No. 1512 30 March 2012

Impact-oriented and farmer-centered research
ICRISAT leads CGIAR Centers in Bhoochetana mission

Karnataka Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda (3rd from left) welcomes Director General William Dar to his camp office in Bengaluru. Also seen are (L to R) Dr Subir Hari Singh (Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner, GoK), Drs Narayan Gowda (VC, University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru), SP Wani (ICRISAT), SB Dandin (VC, University of Horticultural Sciences, Bagalkot), ML Jat (CIMMYT), K Krishnappa (ICRISAT) and M Ramesha (IRRI).

The Bhoochetana program in Karnataka, India is a farmer participatory model that emerged from ICRISAT’s scaling up of long-term strategic on-station research on natural resource management in collaboration with local partners. Bhoochetana adopts the principles of consortium, convergence, capacity building and collective action, with the state Department of Agriculture acting as the lead agency.

The Bhoochetana program is based on learnings from the on-farm Adarsha Watershed in Kothapally which has been scaled-up in Karnataka. The initial phase was carried out through the Sujala-ICRISAT Watershed that started with 13 watersheds in 2005 in six districts of the state. This science-based productivity enhancement initiative is now the flagship project of the Government of Karnataka (GoK), benefiting three million smallholder farmers in rainfed areas over the last three years. In 2011 alone, it covered 3 million hectares in 30 districts.

Riding on this wave of success, GoK sought ICRISAT’s help in mobilizing other CGIAR Consortium Centers to provide technical support in establishing learning sites in four revenue divisions of Karnataka, primarily aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity. On 24 March, ICRISAT Director General William Dar led a delegation of seven CGIAR Consortium Centers (ICRISAT, IRRI, ILRI, IWMI, CIMMYT, IFPRI and ICARDA) to Bengaluru for a meeting with a high level committee of GoK officials.

Dr Dar presenting an ICRISAT flyer titled “Weathering the Perfect Storm” to Chief Minister Gowda.

“The strength of the CGIAR can be harnessed in facilitating convergence to benefit farmers in Karnataka. Bhoochetana has served as a good example of hand-holding support to the state government. Its scaling up of holistic, science-led development has greatly benefited smallholder farmers,” said Dr Dar.

He also emphasized the need to address the agriculture sector’s holistic development through an inclusive market-oriented development (IMOD) approach, having market-entry points, appropriate institutional mechanisms, developing climateresilient farming villages, and addressing the physical scarcity of water with appropriate policy interventions and strengthened institutions. The urgent need to increase production, productivity and profits, and ensure sustainability was highlighted as important for climate-resilient agriculture.

ICRISAT’s strategic on-farm research combined with its comprehensive assessment of water for food and integrated water resource management approach has substantially reduced yield gaps and improved farmers’ livelihoods in Karnataka. As part of the Bhoochetana program, an analysis of 90,000 soil samples collected from farmers’ fields from 30 districts was done by ICRISAT and the Department of Agriculture (DoA), leading to soil fertility maps and the publication of the Soil Fertility Atlas.

The Bhoochetana program has enabled farmers to harvest 23-66% more yields of various crops (maize, sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, green gram, soybean and vegetables, etc). Economic returns from the improved balanced nutrient management practices ranged from 1.2 to 14.6%.

Dr Dar along with senior officials from GoK and CGIAR partners during the “GoK-CGIAR workshop for improving rural livelihoods in Karnataka.”

million hectares of rainfed area and to extend the project to irrigated crops like rice and sugarcane covering 0.5 million hectares. This new program with active technical support from the CGIAR Consortium Centers, will be funded by the GoK.

At the meeting chaired by Mr SV Ranganath, Chief Secretary, GoK, and attended by Dr Subir Hari Singh, Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner and other officials of the DoA, Dr SP Wani presented a concept note on “Improving Rural Livelihoods through Innovative Scaling-up of Scienceled Participatory Research for Development.” The CGIAR Consortium Center representatives also briefly presented their technologies that can benefit farmers in Karnataka.

Mr Ranganath revealed that Karnataka’s stagnant agricultural growth rate in 2000-2008 had seen an increase of 5.9% in 2009-2010, which further rose to 13.3% in 2010-2011. “Collaborating with CGIAR Consortium Centers will be a game changer for Karnataka, and we look forward to a good learning experience for various departments in the state,” he stressed. He also urged ICRISAT to be the nodal agency to lead the consortium and nominated the Secretary of Agriculture as the nodal person representing the GoK.

