No. 1563 22 March 2013

At the UN High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy
ICRISAT calls for climate-smart agriculture through resilient crops and systems and robust policies

“ICRISAT’s priority is to find ways to help extricate vulnerable dryland communities out of hunger and poverty using science-based solutions and pro-poor approaches and policies to climate-change adaptation. Through our research-for-development (R4D) initiatives, we believe that we can reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers to extreme weather by creating a sustainable, inclusive, resilient and profitable, climate-smart agriculture.”

Dr Cynthia Bantilan delivering a speech, on behalf of DG William Dar, during the policy segment of the closing program of HMNDP held in Geneva, Switzerland.

These were the highlights of the speech read by Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies, on behalf of Director General William Dar at the conclusion of the five-day (11-15 March) UN High-level Meeting on National Drought Policy (HMNDP) held in Geneva, Switzerland.

In the speech titled “Towards building climate-resilient crops and systems: Accelerating the pace through robust policies,” Dr Bantilan spoke of the need to integrate the adoption of climate-resilient crops and various soil, water and nutrient management systems, along with supporting agriculture and climate change policies and institutions, amid the threat of climate change.

“Employing new science tools and strategies such as remote sensing and modeling, genomics, and large-scale drought phenotyping, along with natural resource management technologies will have to be integrated with social and policy interventions to achieve a climate-smart agriculture,” she added. 

Three United Nations institutions – the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – have joined forces for the first time to lay the foundation for practical and proactive national drought policies to increase resilience to the world’s most destructive natural hazard, which is being aggravated by climate change.

“Prevention must be our priority,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in a message to the meeting delegates. “Nations need urgently to develop strategies for resilience – especially for the poor, who are always hit first and worst.”

The meeting marked the first globally-coordinated attempt to move towards science-based drought disaster risk reduction and break away from piecemeal and costly crisis-response, which often comes too late to avert death, displacement and destruction.

The closing program on 15 March featured addresses by Ministers and Heads of international organizations and the Adoption of the HMNDP Declaration. Dr Bantilan on behalf of DG Dar was the only representative from the CGIAR system given the opportunity to deliver a speech at the policy segment of the program. (Related story on the high-level drought policy meeting was published in last week’s Happenings, No. 1562).

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ICRISAT shares data management strategy at IT meeting on agriculture and food

Dr Dileepkumar speaking at the meeting in New Delhi.

Highlighting the issues, challenges and possible solutions in enhancing data management applications, ICRISAT participated in a strategy formulation meeting on Information Technology (IT) Applications in Agriculture and Food in New Delhi on 15-16 March.

ICRISAT was represented at the meeting by Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku, Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) who shared ICRISAT’s data management strategy with the participants.

Inaugurating the meeting was Dr S Ayyappan, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), who emphasized the need for knowledge-based agriculture through IT to enhance the productivity and efficiency of smallholder farmers. He added that Indian agriculture would greatly benefit from IT in various dimensions, ranging from education, research and development, to extension.

Mr J Satyanarayana, Secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) underlined the need for a center of excellence in information and communication technology (ICT) innovations to develop tools that can link agricultural producers to the increasingly globalized production chains and help develop trade opportunities.

The meeting was attended by representatives from national and international organizations, namely, University of Illinois, Kansas State University, University of Minnesota, Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) - Hyderabad, Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DAIICT), and top officials of ICAR research organizations, NGOs and the private sector.

The meeting was jointly organized by ICAR with the Information Technology Research Academy (ITRA). ITRA is a national program initiated by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Government of India, to help build a national resource to advance the quality and quantity of research and development in Information and Communications Technologies and Electronics and its applications in IT and related institutions across India.

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ICRISAT-Mali bids farewell to longtime partner

ICRISAT and IER scientists with Dr Teme.   Dr Teme showing a gift presented to him by
Dr F Waliyar.

"Bino has been a key player in the partnership between ICRISAT, the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER) and the Government of Mali in the last 20 years. He will continue to be our friend and our doors remain open for him,” said Dr Farid Waliyar, ICRISAT Director – West and Central Africa. IER Director General Dr Bino Teme was on 18 March honored with a farewell dinner at the ICRISAT-Mali office.

Under Dr Teme’s leadership, ICRISAT and IER worked together in developing and releasing technologies such as microdosing and the African Market Gardens, and in crop improvement work on cereals (millet and sorghum) that are the staple food for many in Mali and West Africa. He was also instrumental in setting up a geographic information system (GIS) unit in IER Mali that brought scientists together to work on research for development for improved crop production and better land management.  

In his message, Dr Teme said “Our mission is to develop agriculture and IER is proud to have ICRISAT as its partner in Mali. We have partially succeeded in our mission; lots of challenges remain.” Dr Teme is moving to a new assignment as Director General of the Mali Cellule de Planification Statistique (CPS), where ICRISAT’s collaborations in the future could be on impact assessment studies.

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Exploring plant genetics research opportunities with German institute

Participants of the Executive Board meeting of GCP held at IPK, Gatersleben, Germany.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Director, Centre of Excellence in Genomics (CEG), visited the Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben, Germany on 11-13 March to explore opportunities for future research collaboration. There he met leading scientists Andreas Graner (Managing Director), Jochen Reif (Head, Department of Cytogenetics), Nils Stein, Andreas Boerner and Nese Sreenivasulu. IPK is Dr Varshney’s former workplace.

Dr Varshney was at the Institute to attend the 10th Executive Board meeting of the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP), where he reported the progress made under the Comparative and Applied Genomics Theme and Research Initiative – Comparative Genomics that he leads.

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