No. 1513 6 April 2012

66th Governing Board Meeting
Science and institutional health, strategic resource mobilization recognized

The ICRISAT Governing Board with the Management Group at the 66th GB meeting in Patancheru.

ICRISAT is now moving full speed ahead in enhancing its science and institutional health, and in mobilizing its financial, human and technological resources. This is in pursuit of the institute’s overarching goal to make a difference in helping reduce poverty, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the dryland tropics through its new strategy anchored on inclusive market-oriented development.

ICRISAT has redoubled its commitment and efforts in maintaining a good balance of science and institutional health, financial strength and stability, and staff morale and development, as highlighted in the 66th ICRISAT Governing Board (GB) meeting held in Patancheru on 1-4 April.

The Governing Board meeting in session.

The Board acknowledged the Institute’s vigorous ongoing efforts towards more strategic targeting of resource mobilization, especially around larger projects, accounting for at least 80% of new funding. Since the September 2011 Board meeting, an additional US$30.7 million has been raised from mega-projects such as TL-II, CCAFS and CoECCRPP. Under its new Fundraising Plan, ICRISAT is now actively pursuing bilateral programs and new partnerships, emphasizing on how the Institute can deliver, together with its research-for-development (R4D) partners, solutions for smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The Board also lauded the Institute’s sustained financial health through full-cost recovery and treasury investments. Taking all factors into account, the budget for 2012 has been approved by the Board.

GB Chair Nigel Poole hands over a memento to outgoing GB member Philip Ikeazor, as Drs Dar and S Ayyappan look on.

Another highlight of the meeting was the GB’s acknowledgment of ICRISAT’s leadership in developing, revising and getting the approval of CRPs 3.5 on Grain Legumes and 3.6 on Dryland Cereals by the CGIAR Fund Council. Framework for revision of the two proposals is now in place, focusing on bringing world-leading grain legume and dryland cereals programs and partners together for better impact on the ground, and towards sharing expertise, facilities and services that improve all partners’ capacities, efficiency and effectiveness.

The Board also expressed a better appreciation and understanding of the Institute’s performance and demonstrated accountability as reflected in the 2011 Performance Management Indicators for Research and for Governance and Management. Done to internally monitor the institutional management system, the report shows an increasing number of bilateral projects and a better tracking of publications and number of scientists across programs – overall showing excellence in science. All parameters in the areas of governance (board membership), financial health/stability, and human resources (senior management turnover/recruitment) also indicate strong and healthy performance.

During the Boards’ Program Committee (PC) meeting, comprehensive presentations and fruitful deliberations on Research Programs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals showcased the Institute’s impact-oriented, science-based and farmer-centered research-for-development initiatives. The research program overviews were complemented by presentations by young scientists.

Program Committee meeting.

The Board also bid farewell during the meeting to retiring member Mr Philip Ikeazor who has served two terms as member and as Chair of the Audit Committee since 2007. He will be handing over his position in the Board by July 2012 to another Nigerian, Oluwande Muoyo, a chartered accountant and professional banker. The Board likewise gave a warm welcome reception to new member, Mr Pankaj Dwivedi, Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh, India.

Other decisions made by the Board include: emergency plan for West and Central Africa (WCA); implementation strategy for gender and diversity policy; and implementation of risk management policy.


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66th Governing Board Meeting in pictures

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Banking on ICRISAT’s research expertise and partnerships
Philip Ikeazor calls for boosting Nigeria’s groundnut production to export levels

(L to R) Board Chair N Poole, Associate Professional Officer for Human Nutrition (Mali) Vera Lugutuah, Philip Ikeazor, Regional Scientist (Niamey) Falalou Hamidou, Dr Dar, Oluwande Muoyo and P Janila in the groundnut field.

In July 2012, Philip Ikeazor will complete his second and final three-year term on the Governing Board of ICRISAT.

A professional banker and chartered accountant with over 25 years of experience in the financial sector, Ikeazor is currently Executive Director Corporate, Investment Banking, and Treasury at Union Bank of Nigeria Plc, and a director of Union Bank UK Plc. Union Bank has remained Nigeria’s leading bank in supporting agriculture.

“The last six years with ICRISAT has nurtured my belief that agriculture is one of the most potent ways to alleviate poverty and create significant income streams for the poor people of the semi-arid tropics,” said Ikeazor. “I have witnessed the giant strides and impact made by ICRISAT’s research work on smallholder farmers in India and East Africa and some parts of West Africa. I would like such collaborations to be adopted in Nigeria,” he added.

