07 Jun 2013
No. 1574

Bill Gates commends ICRISAT’s work on reducing hunger and poverty

Mr Bill Gates receiving the ICRISAT Ambassador of Goodwill plaque from Dr William Dar, ICRISAT Director General. Photo: Prashant Panjiar

With food insecurity and malnutrition persisting as the greatest challenges facing humanity in the coming decades, Mr Bill Gates acknowledged the potential of ICRISAT’s works on grain legumes and dryland cereals in helping millions of smallholder farmers in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa lift themselves out of hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Mr Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, visited the ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru, Hyderabad on Thursday, 30 May. This was Mr Gates’ first visit to this Institute where he held discussions with the management and several key scientists to gain a better appreciation of the foundation’s research for development investments to ICRISAT.

“ICRISAT crops are great – as they target millions of smallholder farmers globally,” said Mr Gates. The tour highlighted the uniqueness and importance of the works and initiatives of ICRISAT and its partners, particularly in providing modern crop improvement technologies and best management practices on once ‘orphan’ or neglected crops like grain legumes and dryland cereals.

“The drylands are home to 644 million poorest of the poor, and highly nutritious, drought-tolerant crops such as grain legumes and dryland cereals are the best bets for smallholder farmers in these marginal environments to survive and improve their livelihoods,” explained Dr William Dar, ICRISAT Director General.

Dr David Hoisington, ICRISAT Deputy Director General for Research, highlighted the case of grain legumes and dryland cereals: “Chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut are the ‘poor people’s meat’ – crucial for ending global malnutrition. Sorghum and millets provide food security to the poorest people.”

ICRISAT scientists demonstrated the different high-end sciences that the institute uses – genomics, bioinformatics, phenotyping and genetic engineering – all integrated or complementing each other as part of its crop improvement program for smallholder farming.

Considered as international public goods, scientists and national partners worldwide can have free access to ICRISAT’s genotyping and phenotyping data, captured and analyzed through its work on bioinformatics, for their respective molecular breeding processes.

“That was cool!” was how Mr Gates reacted on ICRISAT’s lysimeter facility for phenotyping, a first of its kind in the world and the largest within the CGIAR system. The facility is now being successfully used for measuring plant responses to water stress related to drought and climate change adaptation.

Mr Gates at ICRISAT’s lysimeter facility for phenotyping. Others in the photo are (L-R): Dr Prem Warrior (behind), Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr D Hoisington, Dr WD Dar and Dr V Vadez.
Photo: Prashant Panjiar

Mr Gates also engaged in a roundtable discussion with ICRISAT scientists on the impacts and challenges of applying the science on the ground. Two projects funded by the foundation were highlighted as the case: the HOPE project (Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets) in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia which seeks to increase by 30% the productivity of sorghum and millets in 200,000 farmers’ fields; and the Tropical Legumes project which aims to enhance productivity of six legume crops (groundnut, cowpea, common bean, chickpea, pigeonpea and soybean) by at least 20% through improved cultivars and management practices and the development of markets and value chains.

The poor in the target areas of these two projects are the most malnourished, food-insecure in the world, unable to earn adequate incomes from agriculture which is their only source of food, nutrition and livelihoods. The impacts and achievements of these foundation-funded projects are now changing the lives of the poor, providing millions of smallholder farmers with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families.

Recognizing the consistent and generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the institute, ICRISAT honored Mr Bill Gates as its first Ambassador of Goodwill.

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Pursuing purposive partnerships
ICRISAT joins China-CGIAR collaboration workshop

Dr Dar with the President of CAAS, Dr Li Jiayang.

Celebrating 30 years of China-CGIAR collaboration and aiming to identify future areas to strengthen partnerships, 12 CGIAR Center Directors General and senior staff organized a special workshop on 6 June during the 4th Global Forum of Leaders for Agricultural Science and Technology (GLAST-2013) held in Beijing.

In a panel discussion on future China-CGIAR collaboration, Director General William Dar highlighted ICRISAT’s engagements with China since 1988 in building better lives for the dryland poor. Technologies developed through the institute’s collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) have played a major role in China’s rainfed agriculture.

