No. 1545 16 November 2012

Understanding village and household dynamics for rural development
Village Dynamics in South Asia a successful flagship project

“VDSA is regarded as a highly successful flagship project at the Gates Foundation. We are proud of its achievements and will continue to support it. The true measure of its success is that data are being used by students and researchers for knowledge generation, and by policymakers for evidence-based decision making,” said Mr Tuu-Van Nguyen, representing the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

(L-R) Ramesh Chand, Director, NCAP; DDG-R Dave Hoisington; DG William Dar; Tuu-Van Nguyen of the Gates Foundation; Samarendu Mohanty of IRRI; and Cynthia Bantilan, Director, RP-MIP during the inaugural session of the VDSA annual review meeting at Patancheru.

Mr Nguyen was speaking at the Third Annual Review Meeting (ARM) of the Gates Foundation-supported “Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA)” Project held on 7-8 November at ICRISAT-Patancheru. VDSA is jointly implemented by ICRISAT, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and India’s National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) with other national institutes in India and Bangladesh.

Inaugurating the meeting, Director General William Dar described village level studies (VLS) as a jewel of ICRISAT and underlined the need to know the value of this important initiative through an impact assessment study.

The progress review of micro- and meso-data and policy analysis reported the timely delivery and high demand of data through the VDSA website. Speakers also mentioned VDSA’s relevance in providing insights on contemporary issues such as technology needs of farmers, priority areas for public investment and development policies to promote agricultural transformation and poverty reduction in developing countries, particularly in South Asia.

The session on policy insights from village dynamics studies revealed that per capita real income has increased in the semi-arid tropic (SAT) villages over the last three decades, mostly since the beginning of the century. While agriculture remains an important factor for prosperity in SAT India and Bangladesh, rural livelihoods are changing with growth in non-farm sectors.

In the session on documenting agricultural transformation in South Asia, the papers presented revealed a growth in income among different states in India and identified factors that can speed up this process. Positive growth in total and per capita GDP was also documented in 64 districts in Bangladesh.

The session on gender, nutrition and health related issues dealt with topics such as labor participation in agriculture, consumption expenditure patterns, dynamics of rice-fish farming in Bangladesh and women’s access to resources and decision making. Discussions reiterated that agriculture is a key driver of poverty reduction but pathways to nutrition are diverse and interconnected and gender dimensions cannot be ignored.

Dr Dar addressing the participants of the VDSA annual review meeting.

The concluding session on streamlining systems and practices beyond 2014, discussed guiding principles for strategic decisions on investment such as interviewing through digital devices, implementation plans for activities related to data collection, management and dissemination, capacity building and policy research. The partnership and networking strategy to be followed by the VDSA Knowledge Management Team was discussed and adopted.

Messages were delivered by Ramesh Chand, Director, NCAP; Samarendu Mohanty, Head, Social Sciences Division, IRRI; and Dave Hoisington, Deputy Director General – Research, ICRISAT.

Presentations were also made by VDSA Project Director and Research Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies Cynthia Bantilan, Samarendu Mohanty, Ramesh Chand, Project Manager Uttam Deb, Objective Coordinators Madhusudan Bhattarai and P Parthasarathy Rao (ICRISAT), Humnath Bhandari (IRRI) and Anjani Kumar (NCAP), and VDSA team members Padmaja Ravula, Kamala Gurung, Usha Rani Ahuja, P Shinoj, K Kavitha and Lalmani Pandey. Project team members from IRRI, ICRISAT, NCAP, and UAS Dharwad participated in discussions.

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Workshop on dynamics of rural livelihoods and poverty

The special session on gender, nutrition, health and sanitation in progress.

DURING THE WORKSHOP ON “Dynamics of Rural Livelihoods and Poverty in South Asia: Insights from Village Level Studies” on 5-6 November, 50 researchers from ICRISAT and project partners presented papers on income dynamics across five states and region. The level of farmers’ education and their engagement in non-farm sector activities were found to be the two most important factors explaining variations in household income across the survey sites in South Asia.