Ikeazor is particularly keen on transferring the watershed irrigation technique piloted in India and the recent groundnut revolution in Malawi, which has seen a thriving fair trade export of improved groundnut to the UK. Nigeria was once the world’s leading groundnut exporter in the 1960s with the crop accounting for about 70% of the country’s total export earnings. Since then the success story of the groundnut pyramids of Kano has sadly ended. Nigeria now produces barely enough groundnuts for local consumption and desperately needs to apply research that could eliminate aflatoxin from harvests and produce high yield export grade groundnuts.

To do this, Ikeazor is urging a collaboration between groundnut farmers and ICRISAT, supported by Nigeria’s National Agricultural Research System (NARS) and the Ministry. It is very timely that ICRISAT has recently reopened its research station in Kano, so Nigeria needs to support ICRISAT beyond the existing bilateral agreement, in order to reinstate the country’s former groundnut glory.

“By working with farmers to grow improved varieties of groundnuts which are more resistant to disease and meet export market demands, as well as better aflatoxin management to prevent contamination, we can significantly boost groundnut production and sales,” insists Ikeazor. “This will create employment and yield significant income for smallholder farmers especially in the Northern and the South Western part of the country,” he added.

Ikeazor is positive that Nigeria’s groundnut industry can be revived. He is inspired by the way farmers partnered with ICRISAT in Malawi resulting in smallholder cooperatives replacing a declining tobacco crop market with the cultivation of the right variety of aflatoxin-free export grade groundnuts. With the right support, things can change in Nigeria too. Ikeazor adds that the dynamic Agriculture Minister, who is incidentally an alumnus of ICRISAT, should include groundnuts among the first phase of major crops under the Ministry’s ongoing transformation program. In addition, the usual strong support of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance in encouraging banks to support the agricultural sector will be needed.

Ikeazor will be handing over his Governing Board position to another Nigerian, Oluwande Muoyo, a chartered accountant and professional banker. Oluwande recently moved to the public sector, having spent over 22 years of her 30-year postgraduation career at Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Nigeria (a subsidiary of the Standard Bank of South Africa Group). She is currently the Honourable Commissioner for Budget and Planning in Ogun State, Nigeria, a state where agriculture has been identified as one of the main drivers of industrialization of its economy. With her position as a non-executive Board member of ICRISAT, Oluwande intends to align herself to the vision, mission and strategic plans of ICRISAT and contribute her quota to the reduction of hunger and poverty in the lives of farmers in the tropical drylands.

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Assam Chief Minister visits ICRISAT-Patancheru

(Left)Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi with Dr Dar.
(Right) The Chief Minister at the ICRISAT Genebank.

Chief Minister of Assam, Mr Tarun Gogoi, along with his family visited ICRISAT-Patancheru on 5 April. He was welcomed by Director General William Dar and senior staff members, and was given an overview of the Institute’s ongoing research.

In his discussions with the Chief Minister, Dr Dar highlighted the need for improved crop varieties to fight challenges like climate change and water scarcity. The Chief Minister was briefed about ICRISAT’s efforts to fight hunger and malnutrition in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. During the tour of the Institute’s facilities, he showed great interest in biotechnology research and expressed appreciation at the over 119,700 germplasm accessions assembled from over 144 countries housed in the Genebank.

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GxE visioning workshop held in Bamako

ICRISAT in partnership with the McKnight Foundation organized a visioning workshop on “Trans-disciplinarity in GxE interaction research to optimize functional agro-biodiversity and smallholder systems design for variable and changing environments” on 18-20 March in Bamako, Mali.

Participants of the GxE visioning workshop in Mali.

The workshop aimed to explore and visualize how enhanced disciplinary integration in genotype-byenvironment (GxE) interactions research can accelerate sustainable productivity increases in rapidly changing smallholder environments. Particular emphasis was laid on catalyzing synergies between in-situ and in-silico instruments (e.g., multi-environment trials and crop models) for decision support.

Six interlocking lecture tracks on environmental variability, crop improvement, crop modeling, GxExM interactions, systems design and genomic and geospatial tools provided a synthesis of the latest research and knowledge on West Africa’s environmental and breeding contexts, and on state-of-the-art tools and concepts available to understand interactions between environments and genotypes. Participants were tasked with developing protocols for environmental proofing (profiling) in West Africa, a systems vision and entry points to increase income generation from rainfed farming, and proposing avenues for better integration of crop improvement and systems research.

Videolink presentations spanning 17 time zones from Queensland to Arizona were made inside a single day. Attendance included ICRISAT scientists from Bamako, Kano, Nairobi, Niamey and Patancheru alongside partners from IER-Mali, McKnight Foundation, USDA/ARS, University of Queensland, CSIRO, aWhere Inc., Wageningen University, University of Reading, CCAFS, CRA-Italy and CIRAD. The workshop was funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the ICRISAT-CODEWA project.

