03 May 2013
No. 1569

Improving livelihoods through AR4D
Bhoochetana presented at the CGIAR Fund Council forum on “Partnering for Impact”

Dr SP Wani highlighting the benefits of Bhoochetana at a session of the CGIAR Fund Council donors meeting in New Delhi. Also seen are (L-R) Dr KV Raju, Economic Advisor to the Chief Minister of Karnataka; Dr GVK Rau, Principal Secretary, Cooperation, Government of Karnataka; Dr S Ayyappan, Director General, ICAR and Mr Iftikhar Mostafa, Facilitator, CGIAR Fund Office. Photo: ICRISAT

Reforms in the CGIAR have spawned new ways of thinking about agricultural research for development, innovative ways of doing science and broader partnerships to reduce rural poverty, improve food security, improve nutrition and health and the sustainable management of natural resources. A step in this direction is the Government of Karnataka (GoK)-CGIAR’s Bhoochetana initiative for improving rural livelihoods through innovative scaling-up of science-led participatory research for development.

The Bhoochetana initiative’s synergistic and participatory approach was showcased during a session of the CGIAR Fund Council “Partnering for Impact” donors meeting in New Delhi on 26 April. One of four program initiatives selected for presentation to the Fund Council, it drew appreciation for its innovation and scaling-up of benefits of strategic research for development.

(L-R) CGIAR Consortium CEO Dr Frank Rijsberman interacting with Drs KV Raju, GVK Rau and SP Wani. Photo: ICRISAT

Presenting the initiative was a panel comprising Dr SP Wani, Assistant Research Program Director - Resilient Dryland Systems and Principal Scientist (Watersheds); Dr KV Raju, Economic Advisor to the Chief Minister of Karnataka and Mr GVK Rau, Principal Secretary, Cooperation, Government of Karnataka. Elaborating on the novelty of the initiative, Dr SP Wani highlighted its Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach and how impacts would be achieved by (1) adopting a consortium mode for building partnerships, (2) convergence of schemes for a holistic approach, (3) capacity building to empower stakeholders, and (4) collective action for sustainability.

Dr Wani added that the initiative had reached more than three million smallholder and marginal farmers in Karnataka, contributing substantially to enhancing the State’s agricultural growth rate with an estimated gross value of products for the 2011 season amounting to US$ 130 million.

While Dr GVK Rau explained the institutional arrangements in place for the convergence of different government schemes, the innovative monitoring and evaluation arrangements and line department activities, Dr KV Raju highlighted GoK’s strategy to take the initiative forward. Dr Raju made a case for strengthening the GoK-CGIAR partnership through a coordination committee, independent monitoring and impact assessment and by providing matching grants from the Consortium.

Commenting on the presentation, Dr Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR Consortium said, “Bhoochetana is a very good success story and one needs to listen carefully to understand its nuances as it has contributed to system level outcomes.”

“This is one of the best examples to convince that more investments in strategic research benefit  development,” said Dr Juergen Voegle, World Bank, Fund Council.  “The impact and cost benefit ratios are very good and the way the case has been  presented logically is very convincing,” he added.

Under the GoK-CGIAR initiative led by ICRISAT, seven members of the CGIAR Consortium (ICRISAT, IWMI, ILRI, IRRI, CIMMYT, ICARDA, IFPRI, ICRAF and AVRDC) have joined hands to provide technical support in establishing four benchmark sites in Karnataka, based on the success of the Bhoochetana program, the state’s flagship initiative on science-based agricultural development.

The presentation was well received by the World Bank, European Union and other participants who sought more details on the initiative.

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Value chain analysis and how to apply the concepts and tool

A five-day training workshop on ValueLinks was held in Nairobi on 8–12 April to provide economists from ICRISAT and partner institutions in Eastern Africa with a shared understanding and a set of concepts for value chain analysis as well as examples of how to apply these concepts and tools.

The trainers – Mr Joachim Weber and co-trainers Mr Arshfod Ngugi and Mr Jeremiah Mbugua – guided the trainees through the 11 different modules of the ValueLinks methodology which is a structured and comprehensive approach to value chain analysis developed for and used by the German International Cooperation (GIZ).

Emphasis was laid on tailor-made elements, including extensive group work on selected commodity value chains (green gram, sorghum and groundnut), and a visit to two flour processing companies (Kabansora Millers and Mama Millers) and a large fertilizer distributor (Mea Fertilizer Company) in Nairobi which takes account of the HOPE project’s mandate  crops, sorghum and millets.