Two parallel sessions were organized: Dynamics of Rural Poverty, and Women’s Empowerment in Rural South Asia, wherein participants critically discussed the methodology used in measuring poverty dynamics and its complexities when using micro-level datasets.

Participants of the workshop on dynamics of rural livelihoods and poverty.

During the brainstorming session on VDSA as a Platform for Research on Gender, Nutrition, Health and Sanitation, participants discussed and finalized the methodology for a newly planned regional research activity titled “Women’s empowerment in rural South Asia: micro-level evidences on labor participation, institutions and food security.”

The workshop was also attended by the project’s steering committee members: SS Acharya and NS Jodha; facilitators Wijaya JayaTilaka (Sri Lanka) and Prof Madheswaran, ISEC, Karnataka; Govind Kelkar, Consultant, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW); and Nitu Chaudhary, consultant.

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VDSA Advisory Committee meeting

ON 9 NOVEMBER, the project’s Advisory Committee held its annual review meeting. The VDSA team was complimented for its systematic collection, management and dissemination of data; harmonization and linking of micro- and meso-data across regions; clarity on concept, definition, tools, techniques of quantitative and qualitative analysis; and interesting and insightful situational analysis.

The Committee appreciated the progress made and road map towards setting up the VDSA Data Warehouse by mid-2013. It also endorsed the research and publication plan, communication and partnership strategy, policy dialogue and capacity building related activities for 2012-13 and beyond; and supported the innovative entry and ownership building activities undertaken by the East India and Bangladesh teams.

During the meeting, Dr Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director, Agriculture Development Division of the Gates Foundation expressed satisfaction with the project’s overall progress and underlined that the quality data disseminated and knowledge generated through it would be useful for poverty reduction and agricultural development in South Asia.

The VDSA Advisory Committee meeting.

Chaired by Dr Mruthyunjaya, former Director, National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP), ICAR, the meeting was attended by Committee members Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC, Bangladesh; SS Acharya, Former Chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), India; NS Jodha; Cynthia Bantilan of ICRISAT; and Samarendu Mohanty of IRRI. At the invitation of the Advisory Committee, the VDSA Project Management Team attended the meeting.

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ICRISAT organizes sorghum farmers’ field day in Mali to promote farmer-to-farmer learning

Women farmers during the open field day at ICRISAT Samanko Station. Farmers and producers swarm farmer Balla Berthé’s sorghum hybrid plot in Kéniéro.

“It was a good learning experience on the selection and production of sorghum hybrids. As a producer, I intend to build on the knowledge acquired back in my home country,” says Dombue Laurent, a producer from Burkina Faso.

“Seed production is profitable and women could gain more benefits from this activity,” says Mazan Sanogo, a woman farmer.

“Smallholder farmers will easily be able to feed their families as production increases when we use improved seed. Farmers’ organizations are now producing quality seed and even the private sector is showing keen interest in investing in the seed business,” says Salia Sanogo, a producer from Koutiala, Sikasso region.

These are the resounding responses and acknowledgement of the research on sorghum from a group of producers and farmers’ organizations who attended the Farmers’ Field Day (6 November) at Kéniéro and Open Field Day (7 November) at ICRISAT Samanko station.

During the farmers’ field day, producers and farmers’ organizations from Mali and Burkina Faso visited Balla Berthé’s hybrid sorghum production plots, aimed at promoting farmer-to-farmer learning experiences. They were introduced to hybrid sorghum production methods and its advantages, and later held discussions on market opportunities relating to hybrid seed within COPROSEM farmers’ cooperative, of which Berthé is a member. Berthé is a champion of improved sorghum hybrids in his village of Kéniéro near Bamako.

The open field day was attended by about 60 producers and staff of ICRISAT Samanko station, where they were welcomed by WCA Regional Director Farid Waliyar. The group visited experimental plots of sorghum hybrids, groundnut,vegetables and sweet sorghum processing and were shown videos on fighting Striga and integrated fertility management options.

