No. 1529 27 July 2012

Alleviating poverty and food insecurity in the drylands
ICRISAT-HOPE holds finger millet field day in western province of Kenya

Some farmers who participated in the finger millet field day in Matungu, Mumias District of Kenya.

Kenya is a major processor and consumer of finger millet grain produced in the East African region. It is estimated that almost 90% of finger millet processed and consumed by the urbanites in the country is imported from Tanzania and Uganda. While the western province of Kenya is a major finger millet producing area, it is now affected by the changing eating habits of its rural people, inadequate access to information on modern production technologies, lack of profitability and marketability prospects, and competition from other crops such as maize and sugarcane.

ICRISAT, along with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and its local agricultural office, organized a finger millet field day on 23 July in Matungu in Mumias District in the western province of Kenya, to demonstrate to farmers the benefits of improved varieties, management technologies, value-added products for use in the household and for sale, seed and market accessibility channels, and profitability of finger millet production in comparison to sugarcane and maize.

During the field day, two neighboring farmers in Matungu Division of Mumias District, Mary Osimbo Murayi and Benjamin Wesonga Amere, who are members of the Matungu Rural Poverty Alleviation (MARP) had displays of improved market-preferred varieties and management technologies, field-scale production of finger millet, small seed packs of improved varieties, value addition products and information materials on improved finger millet production.

A total of 189 farmers, 40% of whom were women, attended the field day. Others in attendance were district and provincial agricultural officials (10), and representatives from ICRISAT (4), KARI (4) and the provincial administration (4). Deputy Provincial Director of Agriculture, Ziporrah Mugonyi, in launching the field day, underlined the food security importance of finger millet as it provides healthy and nutritious food and is a good income earner for local households.

She, however, advised that farmers should invest more of their time and land and integrate with markets in order to increase marketable surplus and make finger millet production even more competitive. District Commissioner (DC) for Mumias, Samson Otieno Okwach, thanked all stakeholders involved in the ICRISAT-HOPE project and urged them to forge closer partnerships and unity of purpose in order to achieve household food and income security in the area within the next 5 years.

Benjamin Wesonga Amere, a 45-year old farmer with a 3-acre farm, whose 2-acre plot of Okhale (an improved finger millet variety) formed part of the displays, narrated how his crop production had gradually evolved from sugarcane and maize, then to maize and finger millet in equal proportions, and finally to settle in a combination of maize and finger millet with finger millet occupying two-thirds of the land.

He explained that in 2010, the last year he cropped sugarcane, he had harvested about 12-15 tons (after 18 months of growing period) on 1 acre that earned him a gross income of about Kshs 20,000 (US$ 250). In 2011, he planted maize and finger millet in equal proportions and after a growing period of 4-5 months, earned a gross income of Kshs 27,000 (US$ 338) and Kshs 36,000 (US$ 450) from 1 acre each of maize and finger millet, respectively. Finger millet gave a gross income of 80% and 35% more than sugarcane and maize, respectively.

In the current season (first rains of 2012), he has 2 acres under finger millet and 1 acre under maize, and hopes to earn a total gross farm income per season of Kshs 72,000 (US$ 900) and Kshs 27,000 (US$ 338), respectively (there are 2 seasons in a year). The farmer says he is now more income secure (able to pay school fees for all his six children) and has adequate food for the family throughout the year.

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Bhoochetana phase II and GoK-CGIAR initiative workshop held

(L to R) Drs KV Sarvesh, KV Raju, Mr Bharat Lal Meena and SP Wani during the workshop.   Dr Dar highlights the project’s achievements in his opening address.

Based on the excellent progress of Bhoochetana phase I, the Government of Karnataka (GoK), in a bid to strengthen the initiative, held a workshop on 21-22 July at ICRISAT-Patancheru to discuss Bhoochetana phase II (Strengthening Bhoochetana – a sustainable agriculture mission for improved livelihoods in Karnataka) and the GoK-CGIAR initiative (Improving rural livelihoods through innovative scaling-up of science-led participatory research for development).

Since 2009, ICRISAT has been implementing Bhoochetana phase I in 30 districts of Karnataka. Titled “Bridging yield gaps through science-led interventions for sustainable use of natural resources in Karnataka,” the initiative which will end in March 2013, has been instrumental in increasing agricultural production (35-66%) as well as in enhancing farmers’ gross income through science-based interventions covering three million hectares during the 2011 rainy season.

In his address at the workshop’s opening session, Director General William Dar highlighted the achievements of Bhoochetana and ICRISAT’s journey with the GoK in demonstrating how a science-led approach not only increases productivity and income, but also makes agriculture a profitable venture for smallholder farming communities. He also emphasized the principles of convergence, consortium, capacity building and collective action to enable a science-led development approach to benefit resource-poor farmers.

Dr SP Wani welcomed the participants and special guests, which included Dr SA Patil, Chairman, Karnataka Krishi Mission; Dr KV Raju, Economic Advisor to the Chief Minister of Karnataka; Mr Bharat Lal Meena, Principal Secretary, Agriculture; and Dr KV Sarvesh, Director, Agriculture.