Sixteen participants took part in the workshop from ICRISAT (headquarters, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe); the East African Grain Council (EAGC), a HOPE project partner; Tanzania Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security; Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research; Makerere University and the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), Uganda. It was organized by the ICRISAT Nairobi office.

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ICRISAT at the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture

Dr R Varshney making a presentation at the G-8 conference. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) delivered a presentation on “Open data in genomics and modern breeding for crop improvement” at the two-day conference on Open Data for Agriculture held at the World Bank in Washington on 29-30 April. He highlighted the work being done by ICRISAT, the Generation Challenge Program (GCP), and partner institutes in the area of Open Data in the context of genomics and modern breeding, underlining the perspectives, opportunities and challenges for global breeding in the next 10 years. The presentation was made available by the World Bank as an Open Webinar (Day-2 video, 30 April, http://goo.gl/ydYaj) and attracted many tweets in addition to good discussions in the conference. Dr Varshney also participated in a panel discussion on “What does Open Data look like?”

The conference was the result of a commitment made in 2012 by leaders of G-8 to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, wherein it was agreed to share relevant agricultural data available from G-8 countries with African partners. The conference was meant to develop options for the establishment of a global platform to make reliable agricultural and related information available to African farmers, researchers and policymakers.

Delivering their messages at the inaugural session of the conference were Mr Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture; Mr Bill Gates (by video); Ms Rachel Kyte, Vice President, World Bank; and Mr Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer, White House. Secretary Vilsack defined open data as data that is freely available without restrictions and in formats that are readable not only by humans, but also by machines.

The conference was rich in content and had presentations and discussions on different open data initiatives, starting from the collection of African household data to the management of huge genome sequencing data. There was a general consensus on the need for data to be open not only through open licensing but also in a way that can be easily accessed by machine agents.

The conference organized by the Governments of USA and UK on behalf of G-8 countries, included official delegations from G-8 countries, stakeholders and subject experts.

Dr R Varshney as panelist during the conference. Photo: ICRISAT

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Indian Agri-Business Incubation Conference focuses on technology commercialization

(Left) Chief Guest Dr PS Pandey speaks at the NIABI 2013 conference. (Right) The press and participants during the inaugural of the NIABI 2013 Conference. Photo: S Sharma, ICRISAT

Since its inception in 2009, the Network of Indian Agri-business Incubators (NIABI) has marked its presence by impacting innovations, entrepreneurs, and institutions. In the third edition of its annual conference, “Indian Agri-Business Incubation Conference: NIABI 2013” held on 26 April at the HITEX Exhibition Center in Hyderabad, the focus was on agro-technology commercialization with emphasis on business meetings (B2B) and deal finalization between entrepreneurs/industries and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research  (ICAR).

Conducted by ICRISAT through its Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program along with ICAR, NIABI 2013 was hosted as part of AGRITEX 2013, which brought together the farming community, agri-specialists and agri-service providers.

Describing the role incubators play in nurturing start-ups, Chief Guest Dr PS Pandey, National Coordinator, NAIP (ICAR) said, “Incubators play a crucial role in bringing different stakeholders together. By helping nurture innovations and entrepreneurship in agriculture, ABI is fulfilling ICRISAT’s mission of eliminating poverty and improving livelihoods.”

Dr Kiran K Sharma, CEO, AIP-ICRISAT in his welcome address, spoke about how growing global agri-business ventures are exploring new markets to achieve growth and develop their businesses. He stressed the need to create competitive agri-business enterprises through technology development and commercialization to benefit farmers in the semi-arid tropics.

Mr SM Karuppanchetty giving his closing remarks during the NAIBI 2013 conference. Photo: S Sharma, ICRISAT

NIABI 2013 also served as a platform for 52 ready-to-commercialize agro-technologies from six sectors – crops, horticulture, food technology, animal husbandry, cotton and jute fiber products and fisheries. Agri-business incubators from NIABI presented their technologies, explained the process of technology transfer and listed the incubator services used in ensuring that the venture succeeds.

As part of the conference, 85 B2B meetings were conducted between incubator teams and industrialists and agri-business entrepreneurs for technology commercialization. Thirty-one technologies were commercialized from a pool of 82 shortlisted, high-impact technologies.

The estimated value of the technology transfer is 3 crore ($0.56 million).

Over 120 participants took part in this event which provided innovators with an opportunity to explore and incubate their ideas through NIABI.

