No. 1508 2 March 2012

Smallholder farmers to benefit from second phase of tropical legumes project

The next phase of the Tropical Legumes II project will focus on gender specific aspects of legume production, marketing and consumption.

With US$ 21 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Tropical Legumes II project will get a boost in implementing research-for-development initiatives to overcome productivity constraints and nonavailability and lack of access to quality seed of improved legume varieties, thereby improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their families in 15 countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

A second phase of an agricultural research for development project aimed at improving the livelihoods of poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has been recently agreed on. This is one of seven grants which Bill Gates announced on 23 February in Rome at the 35th Session of the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). This announcement, nearly US$ 200 million in grants, brings the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s total commitment to agriculture to more than $2 billion since the program began in 2006.

The three-year, US$ 21 million project known as Tropical Legumes II (TL II), is part of a ten-year plan which seeks to improve the livelihoods of 60 million smallholder farmers and their families in 15 countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It is also expected to bring about US$ 1.3 billion in added value to the productivity of the target crops, namely: chickpea, common bean, cowpea, groundnut, pigeonpea and soybean.

Ms Dabi, a smallholder farmer in Ethiopia, proudly shows off her harvest of a new high-yielding variety of chickpea in her store.

Grain legumes contribute to the livelihoods, health and nutrition of more than 700 million poor people in the dryland tropics of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The project will help smallholder farmers overcome productivity constraints such as drought, pest and disease problems, and nonavailability and lack of access to quality seed of improved legume varieties.

With this additional support from the foundation, ICRISAT and sister Centers, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), together with several national program, private sector, and NGO partners will work closely with smallholder farmers to ensure that seed of improved varieties from the project reach farmers’ fields.

“If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation. “Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated and focused to really be effective in helping poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering, and build self-sufficiency.”

The first phase of the TL II project has already made valuable impact. More than 60 new varieties of tropical legumes have been released in several countries and 93,000 metric tons of seeds of improved legume varieties produced have reached 240,000 smallholder farmers, who together with extension workers, have been trained on improved farming practices.

In particular, the role of women in producing food and making decisions about family nutrition needs has been recognized. Likewise, the project has strengthened the capacities of national agricultural research systems in partner countries.

A beaming farmer in his groundnut field.

The next phase of the project will focus on gender specific aspects of tropical legume production, marketing and consumption. Moreover, particular emphasis will be given to location-specific monitoring and evaluation, impact assessment, data management and increased seed production and delivery. The project will also emphasize sustained capacity strengthening of national agricultural research systems in the two regions.

According to Director General William Dar, the second phase, spread over three years, is a very important step to share economic and nutritional benefits to poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

“By the end of 2014, we will have reached an additional 10 million smallholder farmer households. This is a very significant achievement, and we appreciate the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for our work and that of our partners,” Dr Dar stressed.

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Participatory action research on climate change
ICRISAT and ICRAF to develop community-based climate-smart agriculture in West Africa

Participants at the workshop in Bamako.

Aiming to develop options of climate-smart agriculture that could be upscaled for smallholder farmers, ICRISAT and ICRAF-The World Agroforestry Centre, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to implement the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) project on “Developing communitybased climate smart agriculture through participatory action research in West Africa.” The signing took place during a two-day planning workshop held in Bamako, Mali on 15-16 February.

In partnership with rural communities and other stakeholders, the three-year project seeks to test and validate a climate-smart model for agricultural development integrating a range of innovative agricultural risk management strategies. The project cuts across the four CCAFS research themes, using a three-pronged approach: (1) stock-taking of ongoing projects and activities, (2) identification of gaps and opportunities (SWOT analysis), and (3) community identification and prioritization of activities to address these gaps.

A country team discussing its work plan.

In his opening remarks during the workshop, Dr Antoine Kalinganire (Coordinator, ICRAF Sahel Node) recalled the African Ministerial climate-smart agriculture conference held in Bamako in September 2011. The meeting communiqué, he said, emphasized the need to integrate solutions to climate change, food security and poverty challenges and the importance of climate-smart agriculture in building resilient landscapes and communities.