A book on 30 Years of China – CGIAR Collaboration was released on the occasion containing case studies of successes in sorghum, pigeonpea and peanut collaborative research. Chinese scientists openly acknowledged the contribution of ICRISAT’s germplasm and breeding materials of all three crops in enhancing production and productivity in China.

Dr CLL Gowda, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, reported on the deliberations of the panel discussions during the plenary session. It was concluded that China has benefitted substantially from collaboration with CGIAR, and that it now needs to elevate its partnership with the latter through enhanced funding contribution and participation in South-South partnership for engagement in Africa.

The workshop coincided with the GLAST-2013 co-sponsored by CAAS, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, CGIAR and the Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission. The Forum was attended by more than 300 delegates from 60 countries, including 150 from China. It was inaugurated by China’s Minister of Agriculture, Mr Hen Changfu, and the session was presided by Vice Minister of Agriculture and President of CAAS, Prof Li Jiayang. Others present during the Forum were FAO Director General José G de Silva; CGIAR Consortium Board Chair Carlos Pérez del Castillo; CGIAR Consortium Chief Executive Officer, Frank Rijsberman; OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría; and World Bank Vice President Makhtar Diop.

Improving Dryland Agriculture Productivity workshop
Prior to the Beijing engagement, the ICRISAT delegation led by Dr Dar along with Drs Gowda, Stefania Grando, Suhas P Wani, Farid Waliyar, Moses Siambi and Hari Sudini participated in the workshop on Improving Dryland Agriculture Productivity held on 3-4 June in Wuhan, China organized by CAAS and co-sponsored by the Natural Science Foundation of China, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and ICRISAT.

The ICRISAT delegation led by Dr Dar during the workshop on Improving Dryland Agriculture Productivity.

The two ICRISAT-led CGIAR Research Programs on GrainLegumes and on DrylandCereals were presented during the workshop by Drs Gowda and Grando, respectively. Other ICRISAT presentations included: Integrated management of water and land resources (SP Wani); Harnessing the potential of legume genetic resources in crop improvement (CLL Gowda); and Harnessing the potential of cereal genetic resources in crop improvement (S Grando).

Drs Dar, Wani and Gowda likewise participated in the Steering Committee Meeting of the Center of Excellence for Dryland Agriculture (CEDA). The main focus for collaboration as discussed in the meeting will be on enhancing eco-intensification to improve dryland productivity in well-endowed areas and enhancing crop-livestock production to improve dryland resilience and livelihoods.

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Tropical Legumes II – New varieties spread, millions of lives touched

Addressing the participants: (Left) Dr J Ehlers of the Gates Foundation and DG William Dar.
Photo: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

The importance of legumes to the nutrition and income of the poor was highlighted during the Tropical Legumes II South Asia regional meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 27-29 May. Preliminary results of the project reveal promising adoption of new varieties in South Asia, particularly in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Orissa in India.

The meeting was inaugurated by Director General William Dar who reiterated the importance of legumes in the livelihoods of the poor. He also commended the project partners for the great achievements made in the areas of seed systems, variety development and promotional activities during the 2012-13 season.

Preliminary results for early adoption were presented for India revealing notable project achievements. In Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, 87% of chickpea farmers have switched from the 40-year-old variety Annigeri to new improved cultivars, notably JG-11 and JAKI-9218. Prakasam district have achieved 100% replacement of Annigeri with two new varieties: KAK-2 (Kabuli) occupying nearly 80% and JG-11 (Desi) occupying the remaining 20%.  In Karnataka, new varieties like JG-11, BGD-103 and JAKI-9218 already occupy nearly 59% of the area in Dharwad district. In Gulbarga district, improved cultivars JG-11, BGD-103, MNK-1 and KAK-2 have replaced 60% of Annigeri.

For groundnuts, there is a new government policy that will see a progressive decline in the share of the old TMV-2 variety and a gradual increase in the proportion of farmers growing new improved varieties. In Karnataka for example, government indent for breeder seed of TMV-2 has been reduced to just 3% whereas that for improved varieties like ICGV 91114 has increased to 14%.  

For pigeonpea, in Rangareddy district of Andhra Pradesh, the project has achieved 85% area replacement of old varieties with Asha and PRG 158 which are resistant to fusarium wilt and sterility mosaic diseases.  As a result, the productivity of the crop has doubled from 750 to 1500 kg/ha during the past 7 years with direct benefit to approximately 40,000 smallholder farmers.

