No. 1540 12 October 2012

Anniversary rites in West and Central Africa

Renewed commitment and strengthened partnerships to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers living in the drylands of West and Central Africa (WCA) marked ICRISAT’s 40th annual day celebration held at the Samanko station on 5 October.

(L-R, seated) Drs Bino Teme (DG, Institut d’Economie Rurale), Adama Traoré (member, ICRISAT Governing Board), Farid Waliyar (Director, ICRISAT-WCA), Dr Yaranga Coulibaly (Minister of Agriculture, Mali) and
Dr Bonny N’tare with ICRISAT staff (standing) at the 40th anniversary celebration held in Mali.
  Mali’s Minister of Agriculture Dr Yaranga Coulibaly delivers his address.

In his address as Chief Guest at the opening ceremony, Malian Minister of Agriculture, Dr Yaranga Coulibaly said that “while contributing to the region’s food security, Mali’s partnership with ICRISAT also provides farmers with opportunities to access agricultural markets, and improves producers’ incomes towards sustainable livelihoods.”

In his message, ICRISAT-WCA Director Farid Waliyar thanked the Malian government for its support and commitment to the Institute, highlighting the significant impacts of its partnership with Mali and with the entire region. He mentioned, among ICRISAT’s key research-for-development results, the release of many varieties of pearl millet, sorghum and groundnut, strengthening of agricultural research infrastructure, and development of soil fertility management options.

Dr Adama Traoré, ICRISAT Governing Board member, stressed that the Institute’s presence in Mali had greatly contributed to increasing and stabilizing crop yields and household incomes, while improving the sustainability of commercial agriculture.

The ceremony was attended by several officials and delegates from national research institutes, farmers’ organizations, official envoys, and ICRISAT former and current staff members.

Also during the program, Mr Bakary Sidibé spoke on behalf of ICRISAT staff. The Partnership Award was likewise presented to INERA, UGCPA, AMSP, and FEPAB; while the Best Publication Award was presented to Drs Bettina Haussmann, Fred Rattunde and Eva Weltzien.

F Waliyar delivering his message during the opening ceremony.

The Malian Minister of Agriculture, accompanied by
Dr Bino Teme, Director General of the Institut d’ Economie Rurale (IER), Dr Traoré, Dr Waliyar, and several other guests later visited ICRISAT’s demonstration plots guided by Drs Fred Rattunde (sorghum) and Bonny N’tare (groundnut).

As part of the 40th anniversary celebration, six mini-conferences (knowledge fairs) were also organized by ICRISAT scientists and partners on the following topics: Analysis of climate observations for the Sahel with PCS Traoré, Head of GIS, as main speaker; 40 years of research on crops in the semi-arid areas hosted by Bakary Sidibé and Amadou Traoré; Sharing of knowledge and technologies in the past four decades participated in by representatives of farmer associations and NGOs; Future research priorities and analysis of constraints on production with Bonny N’tare (WCA Assistant Director) as presenter; Climate change and its impacts on agriculture/resilience/adaptation hosted by Robert Zougmoré (CCAFS-WA Team Leader); and a Q&A on ICRISAT research partnership moderated by Tom van Mourik.

Informal distinctions were awarded to deserving ICRISAT-WCA staff members. Games, meals (with local dishes prepared with millet, sorghum and groundnut) and music completed the annual day celebration.

Adama Traoré delivers his anniversary message.

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At the COP11 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
ICRISAT highlights agri-biodiversity for food security and improved livelihoods

With the threat of climate change now visible and extreme weather events projected to worsen in the future, the world’s genetic wealth in biological diversity could be the key to ecological and economic stability and in building climateresilient agriculture for global food security.