Dr Robert Zougmoré (CCAFS Program Leader, West Africa), meanwhile, presented the CCAFS program and the participatory approach. The project, he said, will build on and link-up with existing CCAFS activities in each country. These include household-, village- and organizational-level baseline studies, and projects like the seasonal climate forecasting implemented by AGRHYMET and ANAMS (Agence national de la météorologie du Senegal), including participatory monitoring and evaluation.

The workshop provided an opportunity for sharing and learning from past and ongoing experiences in the pilot countries. Each multidisciplinary country team came up with a work plan that will be refined and validated during a national workshop involving all stakeholders.

The workshop was attended by 20 delegates from the NARS (IER, Mali; INERA, Burkina Faso; and CSIR, Ghana), NGOs (Langmaal Centre for Rural Development Initiatives, Ghana; Association Malienne D’Eveil au Développement Durable, Mali; TreeAid, Burkina Faso), IUCN-PACO, ANAMS (Senegal), CIAT, CCAFS/ICRISAT, ICRAF and AGRHYMET.

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Scientist shares challenges and opportunities in pigeonpea breeding

Dr Isabel Vales elucidating on the challenges in pigeonpea breeding.

As part of the Institute’s seminar series to promote knowledge sharing and capacity building, Dr Isabel Vales, ICRISAT Principal Scientist, gave a comprehensive presentation on the topic “Pigeonpea Breeding: Challenges and Opportunities” on 23 February at Patancheru.

The world average yield of pigeonpea has been hovering around 700 kg per ha for the past 35-40 years. According to Dr Valez, cytoplasmic nuclear male sterility (CMS)-based pigeonpea hybrids offer great promise to significantly improve yield by up to 2-4 tons per ha. Higher yields combined with resistance/tolerance to important diseases such as sterility mosaic and Fusarium wilt make CMS hybrids highly beneficial to farmers. This technology could bring even higher benefits when combined with small dal machines that would add value to the crop and enhance market opportunities, consistent with ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach.

In order to ensure the success of the CMS hybrids, it is essential to have pure parental lines, to involve both public and private sectors, and to enhance training, monitoring and promotion efforts. Knowledge from recent successes in genome sequencing has to be harnessed, along with coordinated efforts from multiple disciplines and partners to increase pigeonpea productivity.

The seminar has been recorded, and will be available at all ICRISAT locations for viewing by interested scientists.

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Madurai malli (jasmine) to enter global market through incubation

TNAU Vice-Chancellor P Murugesa Bhoopathi (3rd from left), Madurai District Collector U Sagayam and SM Karuppanchetty of ABI-ICRISAT releasing the strategic plan for jasmine growers.

The famous ‘Madurai malli’ (jasmine) will soon be promoted as a global commodity jointly by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) and ICRISAT.

A comprehensive field study in Madurai District of Tamil Nadu done by TNAU and the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of ICRISAT has put forward a set of recommendations to promote Madurai malli in both the domestic and international markets. Primarily, the plan calls for the development of an incubator for Madurai malli similar to the Timbali incubator for gerbera in South Africa.

SM Karuppanchetty, COO, ABI-ICRISAT, presented his team’s survey findings to Madurai District Collector U Sagayam and others at the Madurai Jasmine Stakeholder’s meeting held at the Agricultural College and Research Institute. According to him, the area under jasmine production in Madurai district is 1,220 hectares yielding nearly 10,000 tons per year. If Madurai malli has to catch up in the global market, the skills of garland makers have to be enhanced, he added.

“This study will aid government authorities in developing policies and providing a strategic framework for the establishment of a Madurai Malli Incubator (MMI) and Madurai Malli Development Council (MMDC) to promote entrepreneurs in the jasmine industry,” the survey report said.

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NFSM monitoring team evaluates DAC-ICRISAT projects on pulses

The NFSM projects’ monitoring team with ICRISAT staff.