Discussions were held with producers on improving child nutrition with sorghum and on seed certification (regulation, process and cost). Participants were keen on cultivating improved seed varieties of sorghum hybrids as they felt their yield superiority would bring in more revenue for smallholders and their organizations.

Participants of the farmers’ field day held at Kéniéro village. Farmers taste products made from sweet sorghum.

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AgMIP South Asia Regional Project begins

Participants of the AgMIP South Asia workshop in Colombo,
Sri Lanka.

ICRISAT together with the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) hosted the AgMIP South Asia Regional Project Kickoff Workshop in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 12-16 November. The workshop focused on building cohesiveness within and among regional AgMIP teams to achieve success across each region; reviewed and refined protocols for regional integrated climate change assessments; and developed specific plans to carry out integrated assessments during the project. It was attended by 75 participants including the AgMIP leadership team from the USA, Europe and Australia and regional teams from South India, the Indo-Gangetic Basin, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, secretaries of the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment and officials of Sri Lanka’s Department of Agriculture.

ICRISAT is leading the AgMIP South Asia regional teams’ Capacity Building and Knowledge Sharing project. The Regional Research Teams (RRTs) are conducting a series of activities to support integrated climate change impact assessments for agricultural systems in South Asia. Research results and outputs will be compared across regions to improve the understanding of agricultural impacts of climate change at national and regional scales.

Among those who spoke during the workshop were Dileepkumar Guntuku, Global Leader, KSI; Cynthia Rosenzweig and Jim Jones from the AgMIP leadership team; and Peter McCornick, DDG, IWMI. Other participants from ICRISAT included Cynthia Bantilan, Peter Craufurd, Nedumaran, Piara Singh, Prasada Rao, Manvitha and Jeetendra.

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AIP-ICRISAT participates in MANAGE event Krishichanakya

The Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program of AIP-ICRISAT in association with the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE) conducted Akanksha, a business plan competition for students of management institutes across India. The competition was held during Krishichanakya, the annual business festival of MANAGE on 3 November. This was part of the promotional activities for the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI) being mentored by ABI-ICRISAT. Unlike regular business plan competitions, students were asked to prepare business plans based on agro-technologies available under NIABI or on entrepreneur’s requirement, like value-added products of honey, probiotic dairy products, etc.

Awarding of the winners of the business plan competition.

Over two rounds of six teams were shortlisted from a pool of 30 applicants to present their business plans at Akanksha. The final set of business plans focused on: probiotic-based frozen food products; jute-based packaging materials; off-season vegetable farming unit; integrated farming systems; value-added products from honey; and cutflower exports. Business managers of the incubators under NIABI provided the technical inputs and guidance in preparing the business plans.

The panel of judges was composed of ICRISAT’s Aravazhi Selvaraj and Jonathan Philroy; Sanjay Gadhalay from the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad; and Sanjay Kumar from Spencer’s Retail. The team from the National Institute of Agricultural Marketing (NIAM), Jaipur which prepared a business plan on cutflower exports was chosen as the winner of the competition, while the team from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies (JBIMS), Mumbai with the plan on probiotic-based dairy food products coming in second place.

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Workshop on learning through interactive voice educational system held

Participants of the capacity building workshop on Mobile for Development (M4D) through LIVES.

To familiarize partners with the use of the LIVES (Learning through Interactive Voice Educational System), the Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) organized a two-day Capacity Building Workshop on Mobile for Development (M4D) on 9-10 November.

LIVES is a collaborative project with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Canada, aimed at assessing the effectiveness of mobile phone-based interactive learning tools among rural communities of India. It is proposed to cover 8000 farmers in four states.