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NIABI Awards 2013

Left) Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director, SMC speaks on behalf of DG William Dar during the inauguration of AGRITEX. (Right) NIABI awardees pose with the dignitaries. Photo: PS Kumar, ICRISAT

The NIABI National Awards for 2013 were presented during the inaugural of AGRITEX 2013 on 25 April by Mr Kanna Laxminarayana, Minister for Agriculture and Agriculture Technology Mission, Government of Andhra Pradesh. The awards were instituted to recognize Business Planning & Development (BPD) Units of NIABI for their excellent performance and incubatees for their dedication in setting up successful agribusiness ventures.

The guests of honor at the event were Dr PS Pandey, National Coordinator, NAIP and Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director, Strategic Marketing and Communication, ICRISAT, representing Dr Dar, Director General of ICRISAT.

The National Award for the Best Agribusiness Incubatee 2013 went to Kemrock Agritech Private Limited, an incubatee of the business incubator at Anand Agricultural University (AAU), Anand. The company played a major role in commercializing Anubhav liquid biofertilizer under the name Tapak Bund.

The National Award for the Best Agribusiness Incubator 2013 was awarded to the agribusiness incubator of the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Cochin.

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Rice Biofortification Trials being planned

The Rice Biofortification Research group met on 12 April in Srinagar to review the progress made and plan future activities prior to a combined meeting with the All India Coordinated Rice Improvement Project Workshop. It was decided to constitute a separate Rice Biofortification Trial involving 15 high-zinc varieties from three research centers to be evaluated at 20 locations in 2013. This new trial system may lead to the fast-track identification and release of high-zinc rice varieties that have assumed importance since they are to  be included in the Government of India’s Nutri-Farm pilot program.

These group meetings have led to a greater integration of research activities between HarvestPlus, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in terms of information and material sharing and joint evaluation of materials. The need to test the precision of XRF, ICP and AAS machines in laboratories was recognized. The Directorate of Rice Research will lead in producing and supplying the required material and in the hands-on training of technicians/scientists from biofortification research centers (both rice and wheat) in the use of these machines in July 2013 at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.

Among those who attended the meeting were Dr SK Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), ICAR and Dr KS Charak, Advisor, Department of Biotechnology.

Participants of the rice biofortification meeting held in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Photo: ICRISAT

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ICRISAT continues to strengthen partnership with Philippine NARES

ITCAF Director Mr GGB Fantastico presenting a token to ICRISAT staff led by DG William Dar. Photo: ICRISAT

ICRISAT scientists took the opportunity of their presence at the recently concluded 23rd Philippine Association of Research Managers, Inc. (PHILARM) convention and 3rd Asian Conference on Plant Growth-Promoting Rhizobacteria (PGPR) and other Microbials held in the Philippines to further strengthen ties with the Philippines NARES and pursue proposed projects. Leading this initiative was Director General Dr William Dar, Drs CLL Gowda, SP Wani, GV RangaRao, Hari Sudini, S Gopalakrishnan, Dileepkumar and Rosana Mula.

Drs Dileepkumar and Mula met with the information technology group of the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) on 22 April to discuss current innovations in knowledge sharing and management. This was followed by a meeting with the Information Technology Center for Agriculture and Fisheries (ITCAF) where Dr William Dar together with Drs Dileepkumar and Mula, presented ICRISAT’s Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) activities and the proposal on the P-NOY DAR tablet whose main objective is to support extension and marketing systems. In attendance was ITCAF Director Mr Gary Glenn B Fantastico and IT staff of various Department of Agriculture (DA) line agencies. ITCAF has committed to fast track the proposal.

At another meeting in BAR on 23 April on the project ‘Adoption of Bhoochetana principles and approach in boosting agricultural productivity in the Philippines’ which has been approved in principle, Dr Dar gave valuable inputs on the proposed management of the  project, partnership, and the need for stakeholder commitment to be well-defined. Also attending were Drs SP Wani, Dileepkumar and R Mula.

At the Benguet State University (BSU), La Trinidad on 26 April, seminars were presented on  ‘Role of ICRISAT legumes in Philippines agriculture’ (CLL Gowda);  ‘Research station development and management’ (M Prabhakar Reddy); and the ‘Use of innovative ICT tools and approaches for effective agricultural knowledge sharing and communication’ (Dileepkumar and R Mula). The seminars were attended by BSU faculty, staff, students, representatives from BAR, state universities and colleges of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). Dr Gowda also sought updates on the ICRISAT-BSU projects in chickpea and pigeonpea, and visited fields within the University campus. Dr GV Ranga Rao was the resource person for the training on ‘Integrated pest management and production of biopesticide with emphasis on NPV’’ held on 29-30 April.

