in many parts of the world multiply their yields. As a result, the percentage of people in extreme poverty has been cut in half in my lifetime. That’s the amazing progress part of the story, and not enough people know it.

But there’s the progress-yet-to-come part, and people need to know that, too. There are still more than 1 billion people who live in extreme poverty. They are located primarily in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and they live on the edge of starvation. There is an irony in this, because most of them are farmers. We can help these 1 billion achieve self-sufficiency, just like we helped billions before them, but we stopped trying. At a certain point, the sense of crisis around food dissipated, and the proportion of foreign aid dedicated to agriculture dropped from one-fifth to less than one-twentieth.

My hope for my annual letter is that it helps people connect to the choice we all have to make. Relatively small investments changed the future for hundreds of millions of small farm families. The choice now is this: Do we continue those investments so that the 1 billion people who remain poor benefit? Or do we tolerate a world in which one in seven people is undernourished, stunted, and in danger of starving to death?

In times of tight budgets, we have to pick our priorities. It’s clear that in this particular time, we’re in danger of deciding that aid to the poorest is not one of them. I am confident, however, that if people understand what their aid has already accomplished – and its potential to accomplish so much more – they’ll insist on doing more, not less. That is why I wrote my letter. I hope you’ll take the time to read it and share it with your friends and family.

I’ve invited students from around the world to write their own annual letters too. You can send your letter, or any questions you have for me, to I’ll be answering and talking about the ideas in your letters in a live webcast on February 2 on my Facebook page.

Originally published on Impatient Optimists, blog of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Sensitizing KVK personnel on mobile-mediated ICT extension platforms

KSI workshop for Zonal Project Directorate at Patancheru.

The Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) team of ICRISAT organized a day long workshop for Zonal Project Directorate Five (ZPD V covers KVKs of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh) personnel on 20 January, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K). Thirty participants attended the workshop where they learned about the use and application of vKVK and KVK-Net.

vKVK represents Voice KVK, a platform to enable expert-farmer-expert communication through voice interactions in three ways: Expert to Farmer, Farmer to Expert, and Expert to Expert. On the other hand, KVK-Net is a social networking site for sharing knowledge and field experiences among KVKscientists of agriculture and allied sectors. It has provision for uploading both Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK) and modern knowledge in different forms such as pictures, audio and video.

In his welcome address, G Dileepkumar, KSI Global Leader highlighted the importance of mobilemediated ICT extension platforms in modernizing agricultural extension with a wider outreach by establishing last mile connectivity with mobile phones. In his message, DDG Dave Hoisington expressed ICRISAT’s commitment to build the capacity of KVK scientists and NARS partners in the use of ICT for agriculture. Dr TV Prabhakar, Project Investigator, IIT Kanpur demonstrated the architecture of vKVK and KVKNet tools, while Dr NT Yaduraju, Principal Scientist for ICT4D gave the concluding remarks.

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Agropedia II project review and workshop for ICAR/SAU scientists

The review meeting of consortium partners of the project “Engaging Farmers, Enriching Knowledge – Agropedia Phase II” funded by the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was held on 21 January at ICRISAT Patancheru. The meeting was attended by all consortium partners including ICRISAT’s Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) team, the Indian Institute of Technology - Kanpur (IIT-K), Indian Institute of Management - Calcutta, and University of Agricultural Sciences - Raichur.

Representatives from partner organizations presented their respective progress reports, planned future activities and agreed upon action plans for sensitizing all scientists and directors of eight Zonal Project Directorates of the country about Agropedia. In his remarks during the meeting, Project Investigator Dr TV Prabhakar congratulated the team for successfully accomplishing the deliverables committed for 2011.

Participants of the Agropedia workshop.

Meanwhile, the KSI team, along with IIT-K, conducted a one-day workshop on the “Use and Application of Agropedia” on 23 January also at Patancheru. A total of 20 scientists from different research institutes of ICAR and from state agricultural universities (SAU) of south India were trained on Agropedia, a knowledge management portal for Indian agriculture (

Participants were trained on the creation and reuse of Agropedia’s digital content. The Agropedia portal consists of a knowledge repository, social networking platform, and content delivery mechanism. It also has universal meta-models and localized content developed for open learning and sharing of agricultural information. The workshop includes a series of presentations followed by hands-on session. Dr KD Kokate, Deputy Director General for Extension, ICAR visited ICRISAT and participated in the closing session of the workshop. He acknowledged the participants’ positive reviews on the functionalities of Agropedia and expressed support for the implementation of mobile-based agro-advisory in other regions.

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ICRISAT participates in FAO consultation meeting on food security implementation guidelines

Participants of the FAO consultation meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) organized a global consultation meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on 17-21 January to develop implementation guidelines on food security for use by governments and stakeholders worldwide. More than 30 participants were invited to the meeting from various sectors including governments, NGOs, private sector, academia, consulting groups and research.

Abdul Rahman Ilyas, COO of ICRISAT’s Innovation and Partnership, Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (INP-AIP), presented two cases during the meeting – one on AIP and the other a model on Forest Research Innovation Center (FPIC) developed for the Forest Research Center, Government of India. The cases opened up an extensive discussion on innovation centers and their role in bridging technology and best practices gap between investors and the community.

During the consultation, the need to highlight the importance of public-private partnerships (PPPs), advocacy, innovations and best practices exchange, and farmer issues in the implementation guidelines on food security was identified. The consultation covered participation from Europe, Middle East and South Asia. Two other consultations in Africa and Latin America will follow before the implementation guidelines are released by late 2012. The FPIC proposal funding was also discussed which will be pursued by INP-AIP.

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