No. 1506 17 February 2012

At the President of India’s agriculture committee workshop
ICRISAT shares strategy for a farmercentered, science-based rainfed agricultural development

(L to R) Dr US Awasthi, CEO, Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO); Dr WD Dar, ICRISAT DG; and Dr Mukul Sangma, Chief Minister, Meghalaya at the President of India’s workshop on rainfed agricultural development.

Rainfed agriculture is pivotal to India’s economy and food security. About 60% of the country’s total cultivated area is rainfed, feeding 40% of its 1.2 billion people. Ranking first among countries that practice rainfed agriculture in terms of extent and value of production, about half of India’s 142 million hectares of cultivated area will most likely remain dependent on rainfall for food production, even if full irrigation potential is achieved.

Underlining the crucial role of rainfed agriculture in attaining India’s food security, President Pratibha Patil organized a one-day workshop to deliberate on the recommendations of the Committee of Governors on Agriculture on measures to enhance the productivity, profitability, sustainability and competitiveness of rainfed agriculture in the country.

The workshop, held on 15 February at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, was attended by senior policymakers, researchers, national and international organizations, government departments, nongovernment organizations, farmers’ organizations, and private industries. The inaugural session was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; Union Minister of Finance Pranab Mukherjee; Union Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries Sharad Pawar; and Governor of Punjab and Rajasthan and Chairman of the Committee of Governors Shivraj Patil. Director General William Dar and Dr SP Wani represented ICRISAT in the workshop.

In her inaugural address, President Patil raised the urgent need to ensure sustained and increased productivity of rainfed agriculture by bringing in structural changes in marketing, empowerment of farmers, greater coordination and convergence among various programs of the government, innovative approach in improving soil health management and rainwater harvesting, and integrating knowledge and techniques into the fabric of agriculture.

Prime Minister Singh, on the other hand, stressed on sustaining the country’s agricultural growth rate through research and development towards improving smallholder farmers’ livelihood and wellbeing. He likewise emphasized the importance of exploring a new pathway to produce more with less in rainfed agriculture to maintain the 4% agricultural growth rate targeted under the Five-year plan.

At the workshop, ICRISAT was given the rare privilege and opportunity to share its farmer-centered, scientific innovations for sustainable rainfed agriculture. In his presentation, Dr Dar demonstrated how the potential of rainfed agriculture can be unlocked through improved soil health and rainwater management; better access to improved cultivars; enhanced disease and pest management practices; capacity building and innovative extension support; and enabling policies and political will.

“The Bhoochetana experience in Karnataka is a model of how community watershed management can become a growth engine for sustainable development in rainfed areas,” said Dr Dar. The science-based approach increased crop yields by 32-64% compared to traditional farmer’s practice, changed the lives of four million families, and resulted in a 6% agricultural growth in 2009-2010 in the State.

Dr Dar likewise provided a proof of concept for the massive upscaling and commercialization of the Bhoochetana experience in other States of India, which includes higher levels of investment on rainfed agricultural development; institutionalization of the consortium scheme; broadened technology options for rainfed farmers; capacity building and collective action; and support to resource conservation, development of markets, and other rural infrastructure. The Bhoochetana model, if adopted in key rainfed areas in the country, could be the key to extricating vulnerable rainfed communities from poverty for good.

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ICRISAT participates in international consultation on biodiversity

H Upadhyaya speaking at the MSSRF international consultation on biodiversity.

Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Assistant Program Director, Grain Legumes participated in the International Consultation on “20 Years After Rio: Biodiversity- Development and Livelihood” held at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai on 15-17 February.

Representing Director General William Dar, Dr Upadhyaya presented a germplasm global scenario, particularly the progress after the Rio Earth Summit, during the inaugural session. In another presentation “Biodiversity for enhanced productivity and food security” co-authored by Drs CLL Gowda and Naresh Dronavalli, Dr Upadhyaya provided a glimpse of the research on genetic resources at ICRISAT. In particular, he covered the identification of trait-specific cultivated germplasm sources for resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses and for agronomic and nutritional traits using the mini-core approach, and the identification and use of wild species for genetic enhancement and developing cultivars with a broad genetic base.

Both the presentations were very well received during the consultation, with no less than Prof MS Swaminathan (Chairman, MSSRF) sending a message to Dr Upadhyaya after the event appreciating ICRISAT’s valuable contribution to the success of the activity, and congratulating Drs Pundir, Dwivedi and Gowda on the publication of the “Mini Core Collections”.

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Global Futures Project meeting held in Kenya

Participants of the Global Futures Project meeting in Kenya.

A multi-disciplinary team of scientists including breeders, physiologists, modelers and economists from eight CGIAR centers (CIAT, CIMMYT, CIP, ICARDA, ICRISAT, ICRAF, ILRI and IRRI) participated in a meeting organized by the Global Futures Project (GFP) at Mount Kenya, Nanyuki, Kenya on 23-26 January. ICRISAT was represented in the GFP team by Bonny Ntare, Jupiter Ndjeunga, Pierre Sibiry Traore and Madina Diancoumba (WCA); Mary Mgonja, Ganga Rao, Alastair Orr, Kai Mausch and Lieven Claessens (ESA); and Cynthia Bantilan, Peter Craufurd, Parthasarathy Rao, Piara Singh, S Nedumaran, Ashok Kumar, Deevi Kumaracharyulu and B Shraavya (Asia).

