No. 1555 25 January 2013

Rebuilding Nigeria’s groundnut pyramids
Enhancing quality groundnut seed production capacity of farmers

The lack of quality and improved seed and low seed multiplication rate are the major constraints to increased production and productivity of groundnut in Nigeria, where the crop is widely cultivated in at least 30 of the country’s 36 states. Under the Tropical Legumes II (TL II) project, ICRISAT and national partners have been facilitating the production, dissemination and popularization of improved groundnut varieties in three states in the country.

Participants of the workshop on quality groundnut seed production held at ICRISAT-Kano, Nigeria.

The TL II project’s success over the years and the recent release of an extra-early groundnut variety (SAMNUT24) has prompted the Federal Government and several State Governments to cater to the increasing demand for seeds of improved varieties to boost groundnut cultivation.

Aiming to enhance the capacity of farmers to produce quality groundnut seed during the dry season in addition to the main rainy season and promote networking among seed producers, a workshop was held on 17 January at ICRISAT-Kano, Nigeria. The activity was part of the Nigerian Government-funded project “Rebuilding the groundnut pyramids: boosting farmers’ income through new groundnut varieties, cropping systems and processing technologies in Nigeria” to be implemented in 15 states starting this year.

Organized by ICRISAT-Kano, the Kano State Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (KNARDA), and the Kano State Ministry for Local Government and Women Farmer Advancement Network (WOFAN), the workshop sought to enable farmers to produce seeds of improved varieties in the dry season (January-May). Among the topics discussed at the workshop were the importance of seeds, groundnut seed production, economic benefits of dry season groundnut seed production, and livestock and soil benefits of groundnut cultivation.

The workshop was attended by 51 farmers from 12 communities and 6 extension agents. Resource persons included Mr Mallam Abdul Rahaman Musa, Assistant Director (Crop), KNARDA, and Dr Hakeem A Ajeigbe and Mr Abubakar Inua of ICRISAT. After the workshop, participants are expected to be able to cultivate 45 hectares of certified seed while ICRISAT, WOFAN and KNARDA will plant about 15 hectares of foundation seed.

Nigeria was once the world’s leading groundnut exporter in the 1960s with the crop accounting for about 70% of the country’s total export earnings. However, groundnuts fell from the country’s export list by the end of the 1970s, aggravated by severe drought and disease infestations.

Through the Nigerian Government-funded project on rebuilding the country’s groundnut pyramids, ICRISAT will work with national partners to enable farmers to grow improved varieties of groundnuts with more resistance to diseases, higher export market demand, and better aflatoxin management to prevent contamination. A revival of the vibrant groundnut industry would help generate employment opportunities and improve the livelihoods of millions of Nigeria’s smallholder farmers.

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Prioritizing future pearl millet heat tolerance research

Plant breeders, physiologists, economists, molecular breeders and crop modelers from ICRISAT and five member seed companies of the Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (PMHPRC) met at Patancheru on 21 January to brainstorm the future course of heat tolerance research in pearl millet.

Participants of the meeting on heat tolerance research in pearl millet.

Highlighting the need to pay critical attention to high heat stress in the light of climate change, Dr Vincent Vadez, Assistant Program Director, Research Program – Dryland Cereals, underlined the need to use all the available approaches and knowledge to meet such challenges. Meanwhile, Dr SK Gupta, Senior Scientist (Pearl Millet Breeding) reviewed the status of pearl millet heat tolerance research, and informed the group that the crop has been rapidly expanding in the summer season in northwestern India. He also stressed the need to develop flowering-period heat-tolerant breeding materials for this ecology and shared information on heat-tolerant breeding lines based on multi-year and multi-location evaluation in the targeted ecology. Other topics discussed were crop modeling opportunities to track heat tolerance in pearl millet by S Nedumaran and Piara Singh, and molecular approaches which can be integrated in the research by Rakesh Srivastava.

The group reviewed the 2012 trials and planned for 2013 activities with Suresh Kumar Gupta, Chairman of ICRISAT’s Hybrid Parents Research Consortium.

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Women farmers trained in finger millet post-harvest handling and value addition

Pamela Ekodi and Jackline Anjao share a common goal – to improve the nutritional and income security of their farm households using finger millet products for household use and local markets. They were part of a group of 18 women from different women’s groups (mostly from Busia, Teso South, Teso North and Matungu districts in western Kenya) who participated in a training of trainers (TOT) workshop on 17-18 January at the Agricultural Training Centre (ATC) in Busia, Western Kenya. The training was part of the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) project.

Members of women’s groups busy making dishes from finger millet.   Finger millet products on display.

