No. 1532 17 August 2012

AIP-ICRISAT to help set up Food Testing Laboratories in 5 African countries

Members of the Indian delegation with Zimbabwe’s Minister for Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Dr J Made (5th from left) along with other Zimbabwean officials. Also seen is the Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Jeitendra Tripathi (4th from left).

The Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) at ICRISAT has been selected by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), Government of India, as the implementing agency to set up Food Testing Laboratories (FTLs) in five African countries. The FTLs are being funded by the Government of India under schemes that were announced by the Prime Minister of India at the 2nd India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-II).

As part of the pre implementation process, Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, COO, NutriPlus Knowledge Program, was part of the official Indian delegation to The Republic of Zimbabwe and The Republic of Rwanda from 30 July to 2 August. The Indian delegation comprised of Mr U Venkateswarlu, Joint Secretary (MoFPI); Mr L Ramesh Babu, Under Secretary (SAF) Eastern and Southern African Division from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA); and Mr Suneel Kumar Arora, Deputy Secretary (MoFPI).

The delegation discussed the modalities of project implementation with the host Government as a prelude to bilateral initiation of the FTL project in both the countries under IAFS-II. Dr Mazumdar gave a detailed presentation on the FTL proposal in both the countries. The delegation met with senior Government officials – Zimbabwe’s Minister for Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Dr J Made and Rwanda’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Hon Kanimba François – who expressed happiness that the Government of India had chosen ICRISAT in implementing the project. They assured their respective governments’ total support in implementing the project.

With ICRISAT’s technical guidance, the Indian delegation identified the host institutes and finalized the FTL sites in both the countries. The Rwanda Bureau of Standards (RBS) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry will host the FTL in Rwanda, while the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DRSS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development (AMID), will host it in Zimbabwe.

AIP-ICRISAT will be involved in the implementation, handholding and mentoring of the five FTLs over a period of three years. The other countries involved in this project are Congo, Gambia and Chad.

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DG advocates business with innovations

Dr Dar receives the BAR Legacy Award.

"Business as usual won’t work in the future,” said Director General William Dar at the 8th Agriculture and Fisheries National Technology Commercialization Forum and Product Exhibition held recently in Manila, Philippines. The activity coincided with the 25th anniversary celebration of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) as the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) national coordinating body for agriculture and fisheries research in the Philippines.

With the theme “BAR @ 25: Celebrating R and D Excellence in Agriculture and Fisheries”, the technology forum and product exhibit was attended by various stakeholders including representatives from DA attached agencies and staff bureaus, regional field units, research institutions, local government units, state universities and colleges, non-government organizations, and the private sector.

The event showcased some of the significant technologies generated under the National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP), which serves as a vital tool for the development of enterprises and the improvement of agriculture and fisheries-related industries.

According to the DG, “business as usual” will only yield the same expected results. The Philippines must embark on something innovative to get cutting edge results. For one, it should harness the power of science and technology (S&T) to accelerate agricultural productivity in the country to a level where it can be self-sustaining and self-reliant especially the 25% who are poor.

He posed two specific challenges for DA and BAR during this address – one is for DA-BAR to institutionalize a program on micro-enterprise development in agriculture using science-based products and solutions, and the other is to go for a massive soil and water rehabilitation program and to take a province as the upscaling area using lessons learned in ICRISAT.

(L to R) Dr Teodoro S Solsoloy, Assistant Director of BAR; Secretary Proceso J Alcala of DA; Dr Nicomedes P Eleazar, Director of BAR; DG Dar; and Auditor Priscilla D Rivera of the Commission on Audit at the event.

Along with these, he suggested to the Philippine Secretary of Agriculture Proceso Alcala to develop a program dedicated to micro-enterprises that would have a capitalization of ₱3 million and below. “The DA can launch a micro-enterprises development program and provide initial capital. This is a new paradigm: transforming smallholder farmers into entrepreneurs,” Dr Dar noted. He said ICRISAT could assist this program as technical backstop.

He also challenged DA-BAR to move beyond extension to commercialization of applicable technologies. R4D must not only increase crop productivity but also farmers’ profitability while ensuring environmental sustainability, he said.

Likewise, he urged the DA-BAR to continue to invest in R4D, particularly to develop the best suited, high-yielding varieties to increase the food production capability of the Philippines.

In the course of the event, DA-BAR presented the BAR Legacy Award to Dr Dar for his invaluable contributions as the first director of the Bureau and for setting its directions and bearing as the research and development arm of the DA.

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ICRISAT-aWhere data management design workshop held at Nairobi

Participants of the ICRISAT-aWhere data management design workshop held in Nairobi.

The ICRISAT-aWhere data management team comprising of Objective leaders and scientists of the Tropical Legumes II and ICRISAT-HOPE projects, KSI and aWhere inc. teams participated in an onsite design workshop on 8-10 August at ICRISAT-Nairobi, a follow up to the onsite and three virtual meetings held earlier.

The aWhere data management platform will support the integration of ICRISAT’s Tropical Legumes II and HOPE project data for easy accessibility by project scientists. It will also enable project scientists to provide controlled accessibility of their data to external users, including donors and other partners.

The workshop served as a forum for queries and concerns to be addressed, paving the way for a better understanding of the system. DDG-R Dave Hoisington felt that “the real challenge is bringing the culture of change among the scientific community but not the technology”. Project leaders Drs Gowda and Said Silim spoke of the data management platform’s importance to their projects.

“This platform will enhance and expedite the data analysis and report generating efficiencies of the scientists rather than giving them new challenges such as complex technology systems to understand,” said Dr G Dileepkumar, Global Leader, KSI who facilitated the workshop. The KSI team will collect datasets from scientists and harmonize them together with the data curation unit.

Participants reviewed the outcome of the earlier meetings, data inventory and developed strategies to move on to the development phase of the platform. The aWhere team gave a demonstration of the platform using ICRISAT baseline sample data, and scientists were trained on user roles and requirements and how to analyze data and generate reports. During the second day, the participants contributed to the design and development of user profiles, metadata, workflows, and dataset export formats. On the final day, Objective leaders and scientists of the two projects from ICRISAT headquarters joined the meeting virtually.

During the workshop, Abhishek Rathore and C Srinivasarao translated some of the platform’s technical aspects into scientist-friendly language. AWhere and ICRISAT project scientists will continue to collaborate to complete the system design and deployment strategies.

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Enhancing farmer learning through ICT4D

DG Dar with Dr V Balaji of COL.

ICRISAT has an ongoing collaboration with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) to run extensive trials on the use of cell telephony to advance farmers’ learning. A suite of software applications, called LIVES+, was recently commissioned at ICRISAT to launch trials and training. Dr V Balaji, Director for Technology and KM, COL, was at ICRISAT for this ICT4D research initiative.

LIVES+, developed by Prof Son Voung of the Computer Science Department at the University of British Columbia, allows short lessons to be created as audio messages, which can be used to build a well-structured online collection of learning materials in audio format. N Yaduraju and Pradyut J Modi of ICRISAT are working on the LIVES+ platform to facilitate this research initiative.


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