During the reporting period, one variety was released and notified in India and four more varieties were recommended for release in Bangladesh and India. Farmer participatory variety selection trials have been expanded to new villages to upscale this activity in all project countries and States.  As a significant outcome of the project, active legumes breeding programs are now operational in Bangladesh and all target states in India supporting crop improvement operations needed to exploit genetic gain and deliver new varieties.  

South Asia uses a combination of formal and informal systems such as community-based models, State seed agencies, State and Central government seed farms, crop federations, farmer associations and the private sector to meet seed production targets.  The chickpea seed systems in India, for example, involve 62 private seed companies accounting for approximately one-third of the total chickpea produced in the country. Combined chickpea seed production from research stations was 1,611 MT, whereas the public sector provided 27,130 MT; farmer groups and farmer associations 4,793 MT; and the private sector
13,700 MT.  Total chickpea seed produced in India for the 2012-13 season was 47,234 MT. Using similar arrangements, total groundnut seed production was 23,818.27 MT and for pigeonpea 1,189 MT. 

To date, the total legume seed produced by partners through the project stands at 222,531 MT. The project hopes to reach smallholder farmers with improved varieties through small seed packs (1 kg, 2 kg, 5 kg). At the current smallholder land allocation to legumes of approximately 0.2 ha per household, the 5 kg pack will guarantee farmers their seed legume requirement for one season.  The seed so far produced through the project is enough to serve 44.5 million smallholder farmers – providing the legume protein and nutrition requirement of 222.5 million individuals (5 persons/ household).

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Producers and extension agents trained on fertilizer microdosing mechanization in Mali

Discs that participants were given during the crop season to conduct experiments. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Fertilizer microdosing, a technology developed by ICRISAT and partners in Western Africa has contributed to increases in production, productivity and incomes. It involves the manual application of fertilizer into planting holes as a response to low soil fertility, limited access to fertilizers and difficult climatic conditions in the Sahel. However, this time consuming and labor-intensive manual technology is taking a mechanized turn.

According to Kamkam Woumou of the Institut d’ Economie Rurale (IER), “When scientists at IER saw producers mixing fertilizer with seeds at sowing in order to save on labor, the institute along with partners, the Department of International Environment and Development Studies (NORAGRIC) and GCOZA, developed a special disk and a particularly innovative planter that simultaneously sows a mixture of seeds and fertilizer and allows for mechanization of the fertilizer microdosing technology used in Mali.”

While the manual application of fertilizer can take up to six working days per person for an area of over 1 hectare, the mechanized application takes only one working day per person. Mechanization reduces time and labor, leads to the sowing of seedlings in a straight line, and accurate seed and fertilizer drop into the planting hole, thereby facilitating crop growth.

A training program on mechanized microdosing of fertilizer was conducted for 22 cereal producers and testers, members of farmer organizations, and agricultural extension officers from southern Mali at ICRISAT – Samanko on 28-30 May. Farmer organizations and extension agents were given disks to experiment in their respective zones during the cropping season. The idea is to test the technology in combination with hybrid and improved seeds of sorghum and pearl millet and complementary fertilizer application at weeding and ridging. Depending on the results of these tests, it is planned to make this technology available on a larger scale in Mali.

Says one of the trainees, Seydou Coulibaly from the Union Local des Producteurs du Cercle de Dioila, “If the test is successful, we will acquire disks for all our members because it could contribute to an increase in cereal production”. Balla Togola, President of Union des Sociétés Coopératives des Producteurs de Maïs de Dièdougou, another farmer union, is highly optimistic of the technology’s ability to reduce expenses and increase productivity.

ICRISAT will test the technology in Nigeria. According to Aliyu Adinoyi, ICRISAT Research Assistant with ICRISAT – Kano, “We have acquired planters and disks. I am here to see how the machine works. If the technology is tested and introduced to farmers in Nigeria, it will reduce the cost of planting, lead to the optimum use of seed, and reduce seed wastage. We have met some manufacturers and are exploring ways of improving the technology in Northern Nigeria, mainly in Katsina, Kano, Jigawa and Bauchi states.”