DG William Dar at the side event organized by FEJI. Also seen are (L-R) Gopikrishna Warrier, Regional Environment Manager, PSA; Ms Keya Acharya, President, FEJI; and S Faizi, Board Member, CBD Alliance.
At the top-level 11th Conference of Parties (COP11) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) being held at the HICC, HITEX Complex in Hyderabad from 8 to 19 October, ICRISAT highlighted the use of agri-biodiversity in strongly supporting the rationale for strengthening the CBD.

“Biological diversity has been and continues to be the foundation for agricultural research for sustainable food production and improved livelihoods across the world,” according to Director General William Dar speaking at a COP11 side event organized by the Forum for Environment Journalists in India (FEJI), Panos South Asia (PSA) and the National Biodiversity Authority of India (NBA) and attended by journalists/media practitioners. Dr CLL Gowda and Ms C Bejosano also attended the side event.

Dr Dar said that ICRISAT’s genebank is a treasure trove of genes useful to crop improvement for sustainable food production and improved livelihoods, particularly in the marginal environments of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and could provide the genes for ensuring global food and nutrition security. Locked in this biological wealth, he added, are genes that can provide climateresilience to future crop varieties through increased drought, heat and salinity tolerance, and pest and disease resistance.

Dr Kiran Sharma (3rd from left) at the COP-MOP6 side event on Biotech & Farming.

ICRISAT, which has applied science-led agricultural research for the past 40 years to increase agricultural production in the semi-arid tropics, has one of the world’s largest public-funded genebanks. It preserves seeds of more than 120,000 accessions of pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut and small millets (finger millet, foxtail millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet, and little millet), that are kept as in-trust collections on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, for the benefit of present and future generations.

In a related event, Dr Dar delivered a valedictory address at the Sixth Asian Biotechnology and Development Conference organized by the Research and Information System (RIS) for Developing Countries and supported by India’s Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) held on 7 October, in conjunction with the COP-MOP6 (Meeting of Parties) on Biosafety held from 1 to 5 October.

In his conference address, he emphasized the ethical and moral imperative to keep the technological portfolio open to biotechnology to increase food productivity by as much as 70% in order to meet the food demands of more than 9 billion people by 2050. He also stressed the need to harmonize biodiversity with global biotechnology applications, as well as the need for risk assessment and biosafety research as essential in ensuring the safety of genetically engineered foods.

Visitors at the ICRISAT exhibit booth at COP11.

ICRISAT also actively participated in several sessions of the COP-MOP6, particularly on the side event on Biotech & Farming held on 2 October. Dr Kiran Sharma, Director of the Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC), represented the Institute in the COP-MOP6 on Biosafety under the auspices of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI).

ICRISAT is also participating in the COP11 Interactive Fair for Biodiversity at Hall-2 of the HITEX Exhibition Centre from 1 to 19 October, with an exhibit booth showcasing the theme “Agribiodiversity for sustainable food security and improved livelihoods.”

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Review and planning workshop for ICRISAT-HOPE project held in Arusha

Participants of the meeting held in Arusha, Tanzania.

ICRISAT in partnership with Tanzania’s Department of Research and Development (DRD) held a review and planning workshop for the HOPE (Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement) project on 2-3 October in Arusha, Tanzania. The meeting was attended by 25 extension staff and 12 farmers from the five project mandate districts of Kondoa, Singida, Iramba, Kishapu and Rombo. Also in the meeting were participants from the Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI); Agricultural Research Institutes (ARI) in Hombolo, Ilonga and Uyole; Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA); and ICRISAT.

Frida Mgonja, the project’s national coordinator from SARI, discussed the project’s progress and achievements and presented the work plan for the 2012-2013 cropping season. ICRISAT’s Mary Mgonja, on the other hand, discussed the project’s four years of implementation in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) primarily to improve sorghum and finger millet productivity and household incomes.

