No. 1552 04 January 2013

Plant genetic conservation in the fight against hunger and poverty
Olympic medalist commends ICRISAT’s crop germplasm conservation initiatives

“ICRISAT’s plant genetic conservation initiatives illustrate the value and use of biodiversity in the fight against hunger and poverty, and its impact on the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in the dryland tropics.”

Ms Saina Nehwal at the ICRISAT genebank with (L-R) Drs HD Upadhyaya, Shivali Sharma and CLL Gowda.

This view was shared by India’s ace badminton player and Olympic bronze medalist Ms Saina Nehwal during her visit to ICRISAT-Patancheru on 30 December 2012. She described the experience of touring the campus, particularly her visit to the Institute’s RS Paroda Genebank, as delightful and an eye-opener.

Ms Nehwal and her father, Dr Harvir Singh Nehwal (extreme left) with ICRISAT scientists.

“Nature has truly blessed us with a rich genetic diversity, which is unique and important in sustaining life in this planet. This visit gave me a better understanding of the importance of crop germplasm conservation in sustaining and using genetic diversity for global food security,”
Ms Nehwal added.

The ICRISAT genebank, one of the largest public-funded genebanks in the world, 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 United Nations (UN), for the benefit of the present and future generations. It has also distributed more than 1.4 million seed samples to 146 countries, restored about 55,000 germplasm lines to 9 countries, and released 830 cultivars in 79 countries from its germplasm and breeding materials.

Planting a tree at Patancheru.

Through its genebank, ICRISAT fulfills a dual role. It conserves available germplasm for use in crop improvement programs to meet the food security needs of a rapidly growing global population. At the same time, it preserves germplasm to make it possible for future generations to have access to the wealth of crop diversity accumulated today.

Ms Nehwal visited ICRISAT upon the Institute’s invitation to help spread the importance of crop germplasm conservation in the global fight against hunger and poverty. Ms Nehwal’s hard work in the sport of badminton over the years enabled her to clinch a historic bronze medal for India in the 2012 London Olympics.

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Celebrating ICRISAT’s role in addressing food security in rural Zimbabwe

Guest of Honor, Governor Angeline Masuku, addresses ICRISAT staff and other guests during the anniversary program.

“I am proud that ICRISAT is doing great things in my province. It has spearheaded the improvement of sorghum and millet growing through the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which has greatly contributed in alleviating hunger not only in Matabeleland South, but also in Matabeleland North and Masvingo,” said Governor and Resident Minister Cde Angeline Masuku of Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe.

The Governor delivered a keynote address as Guest of Honor at ICRISAT-Bulawayo’s belated celebration of the Institute’s 40th founding anniversary held at the Matopos Research Station last December 2012.

Governor Masuku commended ICRISAT for linking farmers in Nhwali, Gwanda with formal livestock markets and for training scientific officers and farmers on various farming techniques. Recognizing the effects of climate change and drought, she challenged scientists and researchers to identify modern approaches that farmers can adopt to produce their own stock feed. She also urged various non-government organizations to continue partnering with ICRISAT in order to contribute towards food security in Zimbabwe.

Dr Justice Nyamangara, Acting Country Representative, spoke of ICRISAT’s work and achievements in Zimbabwe, stressing that innovations such as Conservation Agriculture and microdosing are still evolving and improving. He also discussed the Institute’s expansion to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the recent acquisition of a new spectrophotometer for the soil laboratory in Bulawayo.

Murairo Madzvamuse, Laboratory Technician at ICRISAT-Bulawayo, discusses the use of the new spectrophotometer.   Drs Justice Nyamangara (left) and Kudzai Nyengerai (right) discuss the poster display during the tour of the facilities with Governor Masuku (center).

Speaking on behalf of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Regional Director, Dr Kizito Mazvimavi, Head of Impact Assessment Office (IPO), acknowledged ICRISAT-Bulawayo’s achievements in addressing food security in rural Zimbabwe. He also highlighted the importance of the Institute’s crops such as sorghum, millet, groundnut, chickpea and pigeonpea in the semi-arid tropics, and its innovations that have changed the lives of many farmers in the Matabeleland region.

The guests were taken on a tour of ICRISAT-Bulawayo facilities, allowing them a deeper understanding of the Institute’s work in Zimbabwe and a chance to discuss ideas and share information with the staff.

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