No. 1523 15 June 2012
Science-based solutions to help end hunger and poverty
IFAD and ICRISAT launch project to improve productivity and sustainability of rainfed agriculture in Asia

Director General William Dar addressing participants of the IFAD Grant Project (1363) inception workshop at Patancheru.

Rainfed agriculture, which is practiced in 80% of the world’s agricultural area and supplies almost 60% of the world’s staple food, must play a greater role in meeting the food and nutritional security of 9.2 billion people by 2050.

This was reiterated by Director General William Dar at the inception workshop of the newly approved IFAD Grant Project (1363). Dr Dar emphasized that the above role could be tremendously enhanced by employing a system-based approach in rainfed agriculture to ensure impact on overall food production in a sustainable manner.

ICRISAT, in partnership with the NARS of India, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam, launched the IFAD-funded project titled “Sustainable management of crop-based production systems for raising agricultural productivity in rainfed Asia” on 4 June at ICRISAT Patancheru.

Participants representing agriculture universities/national research institutes and IFAD loan project implementing agencies from India (Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states), Laos Nepal and Vietnam participated in the inception workshop. Dr Ganesh Thapa, In-charge, Asia-Pacific Division, IFAD, Rome; Dr Ashok Kumar Seth, Consultant, IFAD; Dr David E Johnson, IRRI; and Dr Ashutosh Sarker, Regional Coordinator, ICARDA, joined ICRISAT staff in the workshop.

In his welcome address,
Dr Dar appreciated IFAD’s funding support in out-scaling improved agricultural technologies to smallholder farmers in the drylands of Asia and Africa, emphasizing the balance needed in enhancing productivity and ensuring sustainability of the production system.

Participants of the IFAD workshop.

Dr Thapa, on the other hand, highlighted IFAD’s mission of improving food security and poverty alleviation by validating successful interventions and further scaling up  science-based innovations. He also pointed out the need to improve South-South collaboration and the inclusion of livestock component in agricultural programs in addressing food insecurity in the rural areas.

Representatives from project partner countries unanimously elected the Project Steering Committee (PSC) to provide guidance in implementing the project activities. The PSC includes the following representing the research institutions and IFAD loan projects in each country: HS Gupta and HS Yadava (India); S Chanpenxay and V Vansy (Laos); NV Bo and PV Bien (Vietnam); YP Giri and DK Thapaliya (Nepal); David Johnson (IRRI); A Sarker (ICARDA);
G Thapa (IFAD); and SN Nigam (ICRISAT-Member Secretary). Subsequent to discussions of the various working groups, partners from project countries prepared and presented their work plans for the first year of the project for submission to IFAD.

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Training on hybrid sorghum seed production in Mali

Hybrid sorghum seed production is increasingly attracting the interest of farmers in Mali, with its “double opportunity” of both producing hybrid seed for sale from the female-parent, as well as grain for food from the male-parent. The interest is now so high that the farmer seed producers’ cooperative COOPROSEM had to limit accepting new members this year.

Malian farmer reviewing a lesson during the training session.

Hybrid seed production starts this year in the Koutiala zone and is expanding in the Dioila (2nd year of production) and Mande (4th year) zones of Mali. To respond to the needs of new producers, as well as strengthen the capacity of current producers, training sessions were conducted in each of the three zones by a team of ICRISAT and national program (IER) researchers and a professional hybrid seed-producer.

One-day sessions were held in Dioila (5 June, 51 participants), Koutiala (7 June, 19 participants) and Siby (12 June, 35 participants), consisting of nearly 10% women.  The 75 farmers who committed to produce hybrid sorghum seed this year have high hopes, and strengthened know-how for success in 2012.

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Sustainable intensification for food security
SIMLESA team monitors project progress in Tanzania

A family that participated in on-farm trials at Vitonga village, Mvomero district.   Farmer participants of the pigeonpea PVS at Msingisi village, Gairo district.

Tanzania is one of the targeted countries under the SIMLESA (Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume cropping systems for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa) project operating in two diverse agro-ecologies in five districts of the northern (Karatu, Mbulu) and eastern zones (Kilosa, Gairo and Mvomero). Maize-pigeonpea intercropping system is one of the common cropping systems in these target districts.

For the 2011-12 crop season, on-station and on-farm evaluation trials are being conducted for maize and legumes (pigeonpea and common beans) in solo and intercropping systems. Conservation Agriculture (CA) experiments with maize and/or legumes are also in progress. On 27-31 May, a team of researchers from ICRISAT (NVPR Ganga Rao representing the grain legumes component) and CIMMYT (Mekuria Mulugetta, Fred Kanampiu and Dan Makumbi, Project Manager and maize researchers, respectively) visited various locations in the eastern and northern zones of Tanzania to monitor the project progress. 