The team reviewed and discussed ICRISAT’s progress in the project in the areas of groundnut and sorghum crop model calibration in different regions, simulation of yields for identified promising technologies using crop modeling and validation of spatial crop model simulations, cost of droughttolerant technology development, adoption pathways for different target countries, and estimation of welfare benefits and returns on research investments using the integrated modeling framework.

The team also prioritized the next set of promising technologies on which to undertake ex-ante evaluation, data requirement, sources of crop yield trial data, soil and weather information, and gap in data to conduct priority setting research for ICRISAT’s mandate crops.

The ICRISAT team gave a presentation on “Ex-ante valuation of developing drought-tolerant sorghum and groundnut cultivars” to a large audience from other CGIAR centers and to the Global Futures Project Advisory Committee represented by Derek Byerlee, Chair, Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA), CGIAR; James W Jones, Distinguished Professor, University of Florida; Keith Wiebe, Deputy Director, Agriculture Development and Economics Division, FAO; Usha Barwale Zehr, CEO, MAHYCO; and Kate Schneider, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The advisory committee and the GFP technical working group members discussed the need to institutionalize an impact assessment team in each CGIAR center to facilitate research priority setting and investment planning.

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Orissa seed certification staff and entrepreneurs trained at ICRISAT

Participants of the training at Patancheru.

A four-day training-cum-exposure visit was conducted for 12 seed certification officers and 4 seed entrepreneurs from Orissa on 13-16 February at ICRISAT-Patancheru. The training was part of ICRISAT’s project on “Introduction and expansion of improved pigeonpea (Arhar) production technology in rainfed upland ecosystems of Orissa” with the Government of Orissa.

The delegation led by E Nandi, Chief Seed Certification Officer of the Orissa State Seed & Organic Products Certification Agency, was received by Director General William Dar and Research Program Director for Grain Legumes CLL Gowda.

ICRISAT groundnut field visit.

In his welcome address, Dr Gowda emphasized on the importance of seed production systems in groundnut, chickpea, and pigeonpea. In his brief message, Dr Dar underlined the importance of “putting the mind and heart together” to ensure success in any endeavor. He also thanked the Government of Orissa for the ongoing partnership and for reposing trust in ICRISAT’s contribution to the development of the State.

Dr Rosana Mula, Learning Systems Unit (LSU) Coordinator, presented the training and field/ laboratory visit rationale and objectives to the participants.

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Niamey university students visit Sadoré

Agronomy students along with ICRISAT staff members at Sadoré.

A group of 16 students from the Department of Agronomy, University Abdou Moumouni Dioffo, Niamey accompanied by Prof Kore Harouna, visited ICRISAT Sadoré on 10 February. The students were welcomed by ICRISAT’s Dr Falalou Harouna on behalf of Country Representative Dr Gandah. Following a video presentation on ICRISAT, the students were shown around the fields, laboratories and genebank.

The visit reinforced the existing collaboration between ICRISAT-Niamey and the university’s Department of Agronomy through training and other activities.

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Pioneer Overseas Corp contributes to the Pearl Millet HPRC

Dr RS Mahala presenting a cheque to Dr Dar while Dr CLL Gowda looks on.

The Pioneer Overseas Corporation, a leading seed company in India and a member of ICRISAT’s Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC), contributed Rs 400,000 (about US$ 8,000) to the consortium this year. The cheque was presented to Director General William Dar by the company’s Research Director Dr RS Mahala, who said that the company had made wide use of ICRISAT-bred parental lines in developing hybrids that are popular among farmers in various agro-eco regions of India.

As per HPRC guidelines, member seed companies are encouraged to make voluntary contributions any time based on the sale of hybrid seeds.

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Sharing “Farmer to farmers” videos in WCA

Participants of the meeting.

In 2011, ICRISAT West and Central Africa (WCA) in collaboration with partners and farmers developed a series of videos known as “farmer to farmers” videos on integrated Striga and soil fertility management in West Africa, with the objective of sharing and facilitating their access to more farmers.

ICRISAT recently brought together national coordinators of the ICRISAT-HOPE project, communication specialists of the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Mali; Permanent Assembly of Chambers of Agriculture of Mali (APCAM); Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes (CNOP); and Network of Peasant Organizations and Producers of West Africa (ROPPA) for a workshop to identify communication patterns and relays needed to distribute the videos. Among the methods identified for dissemination are rural radio stations and their networks, the private sector (e.g. agrodealers), television, film industry, video viewing clubs, and special events.

(L to R) Drs F Waliyar, Eva Weltzien, and Tom Van Mourik from ICRISAT, and Abdoulaye N’Diaye, communication specialist of APCAM.

In his remarks, ICRISAT-WCA Director Farid Waliyar emphasized the importance of technology transfer and the dissemination of research results for scientific innovations to benefit the end-users, and has committed to distribute about 12,000 videos to farmers in Mali, Niger and Burkina.