Later, the CGIAR Consortium Center representatives led by Dr Dar visited Karnataka’s Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda. The Chief Minister, while appreciating ICRISAT’s help in improving Karnataka’s agriculture, emphasized the need for more impactoriented research to benefit smallholder farmers. “CGIAR institutions in India have developed many technologies that can help improve the country’s agriculture sector. More farmers will benefit by scaling up the science-led and knowledge-based development of agriculture. To ensure that farmers are protected from frequent drought, steps must be taken to formulate a special action plan in collaboration with CGIAR,” the Chief Minister pointed out.

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CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) meets in Delhi

Dr Dar speaking at the CGIAR-ISPC meeting in New Delhi.

The 5th meeting of CGIAR’s Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) was held at the NASC complex, New Delhi on 26-29 March. The meeting was co-hosted by ICRISAT and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Participants included the ISPC, the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA), representatives of CGIAR Consortium Centers (CIAT, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, ICARDA, World Agro-Forestry, Worldfish, IRRI, ILRI, IWMI and IFPRI) and officials and staff of ICAR-HQ and other ICAR national research centers. ICRISAT was represented in the meeting by DG William Dar, DDG-R Dave Hoisington, RPDs CLL Gowda, Cynthia Bantilan, Oscar Riera-Lizarazu, and Assistant RPD Suhas Wani.

ISPC Chair Dr Ken Cassman (left) addressing the participants.

Welcome messages were delivered by ISPC Chair Dr Ken Cassman, ICAR-DG Dr S Ayyappan and Dr Dar, followed by CGIAR updates presented by the ISPC, Consortium Board, Consortium Office, and Fund Office. Dave Hoisington gave an update on the revision of CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) 3.5 on Grain Legumes and 3.6 on Dryland Cereals. Updates were also provided on CRP 1.3 on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (ICLARM), and CRP 3.7 on Livestock and Fish (ILRI). ISPC members had a special meeting on 26 March with the Consortium Office and Centers involved in CRPs 3.5 and 3.6 to clarify issues on the revisions necessary for both proposals.

Other sessions included presentations and discussions on strategies and trends (foresight analysis), setting priorities and learning from others, conservation agriculture, the CRP review process, SPIA activities, contributions of agriculture to human nutrition, and partnerships. All presentations and the summary of the meeting will be available on the CGIAR website.

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ABI trains EDII participants on incubation and entrepreneurship

Participants of the EDII training course at Patancheru.

As part of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC)-sponsored international training program on “Promoting Innovation and Entrepreneurship” through Incubation organized by the Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), a group of 41 participants from Asia and Africa visited the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) on 23 March.

The program designed for professionals promoting innovations through planned entrepreneurship interventions, aims at capacity building of business incubation managers in incubator practices, identifying support mechanisms for incubators, technology commercialization, and devising financing strategies for clients.

Mr Karuppanchetty, Mr Saikat Datta Mazumdar and Mr S Aravazhi served as speakers during the training.

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CGIAR communication heads meet in Rome

Communication heads from CGIAR Consortium Centers who met in Rome.

Collective communication is now underway in the new CGIAR. Towards this, the heads of communication of the Consortium of Centers including those of two CRPs
and the Fund Office met at Bioversity International headquarters in Rome
last week to thresh out joint
communication initiatives related to the CGIAR reform. ICRISAT was represented by Communication Director Rex Navarro.

Presided over by Ms Enrica Porcari, Acting Director of Communication of the CGIAR Consortium and facilitated by Ms Simone Staiger (CIAT) supported by six resource persons, the meeting sought to strengthen Systemwide communication by operationalizing this in the context of the new CGIAR and its Research Programs (CRPs). Specifically, the meeting aimed to (1) design communication strategy elements in the context of a changing CGIAR environment; (2) prepare plans to put the elements (e.g., branding, targeting, web and social media) into action; (3) discuss and align common CRP communication and media approaches; and (4) plan joint communication campaigns and events for Rio+20 and GCARD 2012.

During the inaugural session, Dr Emile Frison, Director General, Bioversity International pointed out the importance of Systemwide communication by raising the collective voice of the CGIAR which is still minimal. He also emphasized that branding the new CGIAR should mutually complement and supplement those of the Centers and that donors still want one-on-one interaction with the latter. In terms of CRPs, he also mentioned that lead Centers will assume a major role in fundraising.

The three-day meeting focused on the following:

  1. Discussing the progress, achievements and coherence of communicating the new CGIAR.
  2. An understanding of how challenges and opportunities of the new CGIAR are transformed into key messages for various groups.
  3. Processing Center management feedback on the CGIAR branding guidelines and implementing these, once approved by the Consortium Board.
  4. Understanding the progress and operational aspects of the new CGIAR website to be launched in April.
  5. Harnessing social media in sharing the “We are one CGIAR” message.
  6. Establishing common climate change messages; awareness of each Center’s work on climate change communication and exploring opportunities for joint outreach activities.
  7. Reviewing GCARD 2010 and establishing a common ground for GCARD 2012 communication activities.
  8. Understanding the One Common System (OCS) communication scheme, its objectives, experiences of first implementing Centers and strategies for linking across other Centers.

