No. 1520 25 May 2012

Purposeful partnership: ICRISAT-ICAR pledge to work for a climate resilient agriculture in India

(L) ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar delivers the Keynote address at the Policy Dialogue on ‘Building climate resilient agriculture in India”, held in New Delhi. (R) Mr Harish Rawat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Food Processing Industries and Parliamentary Affairs, Government of India (third from left), releases ICRISAT’s Policy Briefs on climate change. Also seen (from L to R) are Drs MCS Bantilan, ICAR Director General S Ayyappan, Naveen Singh, William Dar and AK Singh, Deputy Director General (NRM), ICAR.

The spectre of climate change has been with agriculture for a long time. Policies that facilitate change – for both adaptation and mitigation outcomes – are critical to successful response to climate change. We have at our disposal a wealth of knowledge that, if turned into action, would allow people to build resilient livelihoods and prosper in spite of uncertain weather.

As part of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)- funded project on “Vulnerability to climate change: Adaptation strategies and layers of resilience”, ICRISAT and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) jointly organized a Policy Dialogue on “Building climate resilient agriculture in India” on 22 May at the NASC complex, New Delhi. The dialogue was aimed at informing policy makers, developmental agencies and practitioners, civil society and public-private stakeholders of the micro-level constraints, opportunities and sectors most vulnerable to and in need of interventions to be transformed into climate resilient communities in India.

The deliberations kicked off with a welcome address by Dr AK Singh, Deputy Director General (NRM), ICAR, who underlined the importance of the meeting linking researchers and development planners. Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies, ICRISAT, briefly underlined the purpose of the meeting and assured that the messages that would be taken away from it would help in building future climate preparedness among rural communities.

In his opening address, ICAR Director General Dr S Ayyappan spoke of the fruitful collaboration between ICAR and ICRISAT that had successfully addressed farmers’ problems.

Delivering the keynote address, ICRISAT Director General William Dar said, “Firstly, science must guide and enlighten policymaking on issues ranging from health, industry, pollution control, global warming, agriculture and sustainability issues in the face of climate change. Then institutions such as ICRISAT and ICAR must continue to strengthen institutional mechanisms to engage public leadership and policy makers.”

Participants of the Policy Dialogue at the NASC complex New Delhi.

Dr Dar emphasized that the technology, tools and methods developed for farmers have to be finally accepted by them and evaluated, however informal and crude they may be, from their point of view. “While we must continue to improve our data collection and analytical tools and methods, and develop new technologies, we must also strive to explore ways of making our efforts create beneficial impacts on our communities,” he added.

Both DGs confirmed the long-standing partnership between their organizations in facing climate-related challenges in India’s agriculture sector.

Inaugurating the dialogue, Guest of Honor Mr Harish Rawat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Food Processing Industries & Parliamentary Affairs warned, “Climate change impacts are imminent, and irrespective of the geographical distribution the impacts are going to be severe.” On the occasion, he released Policy Briefs and short videos on the outcome of the project.

The Technical session that followed was chaired by Prof Abhijit Sen, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India and co-chaired by Dr SS Acharya, Former Chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Technical papers were presented by Drs Cynthia Bantilan, Wijaya Jayatilaka, Venkateswarlu and Naveen P Singh.

The post-lunch session on the theme “Strategies and building layers of resilience: Responding to grassroots level needs” saw lively discussions centered around “Advancing agro-meteorological information for local planning”, “Mainstreaming climate change perspectives into agricultural development” and “Strengthening social and institutional innovations for improving adaptation”. This was followed by an informative discussion on strategies, constraints and building climate resilience in agriculture in India.

ICRISAT was represented by Drs Parthasarathy Rao, Uttam K Deb and Naveen Singh, R Padmaja, Byjesh Kattarkandi and Padmini Haridas. Also in attendence were representatives from ICAR institutes, Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), the Planning Commission, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), World Bank, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), (United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), MS Swaminathan Foundation and NDMA.

The exchange of ideas helped to focus on programs that target rural agricultural communities dealing with increasing risk in agriculture due to changing climate.