The workshop participants discussed and planned the GoK-CGIAR initiative and Bhoochetana phase II activities to operationalize the programs soon. The participants worked in groups to map out strategies, institutional linkages, strengthening technologies, institutional arrangements, innovative approaches and input and delivery systems. The workshop was organized by a team led by Dr SP Wani, with Dr K Krishnappa, Dr KH Anantha, Mr S Raghavendra Rao and Mr KNV Satyanarayana.

Participants of the Bhoochetana II and GoK-CGIAR initiative workshop.

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Exploring partnership opportunities for better adaptation to climate variability

(L to R) Andre Butler, Robert Zougmoré, PCS Traoré, Andrea Wetzer and Manda Sissoko at the exploratory meeting on climate change and adaptation.

Andrea Wetzer, Head of Contract and Cooperation, GIZ, visited ICRISAT-Samanko on 20 July to discuss and explore partnership opportunities related to climate change and adaptation. She met with Robert Zougmoré (CCAFS Regional Team Leader), Andre Butler (Visiting Scientist, CCAFS), Manda Sissoko (Science Officer) and all team members of CCAFS, Pierre Sibiry Traoré (ICRISAT Principal Scientist), and Agathe Diama (ICRISAT Regional Information Officer).

During the meeting, the group was introduced to the GIZ three-year project “Projet d’Intégration aux changements climatiques dans la planification du développement au Mali (PICP)” which aims to identify areas of vulnerability to climate change and the most appropriate tools for adaptation in three regions of Mali (Koulikoro, Segou and Kayes).

Participants of the meeting agreed that ICRISAT and CCAFS could bring a lot to this GIZ-supported project. Recent experiences by ICRISAT and CODEWA, SIBWA and others have shown that sustainable land management practices could be profitable and beneficial to smallholder farmers.

The use of simple tools and practices at the village and regional levels to assess vulnerability and studies done by CCAFS on participatory research action are available options that the new GIZ project in Mali could use as well.

At the end of their meeting, ICRISAT and GIZ representatives agreed to explore opportunities in order to synergize their efforts.

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Philippine agriculture scientists/administrators visit ICRISAT-Patancheru

Philippine agriculture scientists/administrators with Dr Dar and ICRISAT senior staff.

Eight agriculture scientists/administrators from the regional field offices of the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA) and an agricultural state university visited Patancheru on 22-23 July as part of ICRISAT’s active collaboration with the DA’s Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).

The visit provided the team with the opportunity to have face-to-face interaction with ICRISAT scientists and gain first-hand insights into the Institute’s experiences in implementing strategic programs and science-based innovations in rainfed/dryland agriculture.

The group had lectures and on-station farm visits to ICRISAT’s various research-for-development (R4D) programs, as well as an observation tour of the Kothapally watershed where they had a better perspective of the concept of up-scaling science-based innovations for the benefit of smallholder farming communities.

A glimpse and exposure to India’s rich culture made the scientific learning an experience to remember for the delegation.

The delegation at a briefing on the role of FETS in support of research-for-development programs.   A fun-filled evening reception for the Philippine visitors, garbed in sarees and turbans, made their week-long scientific learning a memorable experience for all.

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KSI Connect launches scientists’ seminar platform

Dr Dar launching KSI Connect, the institute’s seminar platform for scientists.   Dr Dar speaks on the occasion.

KSI Connect, a knowledge series from ICRISAT, launched the scientists’ seminar platform on 26 July with a special presentation by Director General William Dar. More than 85 participants joined in this inaugural seminar, 28 of them via telepresence from locations around the globe.

Dileepkumar Guntuku, KSI Global Leader and project leader of KSI Connect, opened the meeting with an overview of the new virtual platform and its purpose.

In his presentation, Dr Dar explained that KSI Connect is an innovative new platform that uses information and communication technology tools to create a flexible learning environment to enable learning exchanges and knowledge transfer around the globe.

The platform allows experts worldwide to share their research and project experiences. Seminars will be hosted by agricultural researchers and experts from both ICRISAT and beyond, and will spotlight the most interesting projects, cutting-edge research and fascinating stories, especially on agricultural research-for-development in the semi-arid tropics.

All the seminars will be live-streamed to a global, online audience and then archived on the KSI Connect platform, so that they continue to be available to scientists, researchers, academics, students, and farmers as a free and open educational online resource. KSI Connect plans to host one seminar per week, which all are welcome to join by visiting and clicking on the “virtual room” tab.

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IUBS meeting on biological consequences of global change in China

HC Sharma presenting a paper on climate change and pest management at the symposium.

Dr Hari Sharma co-chaired the meeting of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) program on “Biological consequences of global change,” along with Drs Zhibin Zhang, China and Yuri Dgebuadze, USSR, at the 31st Assembly of the IUBS on 5-9 July in Shanghai, China. Dr Sharma also presented a lead paper on “Global warming and climate change: implications for arthropod diversity, pest management and food security,” and chaired the session on “Integrative climate change biology.”

The 33rd meeting of IUBS in 2018 will be held in Hyderabad, India, to be co-chaired by Dr Sharma and the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) representative in IUBS, Dr Shashidhara from the National Institute of Biological Sciences E&D, Pune.

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