The group also had a virtual interaction with Dr Pamela Anderson, Director General of CIP and the Center Liaison to the Consortium Board who provided an overview of current challenges in communicating the new CGIAR. Likewise, two cases of communicating CRPs were presented (CCAFS and Forests, Trees and Agroforestry), in which overall management and communication was essentially decentralized with participating Centers and partners actively involved in collectively sharing messages.

In a Google PageRank (Google PR) done by the Consortium Office among Centers, ICRISAT was on top with an eight (8) on a 1-10 scale. PageRank is one of the methods Google uses to determine a webpage’s relevance or importance, where webpages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.

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Farmer exchange visits in Zimbabwe

Embracing Seneca’s words that “Travel and change of place share new vigor to the mind,” ICRISAT-Bulawayo recently organized an exchange visit of farmers in Zimbabwe through the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF). The CPWF aims to improve the integrated management of rainwater to improve smallholder productivity and livelihoods and reduce risk in the dry areas of the Limpopo Basin.

Patricia Masikate of ICRISAT-Bulawayo talks to farmers about bana grass.

Crop-livestock production systems are predominant in the Limpopo Basin and livestock production constitutes the main income source in these mixed farming systems. Optimum benefits are often not realized due to feed shortages, especially during the dry season. ICRISAT-Bulawayo established a foodfodder crop production trial on-farm in three districts in Zimbabwe. On-station trials were also established to evaluate the potential productivity of feed crops and as adjuncts to feed shortages during the dry season.

On 19 March, 17 farmers and 3 extension officers from Gwanda and Matobo Districts visited farmers’ fields in Insiza to explore options for growing feed crops for their livestock. They looked at mucuna and bana grass as alternate feed. Lively questions and discussion in the fields demonstrated farmers’ willingness to experiment with these options and learn from their neighbors about what was successful. This was a particularly instructive exercise as inadequate rainfall had resulted in poor establishment of feed crops in their own fields. To see the crops doing well in another district was therefore important.

Women farmers in Insiza show off their mucuna field to farmers from Gwanda and Matobo.

After the field visits, farmers gathered at a central location for the moment of truth – to determine whether or not their cattle would eat the alternate feed crops. Four or five cows were released into a kraal with tubs of bana grass and mucuna hay and illustrated that these exotic fodder crops are palatable and that farmers would have no problem feeding these supplements to their animals.

On 20 March, four farmers and three extension officers from Insiza joined the previous group to visit Matopos Research Station. A presentation on the potential production of the different food and fodder crops (maize, dual purpose sorghum, Rhodes grass and mucuna) was made.

Farmers had an opportunity to visit experimental sites set up a season ago with a variety of dualpurpose sorghums. They also visited the range and pasture departments to learn more on indigenous grasses and how they can rehabilitate their rangelands and the beef and small stock section where they learned about livestock husbandry. Farmers also received fodder production manuals.

A significant number of farmers have indicated willingness to devote part of their crop fields to fodder crops. The visit served as an opportunity for them to see a variety of fodder crops and to select what they would like to experiment on in the next season.

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ABI participates in ISBA 2012

Mr Karuppanchetty at ISBA 2012.

The Agri-Business Incubation program (ABI) of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP) participated in ISBA 2012 held at Pune on 17-19 March, organized by the Science and Technology Park of University of Pune. It was the sixth annual conference of the Indian Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Parks (STEPs) and Business Incubator Association (ISBA).

ISBA promotes business incubation activities in the country through exchange of information, sharing of experience, and networking assistance among Indian business incubators, STEPs and other organizations engaged in the promotion of start-up enterprises.

The conference was attended by about 70 incubator managers; over 100 incubatee companies, CEOs and support organizations; and about 50 international participants from Asia, Africa, Brazil, Europe and USA.

Inaugurating the conference through video conference, Dr Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovation, stressed that “technologies being developed in our research centers need to be affordable to be scalable and thereby sustainable, and so that they can reach the masses.”

ISBA 2012 had 12 sessions on topics such as innovation, entrepreneurs and incubation, funding opportunities, role of academia in industry, design & branding, benchmarking Indian incubators, etc. An Investor-Startup forum was also held.