Participants undergo a practical session on mechanical application of fertilizer. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Earlier projects on microdosing by ICRISAT and partners like the Alliance for a Green Revolution led to substantial impacts – 25,000 smallholder farmers in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger experienced increases in sorghum and millet yields of 44-120%, along with an increase in their family incomes by 30%.

This training was organized by ICRISAT in collaboration with IER as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and the HOPE project.

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HOPE planning meeting for pearl millet in South Asia

The Annual Review and Planning Meeting of the ICRISAT-led HOPE project for Pearl Millet (South Asia) was held on 5 June at the ICRISAT headquarters. Thirty participants including NARS partners, representatives from the private sector and ICRISAT scientists attended the meeting.

Dr Vincent Vadez, Assistant Program Director – Research Program on Dryland Cereals, welcomed the participants while Dr SK Gupta, Senior Scientist (Pearl Millet) briefed them about the objectives of the meeting. The session was chaired by Mr G Harinarayana, with NARS partners from Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat presenting progress reports for 2012. Drs N Nagaraj, P Parthasarathy Rao, SK Gupta and Rajan Sharma highlighted the overall reports of various objectives and discussed work plans for 2013. The discussion on work plans for 2013 saw active participation by the private sector.

The session chaired by Dr P Parthasarathy Rao had the group discussing findings of baseline, monitoring and early adoption studies conducted. NARS partners presented their findings for Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat. Both public and private sector partners appreciated the project’s efforts in identifying promising hybrids for marginal environments of India

Participants of the meeting held at ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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HOPE project scientists trained in data analysis and drafting results

ICRISAT’s Biometrics Unit conducted a two-week Data Analysis and Results Drafting workshop for the HOPE project on 20-31 May in Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop trained the partners on methodically organizing, curating and analyzing data sets of single/multi-environment regional trials and on drafting interpreted and analyzed results and figures into reporting and publishable form.

Twenty-six participants from the NARS of Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Southern Sudan, Tanzania, Malawi and Eritrea participated in the workshop. Data sets from partners were collected and cleaned for influential observation problems and put in the form of templates usable for statistical analysis and data management software. More importantly, the workshop made available all the data sets in the proper format, with project coordinators enabling their sharing as global public goods through data sharing platforms.

Among those who facilitated the workshop were Drs Mary Mgonja and Henry Ojulong, Mr Patrick Sheunda and Ms Christine Wangari (ICRISAT-Nairobi) and Dr Abhishek Rathore, Mr AnilKumar V and Ms Roma Rani Das (ICRISAT headquarters).

Participants of the Data Analysis and Results Drafting workshop for the HOPE project held in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: KSMS, Nairobi, Kenya

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Feasibility studies and business plans for five food testing laboratories in Africa completed

The team pays a visit to Casera beverages company in Lagos. Photo: ICRISAT   Honorary Consul General of India to Gambia, His Excellency Mr Ram Mohan (2nd from right) visits the food testing lab building site along with the ICRISAT team. Photo: ICRISAT

With a series of visits to Nigeria and Gambia, ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) has completed the feasibility studies and business plans for all five food testing laboratories being established by the Government of India under the India Africa Forum Summit II.

Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar and Mr Aravazhi Selvaraj visited Nigeria on 14-18 April. During the visit, extensive discussions were held with the Deputy High Commissioner of India to Nigeria Mr Suresh K Makhijani, the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control of Nigeria, Dr Paul
B Orhii, and other important stakeholders involved in establishment of the food testing laboratories. The delegation also visited the site at Kaduna for a detailed discussion on the design and layout of the laboratory. They also met with representatives and stakeholders from various food industries in Nigeria.

In the Gambian phase of the visit on 19-24 April, the delegation interacted with the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment on the mode and modalities of finalizing the building site for and designing the laboratory, and interacted with different stakeholders in order to gather data and information leading to the preparation of the feasibility study and business plan. His Excellency Mr Ram Mohan, Honorary Consul General of India to Gambia, was later briefed on the objectives and activities taken up by the Indian delegation during the visit.

Based on the feasibility studies and business plans  of the NutriPlus Knowledge Program of AIP, the implementing agency for the project shall now initiate the process of establishing the food testing laboratories in the five African countries – Republic of Congo, Gambia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

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