14 Jun 2013
No. 1575

ICRISAT-HOPE project interventions stymie drought impacts

HOPE project farmers from Maharashtra rejoice as they show the sorghum panicles harvested this year despite the vagaries of nature. Photo: MPKV, Maharashtra

Unfavorable conditions like a 30% deficit in rainfall and severe drought failed to make a dent in the lives of over 33,000 farmers in the Marathwada and western Maharashtra regions of India thanks to HOPE project interventions like improved cultivars, crop and drought management practices and creating market linkages that brought with them greater grain and fodder yields. 

Farmers growing postrainy season sorghum in Maharashtra state of India had yet another difficult year in 2012-2013, with rainfall being 30% below the normal levels in Marathwada and Western Maharashtra regions. Most farmers did not plant the crop as there was insufficient moisture in the field. Even if sown, the crop dried in most areas and there was no panicle exsertion because of severe drought.

However, there was a ray of hope in this gloomy situation. Interventions under the ICRISAT-led HOPE project helped defy drought and protect the sorghum crop in the project cluster villages. Improved cultivars and crop and drought management practices provided under the project in the last four years have helped over 33,000 sorghum farmers get on an average 40% higher grain yields and 29% higher fodder yields compared to the local cultivars and practices. Further, market linkages promoted under the project have enabled the farmers to get higher prices for their grain and fodder.

This was revealed at the Fourth Annual Review and fifth year workplan development meeting of the project held at YASHADA, Pune, in Maharashtra during 11-12 June. In this project funded by the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Marathwada Agricultural University (MAU), Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) and Directorate of Sorghum Research (DSR) are ICRISAT’s partners in the sorghum component.

Project Manager G Okwach (far right) speaks at the meeting. Photo: MPKV, Maharashtra

Delivering the opening address, MPKV Vice Chancellor Dr TA More commended the efforts of ICRISAT and partner institution scientists in transferring the technologies to over 33,000 farmers and making a big difference in their lives.

Dr Stefania Grando, Director, Research Program-Dryland Cereals commended the good work done in India, the ownership of the project by partners and the impact on farmers, thereby helping them achieve large gains in productivity and incomes. She recognized the team spirit of the scientists from different organizations and suggested that the team document the results, successes and case studies for the benefit of all stakeholders.

HOPE project manager George Okwach, in his remarks, appreciated the overall progress of the project in South Asia and urged the team to identify loose ends and critical gaps based on what has been done and the lessons learnt, so that the project can address these in the extended period granted to it. He lamented that though the project had done well in postrainy season sorghum in Maharashtra, the good work had largely remained unknown as not many success stories had been written and shared widely. He revealed that the project would soon bring out a series of newsletters to share the project’s work, from the farmers’ perspective.

The progress made during the year under various project objectives was presented by Drs Belum Reddy, Nagaraj, Basavaraj and Ashok Kumar with support from SR Gadakh, SP Mehtre, Pokharkar, Sachin More and Ravi. The team also conducted a regional workshop to share the results from baseline and monitoring and early adoption studies led by Dr Nagaraj (ICRISAT) and supported by
Mr Pokharkar and Mr More (MPKV).

The review meeting recognized the impressive gains made by the project, identified critical constraints, and came out with policy recommendations. The workplan for year five covering the no-cost extension period and transition phase were presented by       Drs Nagaraj, Belum Reddy, Parthasarathy Rao  and Ashok Kumar, which were approved after discussions.

On this occasion, Dr Belum Reddy was felicitated by MPKV Rahuri for his contribution to sorghum improvement, and for strengthening national programs by building strong partnerships to help transfer technologies to farmers, particularly under the project.

The work in this project was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on DrylandCereals.

Participants of the Fourth Annual Review and fifth year workplan development meeting of the HOPE project. Photo: MPKV, Maharashtra

back to top Back to top

Communicating climate services for farmer communities

Working groups at work during the workshop on climate services communication. Photo: P Craufurd, ICRISAT

The farming community can cope better with climate change if we help them prepare better for the future. As part of efforts to help them get a better handle on climate uncertainties, ICRISAT and ILRI organized an international expert workshop on ‘Developing a methodology to communicate climate services at scale for farmer communities in Africa and South Asia through intermediaries’ at Nairobi from 12-14 June.