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ICRISAT-HOPE and ASARECA pearl millet project meetings held in Asmara

Over 50% of the land under cereal grains in Eritrea is sown to sorghum, the most important cereal food staple in the country. However, drought, Striga, lack of quality seed and low soil fertility have seen sorghum’s productivity decline sharply. The ICRISAT-HOPE project with the help of National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Eritea, its national and local partners, has implemented activities to increase sorghum productivity and household incomes.

As part of these efforts, a project review and planning meeting was held on 15 May followed by the ASARECA Pearl Millet Project Inception workshop on 16-17 May. Both meetings were attended by 20 participants from NARI, 18 from the Agricultural Extension and Development (AED) and 2 from Regulatory Services Department (RSD) of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA). Also present were NARI Director General Dr Iyassu Ghebretatios, Dr Fina Opio (Programme Manager, ASARECA Staple Crops), Asmerom Kidane (Director, NRM), Dr Tsegai Tesfay (Director, Livestock Research), Meseret Ghebremichael (Regional Director, MoA) and Dr Woldeamalk Araya (Assistant Prof, Hamalmalio College of Agriculture). Dr Mary Mgonja and Patrick Audi represented ICRISAT-ESA at the meetings.

The ICRISAT-HOPE project’s thrust in the last two years has been on identifying high-yielding, earlymaturing and Striga-tolerant sorghum varieties with good household use qualities in local dishes such as “injera”. This resulted in the release this year of an improved variety ICSV 111IN, locally known as “Seare”, which means winner. Subsequently, AED set up a seed revolving fund in collaboration of RSD, facilitating the production of 50 t of “Seare” seed for marketing and distribution to an estimated 10,000 farmers in the mandated Zobas or regions in Eritrea during the June-September cropping season.

The seed will be sold to farmers at 25 Nacfa (US$ 1.6) kg ha-1, about 20% higher than the farm gate price for sorghum grain (20 Nacfa (US$ 1.3) kg ha-1. Demonstrations and field days focusing on integrated Striga and soil water management and distribution of small seed packs will follow for greater impact.

Later, launching the ASARECA Pearl Millet Project, Dr Fina Opio outlined the objectives of the meeting, the mandate countries (Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania) and collaborating institutions. She said improving efficiency at the weakest nodes of the pearl millet value chain, integrating pearl millet improvement with livestock production, improved soil water management, provision of high quality seeds, sustenance of soil fertility through pearl millet-legume intercrops and harmonizing seed policies between participating countries would be given importance.

Project coordinator Negusse Abraha presented a paper on pearl millet production in Eritrea. Interesting presentations were made on the status of pearl millet research in Eritrea, socio-economic aspects of pearl millet and legume intercropping and pearl millet’s potential as a livestock feed. Work plans for the 4 project outputs were detailed. Dr Mary Mgonja outlined ICRISAT’s research mandate, Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy and ICRISAT’s backstopping role.

Participants of the ICRISAT-HOPE and ASARECA project meetings held in Asmara, Eritrea.

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Farmers and extensionists trained on Farmer Field School (FFS) approach to Striga management

Participants watch a farmer-to-farmer training video on Striga biology.   Participants show off their DVDs and picture books.

Twenty-four field agents from extension services, NGOs (Aga Khan Foundation, Catholic Relief Services, World vision, CARITAS and Save the children), farmer organizations (UACT, ULPC, UMSPCD), local radios (Jamana and Moutian) and Institute d’Economie Rurale (IER) and six farmers gathered at Koutiala in Mali from 15-18 May to undergo training in the use of cluster-based farmer field schools (CBFFS) for integrated Striga and soil fertility management (ISSFM) and a range of tools for large-scale dissemination of technologies related to sorghum and millet production.

Farmers were introduced to FFS and CBFFS approaches, technologies related to ISSFM and several tools for large-scale dissemination of technologies. A whole day was spent watching, understanding and planning the use of video modules for farmer-to-farmer training. The training was facilitated by Dr Tom van Mourik, Mr Samuel Guindo (ICRISAT) and Mr Sidi Toure (FFS consultant).