The hands-on training conducted by Rhoda Nungo of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI-Kakamega) aimed to educate and sensitize the women to the market demand for finger millet grain and products which would lead to greater market opportunities. The training focused on post-harvest handling for high quality grain, value addition, nutrition, training skills for training others, and qualitative evaluation of the prepared products. The participants were grouped to cook six food products (cake, mandazi, chapatti, crackies, onion bites and porridge) made from finger millet flour, which were later ranked for taste, general appearance, acceptability, ease of use in the household, and marketability. The ranking for marketability of finger millet products, in descending order of importance, was mandazi, porridge, crackies, chapatti, onion bite and cake, while that for ease of use in the household level was porridge, chapatti, mandazi, onion bites, crackies and cake.

While inspired and eager to train others, Pamela and Jackline felt that the cost and availability of equipment to make finger millet products posed a challenge for the women’s groups. In response, Dr Henry Ojulong on behalf of ICRISAT- Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Director Said Silim promised that equipment would be sold on credit based on agreed upon terms to the four most cohesive and best performing women’s groups. The money recovered for the cost of equipment would be used to reach out to other groups.

A trainers’ manual for finger millet post-harvest handling and value addition was distributed to the participants for use in training other members. The training was organized by ICRISAT and KARI-Kakamega, and participated in by representatives of women’s groups (Amukura Orphanage, Osipata Mabati, Samaki, Njugu, Osuret Self Help, Utawala, Arimit Upendo and MARPA) with a combined membership of about 200 farmers. ICRISAT’s Daniel Otwani and Patrick Audi also attended the activity.

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Best Paper Presentation Award for ICRISAT

Dr AVR Kesava Rao, Scientist (Agroclimatology), Research Program – Resilient Dryland Systems, received the Best Oral Research Paper Presentation Award for his presentation on “Changes in the Semi-arid Areas in India” (co-authored by Suhas P Wani, M Irshad Ahmed, K Srinivas, Snehal D Bairagi and O Ramadevi)  at the National Symposium on “Climate Change and Indian Agriculture: Slicing Down the Uncertainties” held on 22-23 January at the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad. The award was presented by Dr Akhilesh Gupta, Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC), Government of India.

More than 400 scientists working on climate change in India presented their findings in nine technical sessions during the symposium.

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Policy dialogue deliberates on rural labour markets and agriculture

Increasing incomes of rural poor households by improving employment opportunities either in the farm or non-farm sector was one of the key recommendations during the Policy Dialogue on Rural Labour Markets and Agriculture held on 18 January at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), Hyderabad. The event was jointly organized by ICRISAT, CESS and the SR Sankaran Chair on Rural Labour of the National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD).

Participants of the Policy Dialogue on Rural Labour Markets and Agriculture held at the Centre for Economic and Social Studies.

The dialogue highlighted the need for productivity increases in both rural farm and non-farm sectors, towards increased employment and income opportunities in rural areas. Public investment in rural infrastructure, agricultural technology, and quality education and health facilities appear to be essential requirements for improved productivity of rural labour.
Research institutions were urged to address the tightening labour market during peak production periods through agricultural research and technology development, including improved crop varieties amenable to mechanization.

Among the other topics discussed were the development of small towns in a manner that would have a positive impact on local economic growth and reduce distress migration; the role of road connectivity, public transport, electricity and information technology in increasing non-farm incomes; gender differences in wage rates; and extending social security facilities to all rural labourers.

The dialogue was attended by government officials, researchers from national and international research organizations, representatives from labour organizations, farmer association, nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs). Experts from the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP); Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai; University of Hyderabad; Oxford University; Alagappa University; Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and Hyderabad; National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), New Delhi; CESS and NIRD took part in the discussions.

The dialogue was chaired by Dr CH Hanumantha Rao, Chancellor, University of Hyderabad and Co-chaired by Dr T Haque, former Chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). Prof S Galab, Director, CESS welcomed the participants. Keynote presentations on Rural Labour Studies were delivered by Professor D Narasimha Reddy, SR Sankaran, and Dr Cynthia Bantilan of ICRISAT’s Research Program – Markets, Institutions and Policies. Presentations were also made on long-term changes and dynamics in rural labour markets as well as current challenges for agriculture and rural economy, followed by panel and open floor discussions.

Prior to the dialogue, a brainstorming meeting was held at ICRISAT on 17 January with Dr Bantilan (Chair) and Dr Ramesh Chand, Director NCAP, New Delhi (Co-chair) to distil observations on rural markets revealed through an analysis of macro- and micro-level data collected under the Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) project.