On 27 May, the team visited demo-plots at agricultural show grounds in Morogoro by the Tanseed International and Ilonga Agricultural Research Institute for Nane-Nane (meaning the eighth day of the eighth month in Swahili). Nane-Nane is an agricultural and livestock products and services show organized by the Tanzania Agricultural Society (TASO) for eight days annually (1-8 August) coinciding with the farmers’ day – a national holiday in Tanzania. 

On 28 May, the team visited the Ilonga Agricultural Research Institute based in Kilosa district where the SIMLESA team from the eastern zone presented progress made under various objectives including pigeonpea breeding and seed systems. They also visited an on-farm Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) of pigeonpea and maize-pigeonpea intercropping under CA in Vitonga community in Mvomero district, where farmers expressed their interest in early maturing and drought-tolerant pigeonpea varieties suitable for maize-intercropping.

On 29 May, the project team visited an on-farm PVS of pigeonpea in Misingisi in Gairo district, where farmers indicated their preference for both medium and long duration varieties for their yield potential and suitability to grow in cropping systems. The team later visited the Mandela community’s on-farm CA experiments.

On 30 May, the scientists visited on-station experiments at the Selian Agricultural Research Institute, then proceeded to visit on-farm sites in Karatu district on 31 May where they monitored progress made in CA experiments (maize-pigeonpea), pigeonpea PVS and intercropping experiments of maize with beans. In his remarks upon the conclusion of the field visit, Ganga Rao shared his views on the most suitable varieties of pigeonpea for target locations and quality seed production. During the discussions, farmers indicated their appreciation of the potential of pigeonpea as a drought-tolerant crop.

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Workshop on molecular marker applications for national program partners in ESA

The CAPACITATE East Africa project, supported by the European Union, aims to increase the capacity of crop research in East Africa in order to produce improved, well-adapted, farmer-acceptable crop varieties as well as to enhance food security. To this end, a training workshop was conducted by ICRISAT in Nairobi at ILRI/BecA from 29 May to 6 June.

Participants learning how to sample fresh leaf tissues for DNA extraction.

The CAPACITATE project was outlined by the project’s Principal Investigator, Dr Julius Mwine of Uganda’s Martyrs University, and was conducted by ICRISAT’s Santie de Villiers and Santosh Deshpande. Seventeen scientists from countries across the region, including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Zambia, attended the workshop. CAPACITATE supported 15 of these participants, while additional support from the HOPE and USAID-FTF projects in ESA enabled participation of two additional scientists.

The participants consisted of university lecturers, post-graduate students and national program scientists. In addition, four post-graduate students from ICRISAT, ICRAF and Kenyatta University also attended parts of the training. All of the participants are involved in breeding, with 20 percent having previous experience on the use of molecular markers in crop improvement. For majority of participants, however, this was their initial exposure to the technology.

The workshop provided participants with extensive theoretical background and practical, hands-on experience on the use of molecular markers in crop improvement, using ICRISAT’s experiences in this field. Participants were exposed to and trained in laboratory procedures for leaf sample preparation and shipment, DNA extraction, DNA quantity and quality tests, electrophoresis and SSR genotyping. Participants were also trained in marker assisted trait introgression, genotyping data analysis using PowerMarker and DARwin, and introduced to QTL mapping. Latest developments and technologies available for genotyping and genomics were also discussed.
Participants of the training.   DNA extraction at the laboratory.

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ICPH 2740 hybrid seeds distributed to farmers in Tandur

Drs Dharma Reddy (extreme left) and KB Saxena (4th from left) with farmers from Tandur, Andhra Pradesh.   A farmer from Tandur, AP showing his hybrid pigeonpea seed packet.

Encouraged by the performance of hybrid pigeonpea, scientists from the Agriculture Research Station (ARS), Tandur, conducted a training program on 11 June, where seeds of hybrid ICPH 2740 were distributed to more than 100 farmers for testing during the rainy season. 

Dr Dharma Reddy, Associate Director of Research, RARS, Palem and Dr Y Koteshwar Rao, Principal Scientist, Lam, Guntur attended the program, along with Drs KB Saxena and R Vijaya Kumar from ICRISAT. Dr CV Sameer Kumar, Senior Scientist, ARS-Tandur coordinated the program.

In their inaugural session addresses, Dr Reddy encouraged the farmers to grow pigeonpea hybrids while Dr Rao emphasized the need for farmers to grow soybean with pigeonpea hybrids to derive more profits. 

Dr Saxena explained the benefits of hybrids and the value addition by making dal, while Dr Kumar encouraged farmers to expand hybrid production area to increase yield. A few progressive farmers reported that last year they harvested 50% more yield using this hybrid over the control variety during the last season. Overall they indicated that pigeonpea hybrid performs well even under poor weather conditions.