ICRISAT was represented by Mr Karuppanchetty, COO and Mr Jonathan Philroy, Assistant Manager of ABI. Mr Karuppanchetty coordinated a session on “Incubation: International experiences, support programs” and made a presentation on “Business incubation: A tool for empowering people.”

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Seminar on insect biochemistry at Gulbarga University

Dr HC Sharma elucidates on biotechnology and insect control.

Dr HC Sharma, Principal Scientist, Entomology was the chief guest at the national seminar on “Recent Advances in Insect Biochemistry” held on 27-28 March at Gulbarga University, Karnataka. The event was sponsored by the University Grants Commission (UGC), Government of India.

In his keynote address on “Application of modern tools of biotechnology in insect control,” Dr Sharma highlighted the important role of insects in the ecosystem, and the need to understand their biology, ecology and metabolism for advancing our understanding of their role in sustainable crop production. Several students and faculty expressed interest in working with ICRISAT. Prof ET Puttiaiah, Vice Chancellor of Gulbarga University, presided over the function. Dr Barkat Hussain, Visiting Fellow from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKAUST-K) and Mr Rajendra Munghate, Scientific Officer also attended the seminar.

A review of the progress of the ISOPOM Helicoverpa project was also carried out during the seminar. One of the Helicoverpa-resistant lines (ICPHaRL 4979-7) provided by the project to the farmers in Gulbarga region has been found to be promising, further testing of which will be done for possible release to the farmers.

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TRIVSA workshop held at Bhubaneswar

Partners at the TRIVSA project annual review workshop in Bhubaneswar.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)- funded project on “Tracking Varietal Change for Future Assessment of the Impact of Crop Genetic Improvement Research in South Asia (TRIVSA)” conducted its Annual Review Workshop on 23-24 March at Kalinga Institute of Information Technology (KIIT), Bhubaneswar, Orissa.

Led by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in collaboration with ICRISAT and NARS partners from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India, the project aims to generate systematic and comprehensive information on improved cultivars, extent of adoption, national strength in human capital resources and research investments on crop improvement in South Asia. This is done in conjunction with a sister project titled “Diffusion of Improved Varieties in Africa” (DIVA) covering similar initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. Around 15 partners participated in the workshop including Douglas Gollin, Chairman designate of the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) and Mumukshu Patel from the Gates foundation.

Mr Sam Mohanty, Head of Social Science Division, IRRI, gave the opening remarks during the workshop. Dr Cynthia Bantilan, RPD for Markets, Institutions and Policies (MIP) reflected on the importance of diffusion studies in agricultural research decision making, while Mr Gollin spoke on lessons from SPIA experiences in Asia and Africa.

Following project Principal Investigator Takashi Yamano’s talk on the background and objectives of the workshop, partners presented the progress made, initial results and revised work plans for 2012.

ICRISAT’s role in the project involving tracking the diffusion of new technologies of its five mandate crops – sorghum, pearl millet, groundnut, chickpea and pigeonpea – in India and the progress in all the research activities were reported by Drs Cynthia Bantilan and D Kumara Charyulu. The workshop culminated in discussions on innovative approaches to track diffusion of new technologies and key issues for developing Phase-II of the project proposal.

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New HPRC Advisory Committee meets at Patancheru

The Advisory Committee of ICRISAT-HPRC at Patancheru.

The newly-formed Advisory Committee of the ICRISAT-Private Sector Hybrid Parents Research Consortia (HPRC) (Phase 3: 2009-2013) held its 4th meeting at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 28 March. Private sector representatives Dr Suresh K Gupta (JK Agri-Genetics), Dr RS Mahala (Pioneer Overseas Corporation) and Dr AR Sadananda (Vibha Agritech) participated along with Drs CLL Gowda and O Riera-Lizarazu, and observers Drs Belum Reddy, KB Saxena and SK Gupta from ICRISAT.

On behalf of ICRISAT, Dr CLL Gowda welcomed the new members of the Committee, and Dr Suresh K Gupta was elected as the chairperson for 2011-2013.

The committee discussed how to further strengthen HPRC, the status of member seed companies with pending dues, action taken on the August 2011 meeting and the possibility of upgrading membership to include private companies from SSA. Tentative dates for the Pearl Millet, Sorghum and Pigeonpea Scientists’ Field Day in 2012 and a Field Day for postrainy season sorghum in the first week of February 2013 (on the request of private sector representatives) were finalized.

Dr O Riera-Lizarazu talked on the platform being established for genome sequencing of pearl millet and urged private sector companies to join the effort. Dr Rosana Mula presented the highlights of a study on the impact of pearl millet and sorghum HPRC, and HPRC’s significant contributions to the products from member seed companies and the public sector.

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