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Safety and security training at Samanko

Safety and security training participants in Mali.

ICRISAT-Samanko hosted two training sessions on safety and security on 13-14 February, conducted by Colonel Almamy Daouda Toure, security consultant for the United Nations system in Mali.

The first session for researchers and international staff of ICRISAT and of AVRDC, CCAFS, and ICRAF hosted by ICRISAT-Samanko, began with personal introductions and experiences in their home countries, such as Uganda, Afghanistan and Niger. The trainer gave an overview of security issues in the region, especially in northern Mali.

Participants were then split into groups and asked to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the security system at the workplace. This was followed by the participants’ suggestions for improving risk management inside and outside the center.

The second day of training for local staff involved providing participants with first-hand information and precautions to be taken when moving around the country during a mission. A tour of the campus was done to inspect the premises and determine gaps and improvements needed to make the workplace more secure.

ICRISAT-WCA Director Farid Waliyar chaired the opening and closing sessions of the training. A similar session is planned for ICRISAT-Niger.

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Prytanée Militaire students visit ICRISAT-Niamey

Students of the the Prytanée Militaire at the ICRISAT nursery in Niamey.

Fifty students from Prytanée Militaire (military academy) in Niger, accompanied by its Director Lieutenant Colonel Bartie Hamadou Djibo, visited ICRISAT-Niamey on 14 February to gain insight into the Institute’s research activities as part of their theory course on agriculture.

ICRISAT Country Representative Mahamadou Gandah welcomed the students and presented an overview of the Institute’s activities and their contribution to food production in the Sahel. This was followed by a documentary on ICRISAT’s activities in the semi-arid tropics.

A question and answer session followed, wherein ICRISAT scientists explained how improved varieties developed by the Institute had enhanced the quality and the quantity of food produced by farmers, ICRISAT’s interaction with farmers, and the channels for the adoption of ICRISAT technologies.

The group was taken around the Sadoré center, nursery, African market garden, fruit and date palm trees, and millet breeding activities, apart from the soil and plant analysis laboratory and genebank.

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CFC-FAO-ICRISAT farmers’ training on sweet sorghum held

A demonstration of the seed-cum-fertilizer drill in CRIDA, Hyderabad.

Under the CFC-FAO-ICRISAT project on “Enhanced Livelihood Opportunities of Smallholders in Asia: Linking Smallholder Sweet Sorghum Farmers with the Bioethanol Industry “(CFC/FIGG/41), a total of 24 farmers (12 men and 12 women) and one research assistant from the Parbhani project cluster villages participated in a training program on improved production technology and small-farm machinery use on 13-15 February. The program was coordinated by ICRISAT’s Ch Ravinder Reddy.

Drs Belum VS Reddy and A Ashok Kumar (ICRISAT); Drs N Nalini Reddy from the Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University (SVVU), Rajendranagar; Dr Korwar and I Srinivas from the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad; and Dr M Desmukh from the Marathwada Agricultural University (MAU) served as trainers/facilitators in this capacity building and knowledge exchange training program.

During the training, the farmers were urged to work together with partners, particularly with the Decentralized Crushing Unit (DCU) established under the project and MAU to derive maximum sustainable benefits from the initiative.

The benefits of sweet sorghum were discussed and the farmers were encouraged to adopt improved crop production practices. The course covered lectures and demonstrations on feed preparation with sweet sorghum bagasse, use of locally available feed ingredients to make feed more economical, and use of small farm implements for smallholder farmers.

An exposure visit to the Mulkanoor Cooperative Society, Karimnagar, Andhra Pradesh was arranged for the participants to observe the infrastructure developed and services offered by the cooperative.

The entire training program provided the farmers with opportunities to seek information and clarification on various aspects of sweet sorghum stalk, fodder/feed production and linkages to fodder and milk markets.

ICRISAT is promoting farmers’ participation to bring in the elements of people-centered, people-owned and process-oriented approach to ensure farmers’ ownership in the project activities, and this training program is one step towards that direction.

Mr Naresh Shindey, Chairperson of the Farmers Association of the Nankheda cluster and one of the training participants, promised the commitment and active involvement of the farmers in the project.

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Sad demise

Dr John Melvin Green, an American national who worked as Leader of the Pulse Improvement Program at ICRISAT-Patancheru from June 1974 to March 1980, passed away on 8 February following a stroke while in hospital with pneumonia. He was 94.

His career as a plant breeder began in the Mississippi Delta in 1947, with career stops at Oklahoma State as professor of agronomy; at Sao Paulo, Brazil as research farm director for Anderson- Clayton, Inc.; at Laurinburg, NC as vice president for research at McNair Seed Company; and at ICRISAT, before returning to the Mississippi Delta in 1980 as plant breeder, agricultural consultant, and president of Seed Source, Inc.

He is survived by his wife Millie, three daughters, six grandchildren, and two

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Dr Charles T Hash, Jr., Principal Scientist (Breeding), Research Program – Dryland Cereals, has moved to Niamey, Niger on 9 February to undertake pearl millet research in the WCA region.


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