No. 1562 15 March 2013

Building climate-resilient societies,
ICRISAT participates in global concerted push for effective drought policies

Drought is recognized as the world’s most destructive natural hazard causing death, famine and displacement of more people than any other natural disaster. Yet while droughts are expected to increase in frequency, area and intensity due to climate change, effective drought management policies are missing in most parts of the world.

ICRISAT representatives to the high-level drought policy meeting – Drs NP Singh, C Bantilan and H Upadhyaya – with the Tanzania delegation at the ICRISAT exhibit booth.

Three United Nations institutions have joined forces to promote the development and adoption of practical and proactive policies at the national level to make drought-prone countries more resilient. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and other partners have organized a High-Level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP) being held this week, 11-15 March, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The High-Level Meeting brings together world leaders, government decision makers, development agencies, and leading scientists and researchers to discuss and deliberate on drought preparedness and management policies.

ICRISAT, as one of the key partners of HMNDP, is participating in this global event bringing focus on building climate-smart agriculture to help extricate vulnerable farming communities in harsh environments out of hunger and poverty using science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches and policies to climate-change adaptation.

Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General and Mr RJ Chitsiko, Zimbabwe’s Minister of Water Resources at the ICRISAT exhibit booth.

Represented by Drs Cynthia Bantilan, Hari Upadhyaya and Naveen P Singh, ICRISAT organized a side event on “Building Resilient Crops and Resilient Systems – Hearing the Unheard Voices of the Poor” showcasing the Institute’s ongoing efforts and long-term strategic plan in improving the resilience of smallholder farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Deliberations during this side event featured science-based solutions that enable agricultural systems to effectively deal with climate-related risks and extreme events including drought, as well as best practices which have direct implications on ongoing policy formulation and national policy debates.

Featured at the side event were important key findings and policy recommendations that emerged from the recently concluded ICRISAT-led seven-country project supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on “Vulnerability to Climate Change: Adaptation Strategies and Layers of Resilience”. Some of these recommendations include: improving resilience to climatic variability and change by recognizing micro-level insights; diversified and dynamic adaptation strategies; need for convergence between development and adaptation strategies; collective action and proactive approaches of public and private sectors to make adaptation effective; and need-based programs on building climate-resilient agriculture.

Dr Bantilan also chaired a session on drought vulnerability and impact assessment while Dr Singh moderated a round-table session on drought impacts in key sectors and coping strategies. Dr Singh is also a member of the International Organizing Committee of HMNDP.

Dr LS Rathore, Director General, India Meteorological Department and India’s permanent representative to the World Meteorological Organization (center) writing on the visitor’s book.

Complementing its active participation at the HMNDP, ICRISAT is featured as one of only nine exhibitors at the venue. ICRISAT’s exhibition booth on “Building climate-smart agriculture through resilient crops and systems and robust policies,” has become an effective platform for active interaction and engagement with meeting participants. The exhibition maps out the works of ICRISAT and partners in creating an inclusive, resilient and profitable, climate-smart agriculture through science-based innovations and robust policies to reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers in the drylands to extreme weather conditions.

At the program on 15 March featuring Addresses by Ministers and Heads of international organizations and Adoption of the HMNDP Declaration, Dr Bantilan will deliver a speech on behalf of Director General William Dar entitled “Towards building climate-resilient crops and systems: Accelerating the pace through robust policies”.

Over 500 delegates from different parts of the globe are attending the HMNDP including Heads of State, Ministers, and Heads of UN agencies as well as international and regional organizations and many nations worldwide.

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Food Testing Laboratories to be set up in Nigeria and Gambia

Dr SD Mazumdar presenting the book “ICRISAT at 40: A journey to prosperity in the dryland tropics” to Hon. Amb. Kebba S Touray, Gambia’s Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment.

With food safety and health gaining importance in Africa, the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) of ICRISAT through its NutriPlus Knowledge Program (NPK) will facilitate the setting up of Food Testing Laboratories in Nigeria and Gambia. AIP’s role in this bilateral project involves providing in-house training, handholding and mentoring support in setting up state-of-the-art (ISO17025: 2005 accredited) Food Testing Laboratories.

ICRISAT is the implementing agency for this initiative under the India Africa Forum Summit II (IAFS II) of the Government of India (GoI). To move this initiative forward, ICRISAT-AIP’s Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar joined the official Indian delegation led by Mr U Venkateswarlu, Joint Secretary and Mr Suneel Kumar Arora, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), to the Republic of Nigeria and Gambia on 20-28 February.

The delegation held extensive discussions with The High Commissioner of India to Nigeria, Mr Mahesh Sachdev, and senior management of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC), Ministry of Health, Government of Nigeria. They also visited the proposed laboratory site in Kaduna in Nigeria and the NAFDAC Central Laboratory Complex at Lagos.