Thanking ICRISAT for its continued support, BSU president Dr Ben Ladilad and Vice President (Research and Extension) Dr Luciana Villanueva noted that the best way to innovate was through partnership, and assured that BSU would fully support upcoming R&D activities between ICRISAT and the University.

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Tropical Legumes II partners meet in Mali

Core partners of the Tropical Legumes II project in Mali met at ICRISAT-Bamako on 23 April to refine work plans for 2013 developed during the regional review meeting held in Accra, Ghana during 18-20 March.

Dr Bonny Ntare, Assistant Director, WCA & Principal Scientist - Breeding (Grain Legumes) welcomed the participants on behalf of Regional Director Dr Farid Waliyar.  Dr Ondie Kodio, head of the groundnut program at IER presented an overview of the achievements in 2012 and the work plan for 2013. The work plan was reviewed and amendments made in view of the prevailing socio-political situation in Mali.

Participants at the meeting included representatives from ICRISAT-Bamako, the National Agricultural Research Institute (IER), NGOs (EUCORD, Plan Mali, Sahel 21, CAAD and Mali Folkecenter), a farmers’ organization (AOPP) and a private seed company (Faso Kaba).

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Project on breeding for high oil content groundnut genotypes in India reviewed

The annual review and work plan meeting of the project, ‘Development and promotion of promising varieties/lines with high yield and high oil content with enhanced O/L ratio for enhancing production and quality of groundnut oil in drought-prone environments to boost the income of small and marginal groundnut farmers in India” was held on 18 April at the Directorate of Groundnut Research (DGR), Junagadh, Gujarat. The project is funded by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India and aims to enhance oil quality and identify and release high oil groundnut varieties in India.

At a recently concluded workshop of the All India Coordinated Research Project on Groundnut, national partners Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU) and Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) proposed that breeding lines ICGV 03042, ICGV 03043, ICGV 03057, ICGV 05155, ICGV 06420, ICGV 07222, ICGV 06146 and ICGV 07018 be sent for national performance evaluation based on the multilocation evaluation of high oil (> 50%) groundnut breeding lines at five locations during 2011-2013. More lines are proposed to be included in state-level multilocation evaluations in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh during the 2013 season. Progress made in marker-assisted backcrossing (MABC) to enhance oil quality in terms of Oleic/linoleic acid ratio (O/L ratio) was also reviewed and work plans for 2013-14 were finalized.

The participants included partners from the Directorate, JAU, TNAU, ANGRAU, Regional Agricultural Research Station (Tirupati) and ICRISAT represented by Drs HD Upadhyaya, P Janila and MK Pandey.

Participants of the meeting. Photo: DGR, Junagadh

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Tours of ICRISAT - Sharing of latest scientific research, achievements and hurdles

The SDC team: (L-R) Drs KR Viswanathan, Deputy Head, Climate Change and Development, New Delhi; Peter Bieler; Pratibha Singh, Manager, Technology Advancement Unit, Department of Biotechnology, GoI and Pierre-Andre Cordey, Programme Manager, Bern at ICRISAT’s SatVenture. Photo: L. Vidya Sagar, ICRISAT
Mr Bernard Rey (3rd from left) with senior staff of ICRISAT. Photo: MM Sharma, ICRISAT
Dr Vincent Vadez (left) briefs Dr Prem Warrior about ICRISAT’s phenotyping work. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

ICRISAT greatly appreciates visits from its stakeholders, partners and the community. Three  delegations, from the European Commission; Swiss Agency for International Cooperation (SDC), Swiss Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation were here recently to meet with senior staff of ICRISAT.

Dr Peter Bieler, Head of Global Programme Food Security, SDC, noted the importance of long-term research that pays in the end, and highlighted the significance of communicating research and impact successes. He said the Agency was keen to support research in a continuity.

Mr Bernard Rey, Deputy Head of Unit, Rural Development, Food Security, Nutrition, European Commission, noted the need to focus agricultural research for development on the most needy countries. He also recognized the need for communicating the work and its progress, especially to non-scientific audiences. He greatly appreciated the opportunity to tour ICRISAT and meet with scientists.

Dr Prem Warrior, Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was briefed by Dr Vincent Vadez on the phenotyping work at ICRISAT, where the lysimetric approach is being successfully used for plant responses to water stress related to drought and climate change adaptation. Dr Warrior thanked ICRISAT for the tour of the facilities. ICRISAT scientists were appreciative of the inputs and challenges posed by Dr Warrior on ways to accelerate the adoption of scientific advancements.

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