No. 1510 16 March 2012

Strengthening ICRISAT-Philippines partnership
Scientific visit of academic and agricultural leaders to boost rainfed agriculture

State University and College (SUC) presidents and regional agricultural government officials from the Philippines, with ICRISAT DG William Dar and senior staff, during their visit to ICRISAT-Patancheru.

“Long neglected in the past, rainfed agriculture is now getting a big boost in the Philippines. ICRISAT and the Philippines’ Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) under the Department of Agriculture (DA) have joined hands to implement a vigorous program that will make rainfed agriculture more productive, which in turn will enhance food, nutrition and energy security, and improve livelihoods of local communities in rainfed areas.

Under the new initiative called Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Program (PHIRARDEP), a top-level delegation composed of ten State University and College (SUC) presidents and regional agricultural government officials visited ICRISAT on 12-16 March primarily to explore and map out joint agriculture research, development and extension (RD&E) initiatives to revitalize rainfed agriculture in the Philippines.

The Philippine delegation at the ICRISAT sweet sorghum experimental field.

“ICRISAT’s scientific and technical support to the Philippines is part of the Institute’s global effort to contribute to food security and poverty reduction in countries that have marginalized farmlands,” said Director General William Dar. With proper technical and policy support and programs, rainfed farms in the Philippines could be an impetus for growth in the rural areas, he added.

The primary goal of the visit was to provide the delegation with an important opportunity to interact with ICRISAT scientists and learn from the Institute’s experiences in implementing research for development (R4D) programs and science-based innovations on rainfed agriculture, particularly in the areas of crop improvement (sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea, and groundnut), participative integrated watershed management, knowledge sharing and innovation, transgenic research, research station management, and agribusiness incubation.

At the RS Paroda Genebank.

Deliberations during the visit focused on scientific innovations which, if applied, are the best bets in improving productivity of rainfed areas. The need for R4D projects were also discussed, specifically in linking farmers with markets and in formulating policies that will enhance access to critical support services and empower rainfed farming communities.

A meeting with ICRISAT’s Management Group was also held for the delegation to learn approaches towards institutional transformation, capacity strengthening and communication. The team also visited ICRISAT’s original benchmark community watershed project in Kothapally and the institute’s various field and laboratory facilities.

To further fortify the partnership between ICRISAT and its Philippine partners, Memoranda of Agreements (MOAs) were signed primarily for the implementation of collaborative rainfed R4D projects, most especially in the areas of research, capacity strengthening and sharing of innovations and scientific expertise on dryland agriculture.

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AGRA President visits ICRISAT’s Soil Health Project in Malawi

Oswin Madzonga explains to AGRA President Dr Namanga Ngongi (center, foreground) the new opportunities that medium-duration pigeonpea represents for farmers in Central Malawi.

The President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Dr Namanga Ngongi, visited the Soil Health Project titled “Upscaling of Pigeonpea in Central Region of Malawi” on 1 March, to see first hand how the project is benefiting smallholder farmers affiliated with the National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM).

The project is being implemented by NASFAM in collaboration with ICRISAT, the Department of Agriculture Research and Technical Services (DARS) and ICRAF-The World Agroforestry Centre. ICRISAT technologies being implemented in the project include pigeonpea-maize intercropping, pigeonpeagroundnut doubled-up legume system, pigeonpea phosphorous microdosing, and pigeonpea Fusarium wilt-resistant variety trials.

In his speech, Dr Ngongi said he was pleased to see how AGRA’s support is benefiting smallholder farmers and ensuring they were growing maize and legumes (including pigeonpea), which would improve soil fertility and add organic matter to the soil. This, he added, would ultimately increase productivity in a sustainable manner and provide long-term benefits. Expressing satisfaction with the progress made in the project, Dr Ngongi said he looked forward to more impacts in the near future as farmers adopted the legumes being promoted by the project and began using some of the newly developed management recommendations.

ICRISAT-Malawi Country Representative Moses Siambi (left) clarifies a point on seed system delivery.

During the visit, Mr Oswin Madzonga, Senior Scientific Officer (ICRISAT-Malawi), presented a poster on spatial arrangement of maize and pigeonpea. He stressed that the development of medium-duration pigeonpea varieties such as ICEAP 00557, locally known as Mwaiwathu Alimi, and ICEAP 01514/15, had opened up new opportunities for farmers in the central region of Malawi, a non-traditional pigeonpea area. This was not possible with long-duration varieties that require prolonged winter rains to reach maturity and are confined to southern Malawi. He felt the time was right for researchers to work with farmers to identify the best spatial arrangement that optimizes both maize and pigeonpea yields when intercropped.