The national level monitoring team of the DAC-ICRISAT collaborative projects on pulses under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM)-Pulses Program visited Patancheru on 29 February – 1 March to review the progress in ICRISAT’s chickpea and pigeonpea research and development initiatives.The monitoring team was composed of Dr Anupam Barik (Additional Commissioner, Crops), Dr RK Gupta (National Consultant, NFSM), Dr K Manoharan (Director, Directorate of Oil Seed Development), and Dr Narender Kumar (Joint Director, NFSM).

Six projects on chickpea and pigeonpea were evaluated in the review meeting. Progress reports were presented by the following ICRISAT Principal Investigators: HC Sharma (Pod borer resistance), KB Saxena (Hybrid pigeonpea), I Vales (Pigeonpeawater logging), S Pande (Chickpea in RRFL), and Dr PM Gaur (Extra-large seeded kabuli chickpea and heat tolerance in chickpea).

The team also visited project-related activities in the field and greenhouse, and acknowledged the Institute’s high-quality science investigations on Helicoverpa management, chickpea diseases, tolerance for water logging in pigeonpea, and heat tolerance in chickpea.

Drs Barik and Gupta highly appreciated the progress made by ICRISAT scientists and partners in the NFSM-funded projects. They encouraged ICRISAT to develop project proposals for funding under the DAC-NFSM’s estimated budget of `300 crores (about US$ 60 million) for pulses in the Government of India’s 12th five-year plan.

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Students, academic management team visit ICRISAT-Niamey

The Niamey University academic management team during their visit.

The Ministry of Secondary and Higher Education and Scientific Research of Niger organized a trip for a group of 30 school students from Lycée Issa Korombé, Lycée Kassai and Lycée Mariama, to ICRISAT-Niamey on 16 February. The group was led by Mr Guero from the UNESCO Office. The students were welcomed by ICRISAT’s Country Representative Mahamadou Gandah, and were taken on a tour of the nursery, African Garden Market, genebank and library.

Meanwhile, the new Niamey University Academic Management Team composed of Dr Barazé Moussa (Vice Rector), Dr Diallo Bouli (President of Scientific Council) and Dr Bakasso Yacouba (Vice Dean) visited ICRISAT-Niamey on 21 February. The visit aimed to revitalize the research cooperation between the university and ICRISAT, particularly in the area of training.

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New tools create a community of mungbean breeders

Participants of the international mungbean workshop held at Patancheru.

Facebook can link friends, but new online collaborative tools developed as part of a joint ICRISAT-AVRDC project can also link crop breeding programs across the world, avoiding duplicated efforts and speeding up global progress.

A three-day workshop on 27-29 February showcased online tools to speed up progress in collaborative international breeding of mungbean. It involved participants from AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center and ICRISAT as well as national partners from Thailand, the Philippines and India.

With a global area of over 6 million ha, mungbean is one of the most important legume crops in Asia. Fast and drought-hardy, it is widely used for dahl, sprouted as a vegetable or processed into noodles and snack foods.

The workshop was the final activity of a joint project “Bioinformatics for Breeding: Data Management” between ICRISAT and AVRDC. The project has organized breeding data for mungbean and sorghum, allowing it to be shared online.

Dr Trushar Shah from ICRISAT’s Bioinformatics group who led the project said that the workshop provided a strong foundation for future work that will strengthen the work of all partners involved. Building on tools from the Integrated Breeding Program of the Generation Challenge Program, all AVRDC mungbean pedigree information and characterization data can now be shared online.

National mungbean breeders were enthusiastic to join the program. As they have become more sophisticated, there is a greater need for international coordination to improve efficiency. Past collaborative breeding programs among 29 national and international partners produced the world’s most successful mungbean varieties, and Dr Ram Nair, AVRDC mungbean breeder said that these new online tools lifted such international collaboration to a new level.

AVRDC Regional Director for South Asia, Dr Warwick Easdown said that collaborative breeding work will continue to be a central part of international cooperation that also involves improving seed systems for mungbean, agronomy, mechanization and value adding. This active community of interest is vital to the future of one of the world’s most important legumes.

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