No. 1521 01 June 2012
Third CORAF/WECARD Agricultural Science Week
ICRISAT celebrates four decades of partnership with WCA
Chad President Idriss Deby Itno listens keenly to ICRISAT’s Director for WCA Farid Waliyar during his visit to the ICRISAT stall at the CORAF/WECARD’s 3rd Agricultural Science Week held in Ndjamena, Chad. Also seen is First Lady Hinda Deby Itno.

ICRISAT celebrated 40 years of research partnership with the scientific community of West and Central Africa (WCA) at the 3rd Agricultural Science Week and 10th General Assembly of the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) held in Ndjamena, Chad from 14-19 May. It was an occasion to reiterate the Institute’s commitment to empowering smallholders in the region.

ICRISAT was represented by Dr Farid Waliyar, Director, WCA at the science week, whose theme was “Empowering to adapt capacity of rural poor population to climate change and variability in West and Central Africa”.

On the first day of the conference, ICRISAT celebrated its 40th anniversary through a symposium to highlight its partnership with WCA. This event was attended by partners and representatives from CORAF/WECARD.

Dr Waliyar presents IMOD folders to President Idriss Deby Itno and Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Djimé Adoum..   A view of the ICRISAT exhibit stall.

In his opening remarks, Dr Waliyar gave an overview and historical perspective of ICRISAT’s 40 years of research, focusing on crop improvement and natural resource management, and describing the several pearl millet, groundnut, and sorghum varieties and hybrids developed and released in partnership with NARS in the region.

Dr Waliyar also elaborated on the progress made in technologies such as the African Market Garden (AMG) and fertilizer microdosing which have improved smallholder livelihoods during the last decade. He also spoke about the Regional Gene Bank at ICRISAT-Niger started in 1991, with a repository of over 40,000 crop germplasm accessions that have been used by NARS partners.
During the symposium, NARS partners stressed on the need to continue improving hybrids to meet the challenges of climate change. Among key actions envisioned and discussed were:

  1. Innovations to improve seed production and the adoption of new sorghum technologies
  2. Innovations to reduce the high cost of technology sharing and adoption and strengthening public-private partnerships
  3. Harnessing video, rural radio, seed production and enterprise, training and participatory technology development and involving farmer groups and organizations.
Dr Waliyar delivers his opening remarks at the ICRISAT symposium.   A view of the delegates at the meeting.

ICRISAT also showcased its achievements and partnership in an exhibition which was visited by the President of Chad, His Excellency Idriss Deby Itno, accompanied by the First Lady, Hinda Deby Itno; a high level delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and Ministry of Education, Government of Chad; researchers and interns from NARS; partners from about 22 countries; and development partners.

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Tata-ICRISAT-ICAR and Model Watershed Projects’ Review and Planning meetings held

A book titled “Efforts that brought happiness: Stories of change from the people” being released at the Tata-ICRISAT-ICAR and Model Watershed Projects’ Review and Planning meetings held in Patancheru.   Director General William Dar delivers the inaugural address.

ICRISAT has been implementing a Sir Dorabji Tata Trust (SDTT)-supported project in partnership with ICAR institutions and NGOs in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan since 2002. Similarly, a Model Watershed Project supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, is being implemented in 13 model watersheds in nine States in India. A Review and Planning meeting of these projects was held at ICRISAT-Patancheru during 23-24 May, attended by 32 participants from partner NGOs and ICAR institutions.

Highlighting the importance of impact-oriented research for smallholder farmers, ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar, in his inaugural address, stressed the need to increase production, profitability and sustainability through science-led development to feed the world’s seven billion people. “The unholy nexus between poverty and food security needs to be tackled by unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture. The support SDTT provides us is an opportunity to help farmers with new technologies,” said DG William Dar. 

Underlining the intersectoral and global nature of challenges being faced, compounded by climate change impacts and globalization, Dr Dar said the use of science-led development and participatory farmer-centric research for development was the way forward to help farmers move out of poverty and achieve food security. 

He also stressed the urgent need to take up soil mapping in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and adopt soil test-based nutrient management strategies along with improved soil and water management practices.