Speaking about the impacts of the seed systems activity and the recent shortage of legume seed for the program, ICRISAT-Malawi Country Representative Moses Siambi said that the project had made a major contribution with its supply of 45 metric tons of groundnut and pigeonpea seed to the government subsidy program in the current season. He thanked AGRA for the support that made the contribution possible, thereby improving farmers’ access to high quality legume seed.

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ICRISAT and Auburn University sign MoU on agriculture R4D

Drs William Batchelor and William Dar ink the R4D agreement.

A four-member delegation from Auburn University, Alabama, USA, headed by Dr William Batchelor (Dean, College of Agriculture and Director for Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station), visited ICRISATPatancheru on 12 March, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in agriculture R4D. Others from the university included Dr Joseph Molnar (Coordinator, Office of International Agriculture) and Drs MS Reddy and Mike Williams from the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

The delegation interacted with DG William Dar and DDG-R Dave Hoisington on various subjects such as IMOD, crop modeling, climate change research, and knowledge sharing initiatives for smallholder farmers. Other ICRISAT staff who participated in the discussions include Drs Piara Singh, Dileep Guntuku and Hari Sudini.

DG Dar with the delegation from Auburn University.

Elucidating on Auburn University’s new initiative, the “International Hunger Institute”, Dr Batchelor said that 200 universities around the globe had agreed to work under the university’s leadership to alleviate poverty and hunger in the world. Dr Dar, in response, expressed willingness to be a part of the said initiative.

The delegation visited ICRISAT’s fields, the RS Paroda Genebank and the Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG), and lauded the Institute’s world-class facilities.

During the wrap-up session, Dr Dar highlighted the importance of dryland agriculture in reducing poverty and hunger, and suggested the inclusion of “dryland agriculture” as a course curriculum in the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs.

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ICRISAT-HOPE Project Management Team meets in Zanzibar, Tanzania

(L to R) Drs Said Silim, Alastair Orr, Mary Mgonja, Yilma Kebede and George Okwach during the meeting.

The ICRISAT-HOPE project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), held its 5th Project Management Team (PMT) meeting on 9-10 March in Zanzibar, Tanzania, to review the project’s progress across the six objectives and the recommendation of the Addis Ababa meeting. The meeting was chaired and facilitated by Project Coordinator George Okwach, and attended by Principal Investigator (PI) Said Silim, Dr Yilma Kebede of BMGF, and the six project objective leaders (Drs Nareppa Nagaraj, SK Gupta, Henry Ojulong, Alastair Orr, Mary Mgonja, and Kirsten Von Brocke).

A significant part of the meeting was spent on presentations by Objective Leaders (OLs) and discussions on the progress made in their respective domains. The OLs presented highlights of tangible outputs that have been realized in their respective objectives, and the status of those outputs that still remain to be achieved.

On the recommendation of the October 2011 global review meeting held in Addis Ababa, the PMT noted that a large number of the resolutions were in various stages of implementation. However, part of the recommendations involved the preparation of proposals for activity revisions, as well as few additional (new) activities. The PMT reviewed the proposals that had been received from various projects scientists. The proposals were approved on the basis of their congruence with the project goals and on-going activities. The PMT recommended that the funds for carrying out the proposed/revised activities would have to come from the respective objective budgets.

Joining the meeting briefly via Skype, DDG-R Dave Hoisington updated the PMT on the progress made in negotiating with aWhere Inc. of USA in introducing a data management protocol for both this project and TL II projects. He alerted the project team of the requirements needed to make the system work, and urged the cooperation of all concerned.

Dr Yilma Kebede challenged the team to think beyond the level of mere achievement of activity milestones, and begin developing a “larger picture” in terms of the contribution the various objectives were making towards meeting the main goals and aims of the project. He observed that with close to 3 years into the project, project reports should be highlighting more of the tangible, substantive contributions of each objective to the larger goal of the project, and how the objectives and activities were cross-linked.

