No. 1531 10 August 2012

Farmer-centered, science-based rainfed agricultural development
Bhoochetana kicks off in Andhra Pradesh

At Bhoochetana’s capacity building program in Mahabubnagar: (L to R) Mr Jaya Chandra, Joint Director of Agriculture; Dr SP Wani; Mr Girija Shankar, Collector, Mahabubnagar; and Mr Gopal, Project Director, DWMA.

Following Bhoochetana’s success in Karnataka, the implementation of the program in Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh kicked off this week. Bhoochetana is a farmer participatory model that emerged from ICRISAT’s scaling up of long-term strategic on-station research on natural resource management in collaboration with local partners. This science-based productivity enhancement initiative benefited three million smallholder farmers in rainfed areas in Karnataka over the last three years, and in 2011 alone, it covered 3 million hectares in 30 districts of the state.

Highlighting the crucial role of rainfed agriculture in achieving sustainable food security and improved rural livelihoods, ICRISAT led in operationalizing Bhoochetana in Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh through the support and commitment of its Collector, Mr Girija Shankar.

Confident that Bhoochetana will benefit farmers in the district based on his earlier experience of working with the Institute in Kadapa district, Mr Shankar along with the ICRISAT team organized a district level capacity building program on 7 August for line departments of the Agriculture, Watershed Development and Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) at Mahabubnagar. The event was attended by the Joint Director of Agriculture (DoA), Director of ATMA, Project Director of the District Watershed Management Agency (DWMA), Assistant Director of Soil Conservation, and 115 participants representing additional directors, technical officers, technical assistants and agriculture officers from the departments of agriculture and watershed.

In his inaugural remarks, Mr Shankar stressed on the need to converge agriculture-based activities by the different departments in the district and give attention to improving the area’s soil health which is crucial in increasing agricultural productivity. He also encouraged all district staff to undertake representative soil sampling and adopt ICRISAT’s balanced fertilizer management options.

Dr Suhas P Wani, Principal Scientist (Watersheds), presented details of the Bhoochetana strategy to be adopted in the district, such as soil test-based fertilizer recommendations along with improved crop management options, and urged the participants to learn lessons from the successes achieved in Karnataka in addressing productivity enhancement constraints through science-based management of soil and other resources.

A roadmap of the Bhoochetana strategy for the current season was prepared for Mahabubnagar to go beyond the targeted 500 ha and cover more areas in 170 watershed projects. A team of experts from ICRISAT composed of G Pardhasaradhi, Girish Chander, Raghavendra Sudi and Rameshvar Rao provided lectures and hands-on training on soil sampling, nutrient management options, soil and water conservation and integrated pest management.

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ICRISAT participates in CGIAR Gender Network workshop in Seattle

Participants of the CGIAR Gender Network workshop held at the Gates foundation in Seattle.

With the theme “Addressing the Gender Gap in Agriculture: Opportunities for Collaboration in Gender-Responsive Research,” a CGIAR Gender Network workshop was held on 25-27 July at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle.

Attended by gender specialists and researchers representing 15 members of the CGIAR Consortium, the workshop was organized by the Consortium Office and hosted and sponsored by the Gates foundation. Dr Chanda Gurung Goodrich, Principal Scientist-Empower Women and Dr R Padmaja, Scientist-Gender Research, represented ICRISAT in the workshop.

The CGIAR Strategic Results Framework (SRF) has identified research on gender as a cross-cutting theme of relevance to all CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs). The Programs are expected to realize important opportunities for synergy and efficiency by identifying research topics related to gender that can be addressed by more than one Program, including methodologies, data collection and even sites that can be shared.

In addition, the Consortium anticipates that in 2013, gender researchers will begin to define and establish some shared quality standards for research on gender and agriculture in the CRPs. Thus, in early 2012 the CGIAR formed a research network with a core group composed of 15 researchers whose role is to coordinate research on gender within and among the CRPs. This workshop is the first conducted by this core group to explore opportunities for conducting cross-program research.

The workshop discussed and exchanged focused information about ongoing gender research and plans included in the Program Gender Strategies and for exploring opportunities for cross-program collaboration in the format of a brief concept paper. The deliberations of the meeting served as inputs into the revised SRF action plan paper.

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ICRISAT-HOPE holds forum for processors and farmers

Representatives of two local processors and six farmer groups who attended the market linkage forum.

On 25 July, the ICRISAT-HOPE project organized a market linkage forum for 12 representatives of 6 farmer groups (Wamama Tuamue, Osipata Mabati, Umoja, Aremit Upendo, Mukhula, and MARPA) and 2 local processors (Momagy and Easrcom Enterprises) from Busia town, Busia county, western Kenya.

The forum introduced the farmer representatives to the processors and helped them negotiate objectively in assessing the amount and price of grain. It also identified challenges and potential solutions faced by farmers and processors and recommended measures for implementation by both parties.

Currently the main challenges cited by the farmers were fluctuating prices and low household income from finger millet caused mainly by poor marketing infrastructure, inadequate market information, exploitative brokers, low productivity (low yield per unit of land and labor), and non-standardized weights. Some of the suggested solutions were: to increase productivity and land area under finger millet; formation of farmer marketing groups; linkage to urban traders who use standard weights; and inclusion of finger millet to the national grain reserve.

Meanwhile, the challenges identified by the two processors were high prices, poor grain quality, lack of trust by farmers for credit sales, inadequate capital to buy grain on cash terms, and low demand for locally processed products. Some of the potential solutions include sensitizing farmers to use cost of production as the basis to set finger millet grain prices, increase productivity and total production by farmers, use of forward contracts, improve access to credit to carry out cash purchases, use varieties that are easier to thresh, and training on improved post-harvest techniques.

The project, along with its national and local partners, has been promoting improved high-yielding, early-maturing, blast-resistant and market-preferred varieties of finger millet as well as microdosing and row planting through field days and use of small seed packs. This has doubled the productivity of finger millet in the participating farms from 4 to 8 bags of grain per acre (1.0 - 2.0 tons per ha). Productivity enhancement has led to increased marketable surplus, prompting initiatives to link these participating farmers to urban markets.

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