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Training workshop on seed quality control and certification

Participants check out seed quality standards.

The West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA) Seed Project /ICRISAT in collaboration with Niger’s Ministry of Agriculture organized a regional training workshop on Seed Quality Control and Certification on 26-28 March at ICRISAT-Niamey with USAID financial support.

Attended by 19 seed quality control managers from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, including 5 trainers, the main objective of the course was to ensure the availability of quality seed according to ECOWAS standards. This they sought to do by sensitizing participants to ECOWAS’ technical regulations for seed quality and post-test control; discussing techniques of field control and seed laboratory analysis; identifying the strengths and weaknesses of national services in charge of seeds quality control, including analysis and seed laboratory testing; and taking home lessons on field analysis and seed laboratory testing for future actions, particularly in human resources, logistics and financial resources.

The workshop reviewed ECOWAS regulations and covered the theoretical and practical aspects of laboratory and field control. Participants discussed and shared their views on the processes in their countries.

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VDSA data warehousing workshop held at Patancheru

Paticipants of the VDSA workshop at Patancheru.

A data warehousing workshop 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 in partnership with national institutes in Bangladesh and India, was held on 26 March – 6 April at ICRISAT-Patancheru. Microsoft-Sonata is providing the technical support for the VDSA data warehousing initiative.

The objectives of this workshop were to reach a common understanding of the concepts of data warehousing; agree and work towards integration of databases for three regions – SAT India, East India and Bangladesh; and articulate reporting and analytical needs from the data warehouse, such as user interface, canned reports, ad-hoc reports,confidentiality and security features.

Research Program Director for Markets, Institutions and Policies (MIP) and VDSA project leader Dr Cynthia Bantilan highlighted the workshop’s importance in achieving the goals of the data warehousing initiative. Discussions also centered on meso-data related needs (P Parthasarathy Rao) and micro-data and harmonization of data across regions (Uttam Deb, VDSA Project Manager).

The workshop was attended by project team members from IRRI, NCAP, ICRISAT and Socioconsult (Bangladesh) responsible for database management, and included Piedad F Moya, Esther Marciano and Ma Teresa Ulat (IRRI, Philippines); Alamgir Chowdhury and Mokhlesur Rahman (Socioconsult); Taznoore Samina Khanam (IRRIBangladesh); Rajni Jain, Umesh Yadav and Dushyant Tyagi (NCAP), and members of the VDSA database management team at ICRISAT.

Dileepkumar Guntuku, Trushar Shah and Pradyut Modi of ICRISAT shared their technical expertise at the workshop which had Ankur Bhasin and Manish Kumar Verma from Microsoft-Sonata’s technical team working on the discovery phase of understanding the project’s requirements and developing the Software Requirements Specification (SRS) document.

On 3 April, the VDSA team briefed ICRISAT’s Governing Board on the progress made during their visit to the VDSA data bank. The Board highly appreciated the initiative and roadmap towards establishing a VDSA data warehouse by the end of 2012.

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SIMLESA regional review and planning meet held in Arusha

Participants of the SIMLESA review and planning meeting.

The annual regional review and planning meeting of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)-funded Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume cropping systems for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) project was held at Arusha, Tanzania on 19-23 March to review the progress made during year 2 and devise work plans for year 3 by each participating NARS. During the deliberations, the mid-term review team headed by Greg Edmeades was also present.

It was a big gathering with participation from ICRISAT, CIMMYT, ACIAR commission, QAAFIA Australia, Murdoch University, ASARECA, ARC– South Africa, BMGF, USAID-FTF, CIDA, ILRI, NARES partners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Botswana, Rwanda, private seed industry and stakeholders of innovation platforms. ICRISAT’s Said Silim, Ganga Rao, Emmanuel Monyo and Moses Siambi participated in the meeting.

A demonstration plot on conservation tillage with maize-pigeonpea intercropping.

The ICRISAT team participated in regional review presentations on progress made during the last two years presented by the country coordinators and subsequent work plans. Dr Said Silim chaired the session on R&D, describing the SIMLESA approach and highlights of the project including showcasing SIMLESA village success stories in the form of posters, videos, and seed samples of most promising varieties being used under the project.

Ganga Rao highlighted the progress made in implementing legume seed systems in each participating country – Ethiopia (beans and soybean), Kenya (pigeonpea, groundnut, beans and soybean), Tanzania (pigeonpea), Malawi (pigeonpea, groundnut and soybean) and Mozambique (beans, pigeonpea, cowpea and soybean). Participants then visited Mbulu district to see the on-farm maizepigeonpea intercrop trials under conservation agriculture and conventional tillage methods.

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