Taking stock of the ICRISAT-HOPE project activities within objective 2, 3, and 6 until April 2012, partners in Mali revealed they had trained and informed over 14,000 farmers. With a strong focus on large-scale information dissemination and new tools (video and radio programs, picture books and small seed packs of improved varieties and inputs), the project is poised to reach beyond the target of 15,000 farmers per country set initially.

The project plans to reach as many farmers as possible, determine the number of farmers involved and monitor and evaluate the effects of this outreach. On the last day, activities related to FFS, participatory trials and the use of video and radio for large-scale training and information exchange were planned.

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Center for Climate Resilient Agriculture launched in northern Philippines

SMCO Director Rex Navarro with university and senior government officials at the launching ceremony of the Center for Climate Resilient Agriculture in northern Philippines.

Inspired by ICRISAT, a Center for Climate Resilient Agriculture was recently launched for northern Philippines at the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) in Batac, Ilocos Norte. This was done during the closing ceremonies of the in-country training on strengthening rainfed agriculture research, development and extension (RD&E) for northern Philippines co-sponsored by ICRISAT, DA Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR) and MMSU (Happenings 18 May 2012). The DG was represented in the launching by Dr Rex Navarro, ICRISAT’s Director, Strategic Marketing & Communication Office (SMCO) .

This initiative was an offshoot of the scientific exchange visit of state university and college (SUC) Presidents and other senior agriculture officials from northern Philippines at ICRISAT-Patancheru last March 2012. The project was one of the delegation’s re-entry plan as a result of the visit.

Hosted by MMSU and implemented by a consortium of SUCs in northern Philippines, the primary concerns of the Center are:

  1. Precision agriculture to include innovations such as GIS (generation of maps to identify current soil status, cropping resources etc, socioeconomic parameters like baseline data, and the introduction of ICRISAT mandate crops as part of existing cropping systems)
  2. Community-based RD&E approaches that will consider needs/requirements of rainfed communities
  3. Market-oriented and inclusive public-private partnerships for technology utilization and commercialization
  4. Capacity building, knowledge sharing and community mobilization
  5. Monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment. A seminar on impact assessment and benchmarking of human resource management held today (25 May) at Benguet State University in Benguet, Philippines, is the first activity of the Center. Initial R4D activities will also be anchored on the Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Program (PHIRARDEP) through the project proposals on community-based seed systems developed during ICRISAT’s in-country training courses.

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TL II holds ESA regional review and planning workshop

The Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) regional review and planning meeting of the Tropical Legumes II project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) was held at Nampula, Mozambique on 11-14 April.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the Foundation, ICRISAT, CIAT, IITA, AGRA; NARES partners from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe; USAID; agrifuturo and IKURU, a Mozambican farmers co-operative.

Director General of the Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique (IIAM) Dr Inacio Calvino Maposse emphasized the importance of grain legumes to Mozambique. ICRISAT’s Director for ESA Dr Said Silim spoke on the project’s links to the upcoming CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Grain Legumes. Representatives from IITA and CIAT spoke on progress made and prospects. ICRISAT was represented by Drs Emmanuel Monyo, Ganga Rao, Moses Siambi and Oswin Madzonga.

Dr David Bergvinson, Senior Program Officer from the foundation, spoke on the expectations from Phase 2 of the project. Newly appointed project Coordinator Dr Emmanuel Monyo highlighted the progress made in terms of varietal releases, seed produced and disseminated, lessons learned and future opportunities.

NARES partners working on TL II target crops presented progress made, lessons learnt and work plans for the ensuing crop season. Country and crop strategies with respect to seed road maps and deliverables under phase 2 were discussed.

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DG presents 4th MS Swaminathan Award

Dr Dar gives away the MS Swaminathan Award to Dr N Shobha Rani.