He reminded the participants that the milestones were not an end in themselves, but were stepping stones towards realizing certain bigger goals. He emphasized the importance of focusing on the overall project goal and ensuring the project outputs and the knowledge generated are turned into results that make a difference in the lives of the farmers. He also reminded the team of the importance of empowering the national partners and encouraged them to be in constant communication with the NARS. In conclusion, he requested the team to give him feedback on the foundation’s grant management system, saying that the goal is for ICRISAT and the foundation to work together as partners.

Project PI Said Silim urged the leaders of the objectives to visit project locations to ascertain what is going on, and learn from each other. Meanwhile, in his closing remarks, Dr George Okwach encouraged the team to continue focusing on the overall goal of the project and emphasized the need to integrate activities across objectives. He assured that regular video conference meetings would be held to ensure follow-ups on the meeting’s action points.

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VDSA annual review and management meeting held in Dhaka

Participants of the 2nd Regional Annual Review and Management Meeting of the “Village Dynamics in South Asia” project held in Bangladesh.

The 2nd Regional Annual Review and Management Meeting of the “Village Dynamics in South Asia” (VDSA) project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and jointly implemented by ICRISAT, IRRI and NCAP with national institutes in Bangladesh and India, was held on 10-11 March at the BRAC Centre Inn, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The meeting discussed progress and achievements in data collection, processing, analysis, dissemination and web hosting of VDSA data and research findings. It also reviewed papers prepared under the project and developed detailed work plans for 2012 for three regions – SAT India, east India and Bangladesh.

The meeting was attended by VDSA Project Advisors Mahabub Hossain (Executive Director, BRAC), Mruthyunjaya (former Director, NAIP, ICAR); Project Leaders MCS Bantilan (Research Director, RP-MIP, ICRISAT), Samarendu Mohanty (Head of IRRI Social Sciences Division); project coordinators of three regions, Uttam Deb and P Parthasarathy Rao (ICRISAT), Humnath Bhandari (IRRI) and Anjani Kumar (NCAP). VDSA team members Alamgir Chowdhury, Anisatul Fatema Yousuf, Joseph Balagtas, Padmaja Ravula, Kamala Gurung, Usha Rani Ahuja, VR Kiresur, Taznoor S Khanam, and Lalmani Pandey presented papers and work plans in this meeting.

Project team members from IRRI, ICRISAT, Socioconsult, NCAP, and UAS Dharwad participated in the deliberations and discussions. Among others, the meeting was enriched through the comments of distinguished experts Randolph Barker (Emeritus Scientist, IRRI), Sattar Mandal (Member, Bangladesh Planning Commission), Zainul Abedin (IRRI representative in Bangladesh) and Ashwani Kumar (Director, Directorate of Water Management, ICAR, Bhubaneswar). As part of capacity building efforts of the VDSA project, a training session on Nutritional Anthropometry and Rain Gauge was also conducted for 18 field investigators and field supervisors working in Bangladesh villages. VK Chopde and Kavitha Kasala served as resource persons during the training while John Marandy, Liakut Al Mahmud, and Golam Mindia Chowdhury facilitated and organized the event.

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ICRISAT-WASA training workshop held for seed lab technicians

Participants of the ICRISAT-WASA workshop for laboratory technicians.

As part of the West Africa Seed Alliance - Seed Project’s (WASASP) effort to develop manpower for enhanced quality seed production and laboratory evaluation, a two-day training workshop was organized on 27–28 February at the Central Seed Testing Laboratory, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Sheda, Abuja. The training was organized for seed laboratory technicians of NASC, commercial seed companies, seed technologists from research institutes, and state agricultural development projects in Nigeria.

The opening remark was given by Mr Segun Olatokun, Director of NASC, representing Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Remarks were also given by the representative of the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Coordinating Director of NASC and Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, ICRISAT’s country representative in Nigeria.

The workshop was attended by over 55 trainees, including 20 women, with resource persons drawn from universities, NASC, and the Nigeria Plant Quarantine Services. The training included classroom and practical sessions on laboratory record keeping, seed physiology and dormancy, seed quality assurance and certification, and seed testing, health, processing and storage.

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ICRISAT inks MoU with Ministry of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu

ICRISAT and the Ministry of Agriculture, Tamil Nadu, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the promotion of highyielding varieties of pigeonpea and groundnut. Director General William Dar and Dr K Manivasan (Commissioner of Agriculture) signed the MoU for the implementation of an R&D project in 2012.

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