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Optimizing genetic gains for West African sorghum and millet breeders

A West African regional training workshop on “Optimizing genetic gains for sorghum and millet breeding programs” was conducted for
8 national breeding programs and 4 regional universities representing Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and Senegal on 14-18 January in Saly, Senegal. Conducted under the HOPE Project, its main objective was to strengthen the capacity of national breeding programs to design breeding strategies that maximize genetic gains for priority traits, especially grain yield.

Participants of the workshop held in Saly, Senegal.

The activity also involved the sub-regional organization, Centre d’étude régional pour l’amélioration de l’adaptation à la sécheresse (CERAAS), which is the coordinating center for sorghum and pearl millet research under the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP).

Presentations and practical group exercises addressed the key components determining genetic gains, the nature and quantification of genetic variance, estimation of heritability, assessing the intensity of selection, estimating gains from direct versus indirect selection, and an overview of hybrid breeding, focusing on developing breeding strategies. 
Practical exercises with groups from both national programs and an inter-mix of programs and crops enabled the participants to analyze and share their knowledge. The practice of modeling gains by varying testing parameters and designing an entire selection strategy were techniques the participants found useful. 

The workshop concluded with groups defining the most important practical guide for each topic to maximize genetic gains, which will be further refined and made widely available. The participants greatly appreciated the presentations and practical experiences shared by Dr Wolfgang Schipprack, Maize Breeder, University of Hohenheim, Germany, and contributions by ICRISAT scientists Eva Weltzien and Fred Rattunde. They urged that practical training in breeding methodology and strengthening of linkages between breeding programs and universities within the region also be provided.

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Dal machines turned over to Odisha partners

As part of ICRISAT’s mission of empowering smallholder farmers to escape from poverty through inclusive market-oriented development, two sets of dal machines were inaugurated and turned over to partners in Odisha on 15-16 January, under the project “Introduction and Expansion of Improved Pigeonpea (Arhar) Production Technology in Rainfed Upland Ecosystems of Odisha.” Dr Myer Mula and Mr Sarat Tripathy of ICRISAT presided over this activity.

A dal mill being turned over to Loksebak (NGO) at Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi.

The partners, Maa Tarini Self-Help Group (with 10 women members) of Kalyansingpur, Rayagada and Loksebak, a nongovernment organization (NGO) in Bhawanipatna, Kalahandi have borrowed Rs 130,000 (US$3,000) and Rs 220,000 (US$5,000), respectively to construct buildings to house the dal mills. Meanwhile in Khariar, Nauparha, the dal mill building constructed by Sahabhagi Vikash Abhiyan (NGO) is ready for occupation. The cost of each dal mill set (comprised of dal mill machine, polisher, and generator) provided by the project is Rs 230,000 (US$5,100).   

During the activity, Dr Mula also monitored the production of foundation and certified seed of improved varieties (Maruthi, Asha, Kamica, and ICPL 88039); hybrid seed production of ICPH 2671 and 2740 (AxR); and farmer-preferred varietal selection (FPVS) in the two districts. It is estimated that 2,000 quintals (200 t) of good quality seeds will be produced and procured for the 2013-2014 cropping season by the project and by the State Seed Corporation of Odisha. The production areas have been inspected and certified by the Odisha State Seed and Organic Product Certification Agency (OSSOPCA).

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Women entrepreneurs trained on organic food processing

Participants at the NutriPlus Knowledge laboratory.

As part of its ongoing collaboration with the Association of Lady Entrepreneurs of Andhra Pradesh (ALEAP), ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program conducted a one-day workshop on organic food processing at ICRISAT-Patancheru on 9 January. Attended by 23 participants, the workshop aimed to promote entrepreneurship in the field of organic agriculture, its certification and marketing.

Dr Saikat Datta Majumdar, Chief Operating Officer, NutriPlus Knowledge (NPK) program, gave an introduction of the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP). This was followed by a session on certification process and procedures of organic foods by Mr Sudheer, President, Mudar India Exports. Harshvardhan Mane (ABI) presented a session on seed business opportunities.

The participants got an insight into product development and food testing at the NPK program and were shown around the incubation facilities available for food business-related start-ups. The workshop resulted in the generation of potential leads for AIP.

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Training conducted on water management and bio-reclamation of degraded land

Dr Rodolfo addressing the trainees during a session.

With a view to strengthening the capacity of technical officers of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in water management and techniques of bio-reclamation of degraded lands (BDL) in agriculture, a training course for trainers was conducted at Sadoré on 10-15 December 2012.

Participants were given an overview of soil fertility, soil formation, land degradation, water management techniques in rainfed agriculture, water distribution, water cycle, water resources, and a demonstration of the components of BDL, such as half-moons, trenches and zai pits.

The course with 72 participants was organized by ICRISAT-Niamey and CRS and facilitated by
Dr Rodolfo Morales Martinez and Mr Saidou Abdoussalam.

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