No. 1547 30 November 2012

On building a climate-resilient agriculture
Use science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches to surmount climate change

“The power of science must be harnessed to address the problems spawned by climate change. We need to generate and share science-based information and technology to build a climate-resilient agriculture, particularly for the resource-poor and vulnerable people of the drylands.”

Director General William Dar addressing participants of the International Conference on “Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for Food and Environmental Security” held at SEARCA, UPLB, Philippines.

“Scientific interventions can be used in such areas as adaptation to progressive climate change, managing climate risk, pro-poor climate change mitigation, and integration for decision-making.”

These views were shared by Director General William Dar at the recent “International Conference on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for Food and Environmental Security”. The event was attended by about 150 researchers, academicians, policymakers, and development workers representing 21 countries across the globe.

In the coming decades, climate change could create real yield reductions of up to 30 per cent in Asia and up to 50 per cent in many African countries. “Tremendous pressure is upon agriculture to produce more food by as much as 70 per cent by 2050,” Dr Dar stressed. The impact of climate change will be most disastrous in the semi-arid tropics, home to 2 billion people and most of the world’s poor.

“Models indicate that there will be a 10 per cent increase of dryland areas of the world with climate change,” he said, and added that the confluence of such factors as warming temperatures, drought, floods, increasing land degradation and desertification, loss of biodiversity, rising food prices, zooming energy demand, and population – if unabated – will lead to a perfect storm.

Dr Dar emphasized on using the power of science to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. ICRISAT, he said, works with strategic partners to develop farming systems resilient to shocks, buffering crucial resources like water and nutrients, and adapting crops to harsh temperatures and new pest and disease patterns to provide options for the poor, dryland farmers.

The conference served as a platform for the exchange of latest knowledge on climate change impacts and adaptation linked to food security and environmental sustainability, with 41 papers presented in four parallel sessions. The goal was for these new knowledge and experiences to be up-scaled to benefit countries and regions bearing the brunt of adverse climate change, particularly on food and environmental security.

The conference was held on 21-22 November at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines. Co-organized by SEARCA, the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), and the Asia-Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN), it was supported by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in Japan along with other partners.

Feasibility study conducted for Food Testing Laboratory in Zimbabwe

ICRISAT-AIP staff with the Zimbabwean FTL project steering committee.

With food safety and health gaining importance in Africa, a team from ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) visited Zimbabwe on 23-26 November to conduct a feasibility study and develop a business plan for a Food Testing Laboratory (FTL) in the country.

The laboratory will be set up at the Directorate of Research and Specialists Services (DRSS), Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation (MAMI), Government of Zimbabwe, with its Principal Director, Danisile Hikwa, as National Project Coordinator.

ICRISAT is the implementing agency for this initiative under the India Africa Forum Summit II (IAFS II) of the Government of India, through its Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Food Processing Industries. The team composed of ICRISAT-AIP’s Saikat Datta Mazumdar and Aravazhi Selvaraj organized the project’s inaugural project steering committee (PSC) meeting and deliberated on the modalities for project implementation.

Also present at the meeting was Mr RS Malhotra, First Secretary, Embassy of India in Zimbabwe, who highlighted the need for proper coordination among the stakeholders for the project’s success. Later, the team called on Mr Jitendra Tripathi, Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, to brief him on the progress of the project. In turn, Ambassador Tripathi assured the project stakeholders of India’s commitment to the project and to strengthening Zimbabwe’s economy. A stakeholders’ meeting was held at Harare with representatives from the private sector, industry, and farmers associations.

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ICRISAT-HOPE Project holds country strategies workshop for sorghum and millets

The group discussion during the workshop saw much active and cheerful participation.

To share and exchange implementation experiences, lessons learnt, success stories and existing challenges, the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets Project held a country strategy workshop for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) in Arusha, Tanzania on 22-23 November.

Attended by 33 participants from Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, South Sudan and ICRISAT, country strategies for sorghum and millet research and development were prepared during the workshop to further help smallholder farmers increase their income and improve their livelihoods.

Since its inception in 2009, the project, in partnership with local partners, has promoted 10 and 15 varieties, respectively, of high-yielding, early-maturing and market-preferred improved sorghum and finger millet through participatory variety selection (PVS) and demonstrations. The project has also boosted productivity of the crops through striga and soil-water management, microdosing, and row-planting technologies. In Tanzania, these improved technologies have enhanced on-farm grain productivity from 0.8 to 2 mt per ha for finger millet and 1 to 1.8 mt per ha for sorghum. To sustain adoption of these improved technologies, farming households were linked to input suppliers, grain buyers or processors, and financial credit providers.