The Indian and Nigerian delegations at the NAFDAC facility in Abuja, Nigeria.

In Gambia, the delegation held talks at the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment and met with the Minister Hon. Amb. Kebba S Touray, Permanent Secretary, and other senior government representatives. Welcoming the Indian delegation, the Gambian Minister said that the initiative had come at the right time when the country has renewed its focus on enhancing food safety through its new food safety policy to provide safe and healthy food to its people.

The delegation identified the laboratory site and building in both countries, with NAFDAC as the host institute in Nigeria and the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) to house the laboratory in Gambia. The Food Testing Laboratories will be set up over a period of three years.

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Hybrid pigeonpea farmers’ field day held in Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh

Dr M Mula explaining methods of hybrid pigeonpea seed production to farmers.

For Guru Bhaghawan Reddy, the year 2009 was when clouds of despair melted away to give way to hope and optimism. “The Tropical Legumes II project of ICRISAT has changed my life beyond expectations and I am now totally self-sufficient,” says Mr Reddy, a farmer from Vasanthapur village in Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Three years ago, Mr Reddy took up the production of pigeonpea seed under the Tropical Legumes II project after nearly two decades of unsuccessful investment in agriculture. He has since been continuously involved in producing quality seeds and supplying them to the Andhra Pradesh State Seed Corporation.  This has led to an exponential increase in his farm income.

On 8 March, a pigeonpea hybrid seed production field day was organized in his field by the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Palem of Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University. Nearly 150 farmers (100 men and 50 women), 15 scientists, and 60 students attended the field day.

According to Bujjammma and Ramullamma, two women farmers from Achampeta village in the same district who attended the field day, “We are satisfied with the seeds of improved pigeonpea varieties supplied under the project. They are suited to our climate and are yielding 300 kg more per acre compared to local cultivars.”

Dr K Dharma Reddy, Associate Director of Research, RARS, presided over the field day program in which progressive farmers under the project shared their experiences on hybrid pigeonpea cultivation. Among those who addressed the farmers were Drs MV Nagesh Kumar, Fajana Jabeeen, Loknath Reddy and R Sudhakar who spoke on pigeonpea cultivation, marketing and storage; and Drs Myer Mula and CV Sameer Kumar of ICRISAT who explained the methods of hybrid pigeonpea seed production.

Participants during the field day at Vasanthapur village in Mahabubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh.

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Project review on sustainable intensification of maizelegume cropping systems held in Hawassa, Ethiopia

Participants of the review and planning meeting held in Hawassa, Ethiopia.

Aiming to map out activities and strategies for the project “Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume cropping systems for food security in Eastern and Southern Africa” (SIMLESA), a review and planning meeting was held in Hawassa, Ethiopia on 25-27 February.

The meeting reviewed the progress made in 2012 and refined work plans for 2013. On 25-26 February, the NARS partners presented the progress made under the following project objectives: targeting, markets and value chains; crop management including conservation agriculture; and maize-legume breeding. Under new expansion sites, research related to maize-legume-livestock interactions was also presented. The project is supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

ICRISAT’s Ganga Rao and Chris Ojiewo provided inputs and feedback to the national partners on legume breeding and seed systems, legume participatory varietal selection, maize-legume intercropping, and legumes for livestock feed in order to refine the achievements in 2012 and the work plans for 2013.

The Ethiopian NARS presented its final work plans and budgets for all the project objectives. Project stakeholders actively participated in management and coordination issues including planning for the regional review and planning meeting scheduled on 18-22 March in Chimoio, Mozambique. Discussions were also held on preparing the project proposal for phase II.

The workshop was attended by representatives from ACIAR, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), legume and maize breeders from the NARS; socioeconomists and agronomists from Melkassa Agricultural Research Center, Hawassa Agricultural Research Center, National Maize Research Project, Pawe Agricultural Research Center; and from new expansion sites ARARI-Bahir Dar and South Regional Agricultural Research Institute (Hawassa).

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Capacity building workshop for ICAR scientists and librarians

Participants of the workshop.

A two-day workshop on “Capacity Building on Agropedia and Open Access Institutional Repository” was held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 11-12 March. Fifteen scientists and seven librarians attended the workshop which aimed to build the capacity of scientists and library personnel from 11 Institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Lectures were provided by workshop coordinator Dr N T Yaduraju and Mr M Madhan, Manager, Library and Information Services, as well as demonstrations on Agropedia and ICRISAT’s Open Access Repository (OAR).