Presenting an overview of the work done in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and 13 model watersheds, Dr SP Wani gave a demonstration of soil and water management strategies to bring rainy-season fallow soils under cultivation in Madhya Pradesh, soil test-based nutrient management strategies to rectify widespread zinc, boron and sulphur deficiencies in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, diversification, improved water management strategies through drip and furrow irrigation as well as  farmer participatory selection of varieties in these areas.

In the Model watersheds, progress made in rainwater conservation and harvesting, institution building, knowledge-based entry point activities, productivity enhancing trials, and income-generating activities for women and the landless were presented. Challenges and opportunities for sustainable intensification of rainfed agricultural areas in the country were presented.

Progress of work from different locations was presented and work plans were prepared. Bottlenecks in scaling-up the technologies were identified. 

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Pearl Millet-Legumes Innovations Project meeting held in Nairobi

Participants of the ICRISAT-ASARECA Pearl Millet-Legumes Innovations Project PMP meeting in Nairobi.

The declining competitiveness of grain production and marketing in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a major cause of the acute food insecurity and poverty experienced by a majority of households in the region. With a view to identifying, test-adapting and disseminating existing improved technologies to enhance productivity of pearl millet-legumes systems and identify and overcome bottlenecks along the pearl millet value chain, the ICRISAT-ASARECA (Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa) Pearl Millet-Legumes Innovations Project held a project monitoring plan (PMP) meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from 21-24 May.ICRISAT has a backstopping role in the project in addition to providing pearl millet germplasm, breeders seed and baseline survey tools.

The meeting was attended by ICRISAT, ASARECA and NARS partners from Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan and Eritrea. Also in attendance were Forough Olinga (gender specialist, ASARECA), Peter Beine (Project monitoring Assistant, ASARECA), Ivan Rwomushana (Assistant Manager, ASARECA Staple Food Crops Programme) and Henry Ojulong and Patrick Audi (ICRISAT-ESA).

The meeting identified major challenges limiting pearl millet production systems, namely the lack of high quality seeds, an unfavorable policy environment, drought, low soil fertility, bird damage, pests and diseases and drudgery during postharvest handling. It was reported that baseline surveys and a compilation of available improved high-yielding pearl millet varieties and best-bet fertility and soil water management practices had been completed.

In Sudan, certified seed of suitable varieties will be produced by seed companies and sold to farmers. In Kenya, Eritrea and Tanzania, where seed companies are reluctant to produce and market certified seed of pearl millet, foundation seed will be produced and injected into the local seed system.

On the second day, Forough Olinga detailed strategies to integrate gender perspectives into the project, focusing on involving both women and men in project activities; collection and analysis of gender disaggregated data; disseminating gender-friendly technologies; and targeting technologies to relevant target groups.

This was followed by a review of the project logframe, development of a PMP, set output targets, and performance-based reporting plans for the 4 countries and ICRISAT.

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Myanmar ICT delegation visits ICRISAT

The delegation from Myanmar meets with Dr Dar and senior staff.

A six-member delegation from Myanmar’s premier Information and Communication Technology (ICT) company visited ICRISAT on 30 May. The delegation had a brief meeting with DG William Dar and had discussions on ICT applications in agriculture. Plans were formulated to make proposals to the Government of Myanmar on IT application in agriculture. The team also visited the Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) unit, where Global Leader Dr G Dileepkumar described the Institute’s ICT interventions in agricultural development. The delegation was keen on joining hands with KSI/ICRISAT in developing ICT applications for the agriculture sector.

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TL II and ICRISAT-HOPE extension agents undergo pre-season training

A workshop was organized on 24 May to train extension agents of the TL II and ICRISAT-HOPE projects in the dissemination and on-farm research activities to be implemented by ICRISAT-Kano during the 2012 wet season, at Federal College of Agricultural Produce Technology (FCAPT), Kano, Nigeria.

Extension agents who underwent the training.

The resource persons were Prof C Echekwu and Dr Umar Alhassan (TL II) and Drs RS Adamu and Joseph Shebayan (ICRISAT-HOPE), scientists implementing the projects.
Additional training was provided on improving agronomic practices in groundnut, sorghum and millet grain and seed production, protocols for farmer participatory field evaluations, mid- and end-season evaluation, data collection, record keeping, postharvest handling, seed processing and storage by ICRISAT scientists and colleagues from the Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA).