The conduct of more than 3,000 on-farm demonstration trials of hybrid pigeonpea has been organized for the 2012 season in Andhra Pradesh, in collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh State Seeds Development Corporation and the state’s Department of Agriculture. Hybrid seeds for these demonstrations were supplied by M/S Biogene Agritech, Ahmadabad, Gujarat.

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ICRISAT hosts ‘Global Yield Gap Atlas’ workshop

ICRISAT hosted the international kick-off workshop of the “Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas” project, which took place in Naivasha, Kenya on 6-8 June. The project was initiated by the University of Nebraska and Wageningen University, in partnership with ICRISAT, Africa Rice and IRRI.

Participants of the workshop in Kenya.

The project is based on the idea that robust estimates of yield gap are an essential metric to diagnose limiting factors as a means to improve crop management, for determining research priorities, and for locating rural development efforts. The project seeks to produce an agronomically sound, transparent, reproducible and  publicly accessible yield gap atlas, initially for five cereal crops (maize, wheat, rice, millet, sorghum) in five countries in West Africa (Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana), 5 in East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia) and two in South Asia (India, Bangladesh).

The purpose of the workshop was to introduce the project rationale and the proposed protocols to develop the global yield gap atlas. The activity brought together yield gap agronomists from 12 project mandate countries, as well as representatives from other partner CGIAR centers and projects including CCAFS, AgMIP, HarvestChoice, CIMMYT, IFPRI, ICRAF, CIP, CIAT, IITA and ICARDA. ICRISAT was represented by Dr Lieven Claessens, Regional Coordinator for the project, and Dr Pierre Sibiry Traore.

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Odisha farmers trained on pigeonpea seed production

Under the project “Introduction and Expansion of Improved Pigeonpea (Arhar) Production Technology in Rainfed Upland Ecosystems of Odisha,” ICRISAT staff headed by Dr Myer G Mula and Mr Sarat Kumar Tripathy facilitated the conduct of the training program ‘Pigeonpea Seed Production and Management’ on 5-7 June for the farmer seed growers of Odisha.

The one-day training was participated in by 301 farmer seed growers from 3 districts (Rayagada – 100; Kalahandi – 85; and Nauparha – 116), as well as 11 from nongovernment organizations (Loksebak – 6; SVA – 5), 15 field assistants from five districts (Rayagada – 3; Kalahandi – 6; Nauparha – 4; Bolinger – 1; and Boudh – 1), 3 District Coordinators, 20 District Agricultural Officers and Technicians of the Department of Agriculture (Rayagada – 2; Kalahandi – 13; Nauparha – 5), and a Seed Certification Officer (Rayagada), totaling to 351 participants.

Participants of the training program in Odisha.

The training aimed to enhance farmers’ knowledge and prepare and provide them with guidelines in seed production prior to sowing which starts on 15 June. For this year’s cropping season, a total of 1,226 hectares will be covered with 1,000 hectares of Asha and Maruti for certified seed production; 186 hectares for foundation seed production (Asha, Maruti, ICP 7035, and ICPL 88039); and 40 hectares for hybrid seed production (ICPH 2671 and ICPH 2740).

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ICRISAT-WCA launches farmer-to-farmer videos ‘Fighting against Striga’

Participants with WCA Regional Director F Waliyar.   A farmer receiving DVDs from Dr E Weltzien.

ICRISAT West and Central Africa (WCA) launched the ‘Fighting against Striga’ DVD campaign on 8 June with a ceremony led by Dr Farid Waliyar, WCA Regional Director. The event was attended by representatives from Mali’s Ministry of Agriculture, the national research institute – IER, the Centre National de recherche agronomique (CNRA), farmers’ organizations (APCAM, CNOP), training institutes (IPR), farmers, media and others partners (e.g. the Aga Khan Foundation).

The farmer-to-farmer videos aim to train farmers and strengthen their capacity against Striga and enable them to benefit from integrated soil fertility management.

Striga hermonthica is a major challenge for thousands of farmers in the Sahel. To overcome this challenge, ICRISAT and its partners have in the past decades conducted Farmers’ Field Schools and experimentations to explore a wide range of options and methods for Striga and integrated soil fertility management (ISSFM).

The farmer-to-farmer videos ‘Fighting against Striga’ support these actions to reach more farmers. About 200,000 farmers are targeted by this communication campaign covering Niger, Nigeria, Ghana and Mali. A campaign in East Africa will soon follow.

The DVD package contains 10 videos in French, English and national languages ​​(Bambara, Bomu, Fulani, Hausa, Zerma) ready for wide distribution. The videos can be used in Farmers’ Field Schools, by rural radios, farmers’ organizations, training institutes, and mobile digital cinema, among others. During the launch, participants viewed some of the videos and provided their feedbacks. Partners congratulated ICRISAT for the videos and expressed their commitment to help in their successful dissemination to the target audience.

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