Outlining the meeting objectives, ICRISAT’s Mary Mgonja noted that country strategies would serve as benchmarks for determining future projects. ICRISAT’s Henry Ojulong meanwhile presented past research outputs, strategic objectives and vision for success to help in the drafting of the country strategies, expected to be finalized by 8 December.

While thanking the local partners for organizing the meeting, Alistair Orr of ICRISAT advised the participants to start thinking along regional (not individual country) perspective to facilitate sharing of information and technologies. This would help shorten the research gap among countries and facilitate dissemination of impacts/benefits of research to farm households.

Participants of the workshop held in Arusha, Tanzania.

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Entrepreneurs showcase ideas and innovations at agribusiness fair

Participants of the ICRISAT-PTTC fair brought in their collective experience and knowledge to promote new business.

Eighty-two entrepreneurs and innovators had the opportunity to showcase their ideas and innovations at the Agribusiness Mela (fair) conducted by ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program on 21 November at Patancheru. The fair sought to promote agribusiness ventures, and share and exchange ideas and innovations in availing incubation services and funding assistance. Eight innovative proposals were screened by an expert panel, of which two were recommended for funding through the Technology Development Board (TDB) of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India.

Participants were split into two groups. Under the idea and start-up funding track, business models/plans were pitched before an evaluation panel for funding assistance. The other track provided participants an insight into starting their own agribusiness ventures through ready-to-commercialize agro-technologies available under the Indian National Agricultural Research System (NARS), farming ventures, and the food processing sector.

Following the discussions, 16 entrepreneurs have shown interest in starting their own ventures through technology commercialization, farm business and setting up food testing labs.

Among those who spoke during the fair were S Aravazhi of ABI, ABI client Sreeram Raavi, and PS Raju, formerly with TDB. JR Rao, Emeritus Scientist from the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM) and Saikat Datta Mazumdar of NutriPlus Knowledge also attended the mela

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Capacity building and planning workshop to revitalize Philippine rainfed agriculture

Dr Dar and DA-BAR Director Nicomedes P Eleazar (center) with (L-R) Myer Mula, Rosana Mula and Cynthia Bantilan.

One year after the Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Program (PhiRARDEP) was established, a capacity strengthening, review and planning workshop was held on 19-23 November in Tagaytay, Philippines to evaluate and assess its accomplishments in revitalizing rainfed agriculture in the country.

Drawing attention to the program’s contribution to national food security, Director Nicomedes P Eleazar of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) said, “PhiRARDEP is laying the foundation for establishing a solid and unified national agenda for rainfed agriculture in which the research, development and extension sector (RD&E) and stakeholders will be able to significantly contribute by making innovations, generating and developing technologies, and formulating policies appropriate for the rainfed environment.” He urged that strategies, results, and impacts of PhiRARDEP be taken into consideration while drawing up the overall national framework to achieve sustainable agricultural growth.

Speaking on the occasion, Director General William Dar suggested that deliberate initiatives and efforts are needed to influence the country’s policies that exacerbate underinvestment in rainfed areas. He also advocated for a paradigm shift from sustainability to resilience, where increasing yield is no longer the sole objective. As risks grow, helping smallholder farm families withstand, adapt to, and recover from the stresses and shocks of climate change becomes critically important, he said.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima highlighted the importance of indigenous knowledge of farmers, which he said must never be underestimated. He stressed the need to focus on finding ways to sustain limited resources dovetailed with systematized service and enhanced farmers’ capacities to benefit more rainfed farming communities.

Appreciating the importance of rainfed agriculture, Assistant Secretary de Lima committed US$ 5 million (PhP 200 million) for up-scaling ICRISAT’s Bhoochetana program for the development of Philippine rainfed areas.

Dr Dar with DA Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima at the workshop.

A three-day training program on impact assessment conducted as part of the workshop provided important inputs for planning and drafting the PhiRARDEP roadmap. The training session on integrated agriculture was highly appreciated by the participants because of its relevance to the program’s research and development direction.

The workshop was coordinated by Joell Lales, OIC-Head of the Project Planning and Development Division of DA-BAR, with the following as resource speakers/evaluators: Heraldo Layaoen, Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU); Teotimo Aganon, Central Luzon State University (CLSU), Luis Rey Velasco, UPLB; Maureen Mangaring of DA-BAR; and ICRISAT’s Rex Navarro, Cynthia Bantilan, Myer Mula, and Rosana Mula.

PhiRARDEP is a combined initiative of the Philippine DA – High Value Crops Development Program (DA-HVCDP), BAR, and ICRISAT.

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