The meeting aimed to review, contrast and synthesize good practices in communicating climate services at scale for farmer groups, through intermediaries and boundary organizations, using them as the missing link between forecasters, agricultural experts and vulnerable farmer communities. In addition, opportunities were sought to identify, apply and tailor training materials developed to serve the needs of various intermediary and boundary organizations participating in the workshop.

Delivering the opening remarks at the workshop, Dr Peter Craufurd, Director, Reseach Program – Resilient Dryland Systems reminded the audience of the need to scale up climate services to farmers and pastoralists across the semi-arid tropics, of learning from good practices identified by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) for all farmers to benefit, as well as the imperative of heeding gender considerations. Other scientists who lent their expertise to this initiative included Drs KPC Rao and Dileepkumar Guntunku (ICRISAT).

The output expected from this meeting are various ToT materials and pedagogic tools, options and curricula appropriate to train boundary organizations and community relays (including public extension services; NGOs and CBOs; media professionals and communicators; faith leaders;  rural radio networks; model farmers and farmer organizations) to communicate climate services effectively, from seasonal to short-range time scales, and serve as the missing link between climate forecasters and farmer communities vulnerable to a changing climate.  The activity is mapped to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Participants of the meeting in Nairobi.

back to top Back to top

CGIAR Technical Online Communicators meet in Rome

Participants of the Technical Online Communicators workshop. Photo: Bioversity

In the first decade of the 21st century alone, the number of internet users increased from 350 million to 2 billion, underlining how pervasive the digital age is!  And with it came a mushrooming of Technical Online Communicators (TOCs).

With a view to bringing together and sharing the repository of knowledge and experience of this group, the CGIAR Consortium facilitated a workshop to kick-start an active Community of Practice for CGIAR TOCs from 27-31 May at Bioversity International, Rome. As a prelude to the workshop and to break the ice, all TOCs were gathered into a Google Groups email discussion forum, where they opened up to each other’s technical woes and wishlists, and built the foundation of the workshop brick by brick,
topic by topic.

Twenty-four participants from nearly all CGIAR centers, in addition to those from partner organizations YPARD, FARA,  GFAR, ICBA, University of Liege and ASARECA comprising 1/3 content specialists and 2/3 technical specialists, attended the workshop supported by staff from the CGIAR Consortium Office and Bioversity International. ICRISAT was represented by Smitha Sitaraman.

Among the topics covered during the workshop were Online media overview and strategy; website revamp - process and approach; web usability, web optimization and web security; online statistics, eNewsletter systems, Search Engine Optimization; newest design technologies/trends; and online document repositories, intranets, and hosting.

The heated discussions on the 3 content management systems -- Joomla, Drupal and WordPress -- were a demonstration of how fierce loyalities can get. Among the other popular topics discussed were web development and monitoring tools, social media monitoring tools, web security/plugins, some of which were presented by the participants themselves. The session on Fashion trends on the web, HTML 5 and CSS3 by the Macaroni Brothers gave an insight into the future of the web. Also sharing their CGIAR perspectives were  Antonella Pastore, Enrica Porcari, Michael Marus and Tanya Jordan. 

And in the midst of this information maze, stirring things up yet tactfully driving discussions to useful conclusions was the workshop facilitator-Agitator Peter Casier from the Consortium Office.

The workshop was webcast live, with online participants interacting with the workshop, and also covered live on Twitter and Yammer, and live-blogged. In addition, there were a number of showcases (centers showing some of the work they did) and peer-assist web-clinics where smaller working groups assisted Centers with practical problems and issues. The exercise wisened up some of the technically challenged content people among the participants, while at the same time making them more sympathetic to the challenges their techie brethren face.

It was decided that the group would use a clear set of tools among themselves, cover a number of topics, work together on several projects, and on a basic set of web standards within the CGIAR. The group is eager to organize a series of webinars and online discussions.

It’s been two weeks since the group dispersed… and not a day has gone by without at least 20 mails being exchanged on the ifs and buts of online communication!

back to top Back to top

Climate change: Developing Representative Agricultural Pathways

Participants of the workshop held in Gigiri, Kenya.