The workshop, jointly organized by the Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI), ICRISAT and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, was part of the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) – Agropedia project. KSI staff Dr Kiran Yadav and Mr Siva Shankar organized the hands-on training while Dr Sharwan Shukla and Mr Veerendra Singh from IIT, Kanpur served as resource persons.


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Oklahoma State University strengthens partnership with ICRISAT

The delegation from Oklahoma State University with DG Dar and senior management staff.

A five-member delegation from the Oklahoma State University, led by its President, Dr Burns Hargis, visited the ICRISAT headquarters on 13 March.

The primary objectives of the visit were to: explore opportunities for agriculture students of the Oklahoma State University to conduct collaborative research at ICRISAT; and work together in pursuing South-South initiative, particularly in facilitating the sharing of knowledge between India and Africa in the area of food and nutrition demand analysis. ICRISAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Oklahoma in May 2009.

The group visited the Center of Excellence in Genomics and the RS Paroda Gene Bank, met with sorghum scientists, and visited the sweet sorghum and high biomass sorghum fields. The group also met with Director General William Dar, Joanna Kane-Potaka, Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku and other senior scientists and management staff.

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Quarternary gene pool of pigeonpea explored

Rhynchosia bracteata branch with pods.

Pigeonpea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millspaugh] is a major source of protein for the resource poor people of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean and vegetarians in Asia. Productivity improvement of this crop is crucial to the food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in these areas.

The levels of resistance to many insect pests, diseases and abiotic stresses in the cultivated gene pool of pigeonpea are low, considered as a major obstacle to crop improvement. Exploiting wild relatives from different gene pools broadens its genetic base and introduces useful traits. Different techniques are involved in making inter-specific crosses. Wild relatives from secondary gene pool are cross-compatible and fairly easy to cross and obtain progenies, while wild species from the tertiary gene pool are not easy to cross.

Despite the odds, ICRISAT has successfully crossed two wild relatives from this gene pool namely C. platycarpus and C. volubilis, and stable progeny lines were obtained.  Recently, a breakthrough in pigeonpea wide crosses was made when a related genera belonging to the quarternary gene pool namely Rhynchosia was successfully crossed and fertile hybrids obtained. This opens up avenues to broaden the genetic base of pigeonpea with genetic material from different gene pools including the quarternary gene pool.  For more information about this research breakthrough, please contact Dr Nalini Mallikarjuna, ICRISAT’s Principal Scientist (Cell Biology).

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Prospective clients selected at Agribusiness Mela

Participants of the Agribusiness Mela held at ICRISAT.

Eleven potential clients were selected for business incubation support in the areas of seed business,  entrepreneurship, food business, farm venture  and innovation during the AIP Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program’s Agribusiness Mela (fair) held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 11 March.

The selected companies will receive start-up assistance from ABI primarily in exploring opportunities in agri-business and technology commercialization. ABI will also guide the companies in promoting agribusiness ventures, sharing and exchange of ideas and innovations, and availing incubation services and funding assistance. About 62 participants exploring agri-business opportunities participated in the event.

In his opening address, Dr KK Sharma discussed the role of AIP in promoting start-ups and agribusiness ventures and in nurturing innovations. He also shared the journey of the ABI program in assisting other institutions set up similar incubators in various parts of the world.

Chief guest Dr AS Rao, former Advisor, Department of Science and Industrial Research (DSIR), GoI, spoke on the growing prospects in agribusiness and shared his personal experiences on the different approaches adopted by innovators and entrepreneurs and their business acumen.

The event included five parallel sessions on innovation, new ventures, food business, seed business and farm business. Among those who spoke on the occasion were SM Karuppanchetty; Saikat Datta Mazumdar (Business opportunities in the food sector); Aravazhi Selvaraj (Business opportunities in agribusiness offered through NIABI incubators);  Siva Kumar (Farm ventures); and Harshavardhan Mane (seed business).

The key panelists of the proposal selection committee were Dr PS Raju, formerly with Technology Development Board (TDB); Dr JR Rao, Emeritus Scientist, National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM); and Dr Ganesh Pogula, Founder President, Pallesrujana.

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ICRISAT-Niamey staff visit Sadoré women farmers on Women’s Day

ICRISAT staff with women of the Sadoré village nursery.

ICRISAT-Niamey celebrated International Women’s Day on 8 March by paying a visit to a garden in Sadoré village run by women who have been trained by ICRISAT in grafting trees. Today, the women independently produce their own grafted trees.

The women from Sadoré village felt their lives had improved and that they were playing a key role in terms of contributing to household food security. Their earnings come in handy to buy food and send their children to school, and in improving their economic condition and social standing.

However, they raised the need to have access to the village road and to find a second selling point for their garden produce in Niamey. The women of ICRISAT-Niamey made a monetary contribution to the association and promised to help them sell their garden produce.

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