The prestigious MS Swaminathan Award, given for outstanding work in agriculture, was jointly conferred on two scientists, Dr R Sai Kumar and Dr N Shobha Rani, in Hyderabad on 19 May. Dr R Sai Kumar is Director, Directorate of Maize Research at ICAR, New Delhi while Dr N Shobha Rani is Principal Scientist & Head, Crop Improvement Section, at the Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad. The awards, which carry a cash prize of ` 200,000, a medal and a citation, were presented to Dr Sai Kumar by Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, Member of the Andhra Pradesh State Legislative Assembly and president of Loksatta Party and to Dr Shobha Rani by DG William Dar.

Congratulating the awardees, Director General William Dar in his address, said, “May you never stop the cycle of excellence and may your work push the limits of what science can do to move back the frontiers of hunger, poverty, malnutrition and poor health in the world.”

Commending the contribution of scientists and policy makers for ushering in the Green Revolution in India and other third world countries, Dr Dar urged the group to make every effort to replicate similar progress in the dryland areas which accountsfor more than 60% of the India’s cultivable area, contributing close to 50% of agricultural production.

Dr R Sai Kumar was nominated for work done as a maize breeder in the development and release of 14 maize hybrids and varieties. Dr N Shobha Rani was nominated for her contribution to genetic enhancement of Basmati and other quality rice varieties that lead to higher productivity. The award was jointly presented by the Retired Indian Council for Agriculture Research Employees Association (RICAREA) and Nuziveedu Seeds, India’s largest seed company.

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Bill Gates responds to G8 food security commitment

Bill Gates has commended US President Barrack Obama’s announcement of investment in Africa’s agriculture to help millions of people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.

President Obama, as chair of the G8, announced support for a range of efforts to increase the productivity and nutrition of smallholder farmers. He also launched a “New Alliance for Nutrition and Food Security,” an agricultural development program partnering donors with African countries and the private sector.

“I welcome President Obama’s commitment to help ensure coordinated global attention to the critical issue of agricultural development,” said Gates. “These are exactly the kind of smart, innovative partnerships with African governments we need to accelerate progress and I hope that the G8 will put in place clear, actionable targets and accountability mechanisms to ensure these efforts are meaningful. Unless we measure, we can’t see if we are succeeding.”

The announcement also calls for continued support for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which was launched by the United States, Spain, Canada, South Korea and the foundation.

By combining strong partnerships, smart investments, and innovative thinking, the foundation believes the global community can enable hard working smallholder farmers to become selfsufficient and build better lives.

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ICRISAT-Kano supports women processor group

(L) Representatives of farmer producer groups. (R) The Fura women processors group.

Gambawa village in Jigwara State of Nigeria, which had never known extension agents or agricultural development projects until 2011, may soon see a transformation. Providing an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) in agricultural research, ICRISAT-Kano, through objective 5 of the ICRISAT-HOPE project, is supporting groups involved in sorghum and millet value chains by providing them training, connecting them to producers and providing processing machines.

One such group, the Fura women processors, was on 1 May the recipient of a deep freezer, generator set, improved traditional stove and blending set as part of the project from ICRISAT-Nigeria country representative Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe. In turn, the group has renovated their shops and sensitized members on the need to modernize activities. A business plan training session is on the cards for the group of 15 women this month.

Dr Ajeigbe also visited seven producer groups, including a women’s group, in Gambawa village near Gumel in Jigawa State, where discussions were held with the community head and representatives of producers groups about the ICRISAT-HOPE and TL II projects being implemented by ICRISAT and partners.

In addition to producing quality sorghum and millet grains for women processors, the producer groups agreed to provide the services of two farmers each to undertake technology demonstration\evaluation and seed production. The farmers will make available a plot of 1200 m2 (20m x 60m) per person, while the seed producers will provide a minimum of 4000 m2 (1 acre) for production of seed of selected varieties of sorghum, millet, groundnut or cowpea.

The inputs will come from the project for the demonstration plots. The seed producers will purchase all their input needs but will be assisted technically and are expected to sell their produce at higher prices as seed to the community. Dr Jupiter Ndjeunga has developed a questionnaire that will be randomly administered to 60 households in the community. The meeting was facilitated by Alhaji Mohammed Adamu, Director, Green Sahel Agricultural and Rural Development Initiatives (GSARDI), and by Jigawa Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (JARDA).

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