Mr Ali Ahmed of Ahalson Nigeria Ltd made a presentation on networking of farmers for bulk sales and accessing credit. Ahalson Nigeria Ltd will be linked to farmer groups for brokering and warehousing. Modalities for input distribution were also discussed. Mr Atiku M Yola, Chief Agricultural Officer with Kano’s State Ministry for Local Government was nominated as desk officer to monitor the extension agents and report to both ICRISAT and the Ministry.
Under the ICRISAT-HOPE project, demonstrations are planned in Kano State and Jigawa State on Striga fertility management, mini-packs and millet and sorghum plots.

Similar training and trials are planned for the North-Eastern State by Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) Maiduguri and for the North Western State by the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria.

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ICRISAT shares insights on HR management at BSU

A one-day forum on human resources management and impact assessment was conducted at Benguet State University (BSU), La Trinidad, Benguet, Philippines, on 25 May, one of the maiden activities sponsored by the Center for Climate Resilient Agriculture (CCRA).

The forum was attended by 5 SUC presidents, their 48 senior staff/faculty, including Palawan State University and the Department of Agriculture (Regions 1, 2, 3, Cordillera Administrative Region).
ICRISAT’s HRO Director Mr Hector Hernandez shared ICRISAT’s HR and gender and diversity practices with the participants, and stressed the importance of sensitizing staff to cultural change. Learning Systems Unit (LSU) Coordinator Rosana Mula discussed the process of up-scaling community watersheds and HPRC assessment as cases for elucidating the importance of impact assessment. She spoke of impact assessment in agricultural research on behalf of Dr Cynthia Bantilan.

Hector Hernandez speaks on ICRISAT’s gender and diversity practices at the forum.

Participants and the SUC presidents expressed a strong interest in the conduct of a master class on impact assessment in agricultural research, which they felt isn’t given adequate attention. They hoped ICRISAT and CCRA would provide them the opportunity to understand and practise this important discipline.

In her closing message, Dr Miriam Pascua, President of Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), stressed that CCRA would vigorously pursue the development of rainfed agriculture research, development, and extension with ICRISAT as its partner.

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Planning meeting held for Bhoochetana - Andhra Pradesh

Participants of the AP Bhoochetana Planning Meeting at Patancheru.

Following Bhoochetana’s success in Karnataka, the Department of Agriculture (DoA), Government of Andhra Pradesh, launched a project on “Increasing agricultural productivity and incomes through bridging yield gaps with science-led interventions in Andhra Pradesh” in all the districts of Andhra Pradesh, except Hyderabad.

The objectives of the project are to:

  1. 1.  Identify best-bet options (soil, crop and water management) including improved cultivars to enhance productivity of select crops in seven districts by 25%
  2. Undertake representative soil sampling by adopting stratified sampling method for farmers in a village; and villages in a district to prepare GIS-based soil maps depicting the micro- and macro-nutrient status of the soils
  3. Assess the likely impacts of climate change in the target districts and identify suitable adaptation strategies
  4. Build capacity of the stakeholders (farmers and consortium partners) in the sustainable management of natural resources, enhancing productivity in dryland areas and adaptation strategies for climate change.

On 22 May, a consortium comprising ICRISAT-DoA-ANGRAU and APSRSAC (AP State Remote Sensing Application Center) met at ICRISAT-Patancheru. Addressing participants from 14 districts and consortium partners during the inaugural session, Commissioner of Agriculture K Madhusudhana Rao highlighted the need to move from initiatives to a scalable model in the state. Citing Bhoochetana as the right approach for scaling-up benefits on a wider scale, he praised ICRISAT’s proposed approach for achieving convergence and its science-led holistic approach for sustainable development of agriculture in Andhra Pradesh.

Presenting the progress of Bhoochetana trials conducted in seven districts during the postrainy season of 2011-12, Dr SP Wani said results from five districts had demonstrated that adopting soil-test based recommendations could lead to yields of sunflower, paddy, groundnut and maize increasing by 3 to 56%. Next year, the remaining eight districts will be included in the program.
APSRSAC is undertaking the preparation of soil health maps using soil analysis results from different districts in the state. The progress and the results were presented by the APSRSAC project leader. ANGRAU will demonstrate minimal use of phosphorus-based fertilizers on soil analysis in high peak areas in the districts.

Work plans for the coming rainy season covering 14 districts were prepared and the strategy to operationalize the program was discussed.

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