Developing credible storylines on the probable future outcomes of bio-physical, institutional, socio-economic, technological and other factors expected to influence the performance of the agriculture sector in Kenya in the face of climate change engaged participants at the Climate Change Representative Agricultural Pathways (RAPs) Development Workshop held at the ICRAF campus, Gigiri, Kenya on 30 May. The meeting attracted crop modellers, valuers, planners, climate change experts, economists, and other experts from government ministries, research institutions, universities and non-governmental organizations with an interest in climate change. 

RAPS are an important input into the climate change assessments carried out under Agricultural Model Intercomparision and Improvement Project (AgMIP). The discussions led by Richard Mulwa (University of Nairobi) and KPC Rao (ICRISAT) focused on probable scenarios of the different factors in the mid-term period of 2040-2070. While developing the Representative Agricultural Pathways, participants deliberated on the direction and magnitude of change, and the expected percentage change of each factor during the period. They were expected to give a rationale (based on historical trends, expert opinion or existing literature) for why they expected a certain factor to move in a certain direction and magnitude and have a certain percentage of change over this period. In total, 16 factors were discussed. However, for most of the factors, there was unanimous agreement that what they proposed is what was likely to happen.

The Representative Agricultural Pathways developed will be further refined by a wider group of experts, and will then be included in economic modeling to determine the possible impact of climate change on adoption of technologies, poverty and per capita income during 2040-2070.

The workshop was organized by ICRISAT in collaboration with the University of Nairobi, represented by the Centre for Advanced Studies in Environmental Law and policy, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and the Kenya Meteorological Department.

The activity was held as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

back to top Back to top

Presowing training in hybrid seed production held at ICRISAT

(Left) A session in progress. (Right) Participants of the training program conducted at ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: ICRISAT

To achieve the goal of expanding hybrid pigeonpea over 100,000 ha in 2014, a one-day training program on hybrid pigeonpea seed production was conducted at ICRISAT headquarters on 12 June. The training was in package of practices in agronomy; aspects of quality hybrid seed production such as choosing the preceding crop, selection of fields, isolation distance, rouging; and pest management.
It is planned to multiply nearly 800 ha of parental (AxR) seed in the state of Andhra Pradesh during the 2013 rainy season in collaboration with the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University and National and State seed corporations.

The program was presided over by Dr SS Anwar, General Manager (production), Andhra Pradesh State Seed Development Corporation (APSSDC). Seed organizers and progressive farmers from the districts of Srikakulam, Vijayanagaram, Warangal, Kurnool, Rangareddy, Mahabubnagar, Anantapur, Guntur, Prakasham, Kadapa and Medak of Andhra Pradesh state and seed officers of APSSDC, National Seeds Corporation, State Farms Corporation of India and Hindustan Insecticides Limited attended the program that was organized by ICRISAT as part of the CGIAR Research Program on GrainLegumes.

back to top Back to top

ICRISAT to help in developing Spicepedia

The Indian Institute of Spices Research (IISR), Calicut has sought the help of the ICRISAT-IIT Kanpur team to develop a knowledge management platform for spices.  As part of Agropedia-2 project, the ICRISAT-IITK team will help IISR, the nodal Centre of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research on spice crops such as black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric and ginger, in designing and developing a knowledge management platform of spices. A consortium of all major stakeholders in spices is to be formed, and a proposal developed to obtain financial support.

A one-day workshop was held at IISR, Calicut on 7 June attended by other organizations such as Spices Board, Coconut Development Board, Kerala Agricultural University, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Central Plantation Crops Research Institute.

Among those who spoke were Dr M Anandaraj, Director, IISR; Dr V S Ramachandran, Director, National Science Centre; and Dr NT Yaduraju, KSI, ICRISAT. Dr Kiran Yadav (ICRISAT) and Ms Meeta Bagga and Ms Revathy (IIT-K) gave lectures and demos on agropedia 2.0 and VKVK services.

Participants of the workshop at Calicut. Photo: IISR, Calicut

back to top Back to top