Participants from the different project districts said that through participatory variety selection (PVS) trials, supply of small seed packs, subsidized seed voucher programs, quality declared seed (QDS), field days, and variety and crop management demonstrations, more than 10,000 farmers had been reached by the end of year three in the five mandate districts. The most preferred sorghum varieties Macia and Tegemeo were officially released, while KARI MtamaI is scheduled for release this year and HZV3 is in the pipeline for release. The most preferred improved finger millet varieties (due to early maturity and high yield traits) U-15 and P224, both ICRISAT lines, were officially released in 2011.

Farmers from Singida district reported that the use of these improved varieties in combination with Striga or blast management technologies, microdosing of fertilizers and soil-water management technologies by many farmers had resulted in grain yield increases ranging from 1 to 2 tons per ha for sorghum and from 1 to 1.6 tons for finger millet. The project also established many partnerships with rural- and urban-based organizations such as NGOs, farmers’ groups, agro-dealers, traders and processors for technology dissemination, input supply and product marketing.

To sustain the gains in productivity improvement, the project will lay greater emphasis on training on postharvest handling techniques to improve product quality and to facilitate farmer-group market linkages with processors.

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ABI-ICRISAT at DST-Lockheed Martin India’s Hyderabad Tech Expo

Ms Valerie Hase (2nd from right), Program Manager, IC2 Institute at the ABI-ICRISAT exhibit stall.

The Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program of ICRISAT participated in the Hyderabad Tech Expo jointly organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) with the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India; the Lockheed Martin Corporation; the Indo-US S&T Forum and the IC2 Institute, University of Texas on 26 September.

The expo was held to showcase innovators selected through the DST-Lockheed Martin India Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP), launched in 2007 to identify technologies with commercial potential and transform laboratory knowledge into commercial products, services and processes.

Mr SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer of ABI-ICRISAT delivered a talk on Incubating Innovations for Inclusive Growth, as part of the lecture series organized for innovators during the Expo. He discussed the role of business incubators in nurturing innovators and their ideas. The clients of ABI-ICRISAT also got a platform to showcase their innovations at the ABI Exhibit Stall in the Expo.

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NIABI incubators’ training program and review meeting

As part of its handholding and mentoring project with the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) of ICAR, ICRISAT’s ABI conducted a training program on Business Incubation at the Technopark-Technology Business Incubator (T-TBI), Thiruvananthapuram on 18-21 September.

ABI developed and organized the program along with the Indian STEP & Business Incubators Association (ISBA), the Asia Pacific Incubator Network (APIN), and the Technopark. Twenty-two participants from the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI) and ISBA community participated in the training. Session topics included, among others: basics of business incubations; technology evaluation; Intellectual Property Rights & business incubation; funding for start-ups; and incubator client management.

Following the training program, participants visited the incubator at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) and India’s first Telecom Business Incubator (Startup Village) at Kochi on 22 September.

A one-day review meeting of the incubators under NIABI was also held at Kochi. While appreciating ABI’s efforts in ensuring the sustainability of the incubators, Dr PS Pandey, National Coordinator (Component I), NAIP, noted the need for further improvements, and announced that another 100 agribusiness incubators will be set up in the coming years which will bolster the network and help in promoting the agricultural sector in India.

Participants of the meeting.

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Oilseed Knowledge Management Platform proposed

Participants at the meeting of Oilseed Research Institutes of ICAR.

The meeting of the Oilseed Research Institutes of ICAR was held at the Directorate of Rapeseed and Mustard, Bharatpur on 20-21 September. The meeting was chaired by Dr BB Singh, Assistant Director General (ADG) (Oilseed Crops).

During the meeting, Dr NT Yaduraju, ICRISAT Principal Scientist (ICT4D), presented a draft proposal on Oilseed Knowledge Management Platform (OKMP). With the possibility of extension of the Agropedia-II project by NAIP until March 2014, it was agreed that the objective of developing a dedicated platform for KM in oilseed crops will be integrated into the ongoing consortium. Mr Jeetendra Singh from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur also gave a demonstration on vKVK (Voice-Krishi Vigyan Kendra) and KVK-Netplatforms during the meeting.

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