Inaugurating the workshop, Director General William Dar highlighted the role of mobile telephony in AR4D and the immense popularity of mobile phones in India. He observed that mobile phones had broken the digital divide between the rich and literate and the poor and illiterate and that all sections of the society now can have equal access to information. He was optimistic that mobile phones would play a far greater role in the future, serving as medium for improving the livelihoods of the poor across the globe. He also underlined ICRISAT’s emphasis on strategic partnerships to enhance the scope and effectiveness of research and developmental activities.

Representatives from civil society organizations such as Mann Deshi Foundation, Maharashtra; RSGA, Tamil Nadu; Vidiyal, Tamil Nadu; and UAS Raichur, DRR, DoR, ILRI and KVK- Mahabubnagar were given hands-on training on the use of the platform. Mr Gopalakrishna, Station Director (Retd), All India Radio gave tips on ideal audio recording while K Balasubramanian, nodal person for LIVES at COL, shared his expertise and discussed future plans of LIVES with the participants through Skype. The program was jointly coordinated by ICRISAT staff, NT Yaduraju and P Modi with support from Jeetendra Kumar Singh and Kiran Yadav.

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Energy sorghum and pearl millet training program on multilocational trials conducted

Participants of the training program with energy sorghum plants to be used in the project.

A training-cum-field exposure program was conducted by ICRISAT scientists to strengthen the capacity to conduct multilocational trials of biomass sorghum and pearl millet besides seed production practices of partners under the Indo-US Joint Clean Energy Development Centre (JCERDC) – “Development of sustainable advanced lignocellulosic biofuel systems” project at Patancheru on 9 November 2012. Fourteen participants from seven public sector organizations and a private company attended. The project was launched on 8 November at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, where the technical program for year 1 was finalized.

Participants were exposed to the challenges of conducting multilocational trials in both feedstocks, crop management, data collection, methods of seed production of hybrids and varieties, and data analysis. Among those who spoke were Belum VS Reddy (work package challenges); P Srinivasa Rao (energy sorghum - MLTs and seed production); SK Gupta (pearl millet - MLTs and seed production); and Anil Kumar (data analysis). A field visit to energy sorghum and pearl millet trials enabled the participants to have first-hand information on the feedstocks and trials. The activity was coordinated by ICRISAT scientists, P Srinivasa Rao and SK Gupta, Research Program – Dryland Cereals.

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In-country training on rainfed agriculture held at Cagayan Valley, Philippines

Participants of the rainfed agriculture in-country training in Cagayan Valley, Philippines.

The last of the series of the Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research & Development and Extension Program (PhiRARDEP) in-country training was held at the Cagayan Valley Lowland Marine Research Outreach Station (CVLMROS), Iguig, Cagayan Valley for Region 2 on 11-16 November. The training was sponsored by ICRISAT, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office (DA-RFO), and Cagayan State University (CSU).

PhiRARDEP aims to pursue agricultural research for development through rainfed farming systems innovation (legumes and adaptation & commercialization, biofuels R&D and commercialization, and integrated watershed management), strategic social science and policy research, and capacity building, communication, and mobilization.

Heraldo Layaoen, national coordinator of the sweet sorghum research program and DA-BAR consultant, discussed about the proposed integrated seed system program for relevant ICRISAT mandate crops (chickpea, groundnut, pigeonpea and sorghum). DA-RFO 2 Director Lucrecio Alviar emphasized on the need to support rainfed agriculture and promote the production of said crops in the region towards improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

The training was attended by 47 participants coming from different institutions of the region, local government units, and research stations. Resource persons included ICRISAT’s Rex Navarro, Myer Mula and Rosana Mula; Joell Lales, Maureen Mangaring, and Patrick Cabrera of BAR; Lorenzo Caranguian, Orlando Lorenzana, Evelyn Ladia, Severino Tumamang, Norma Nerona and Celerina Miranda of DA Region 2; Heraldo Layaoen and Jocelyn Bernabe of Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU); Jonathan Nayga, Raul Palaje and Danie Sayo of Isabela State Unversity (ISU); Roger Barroga of PhilRice; and Samuel Contreras of the Bureau of Soils.

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