12 July 2013
No. 1579

Combating climate change
Eastern Africa holds 4th Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement regional meeting in Nairobi

Participants of the 4th AgMIP-Eastern Africa Regional meeting held in Nairobi. Photo: KPC Rao, ICRISAT

How can model intercomparison and improvement substantially impact world food security as affected by climate variability and change, and improve adaptation capacity in both developing and developed countries? This is the mission of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP), a major international collaborative effort to assess the state of global agricultural modelling and to understand climate impacts on the agricultural sector.

Climate, crop and economic model experts in Eastern Africa met in Nairobi on 1-5 July to share results and report on AgMIP’s progress and activities, and to prepare for the sub-Saharan Africa wide meeting scheduled to be held on 15-19 July. This 4th regional meeting was attended by 30 participants representing national agricultural research, meteorological and academic institutions in four participating countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

AgMIP Eastern Africa is one of the five projects in sub-Saharan Africa operating under this global initiative with support from UKAid, and is led by ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA). Four participating country teams composed of climate, crop and economic model experts were constituted and trained in the use of crop simulation models (APSIM and DSSAT) and economic model (TOA-MD).

During the meeting, the four country team leaders presented the substantial progress they have achieved in generating downscaled climate scenarios and calibrating and validating crop simulation models APSIM and DSSAT in the target locations. The goal is to realistically simulate the performance of locally relevant varieties with the management practices currently employed by smallholder farmers, setting up and running the models to simulate the performance of maize under current and future climates, and to operationalize the economic models to assess economic impacts of changes in crop productivity.

The climate teams have generated and analyzed downscaled climate scenarios for 15 locations from 20 general circulation models (GCMs) to mid (2040-2070) and end century (2070-2100) periods. All GCMs predicted higher increase in minimum temperatures compared to maximum temperatures, and more than 75% of the GCMs predicted substantial increase in rainfall at all locations. These climate scenarios were then integrated with crop simulation models to assess the climate sensitivity of varieties and management practices those smallholder farmers in the target locations have adopted.

Members of the climate team analyzing climate change projections. Photo: KPC Rao, ICRISAT

During the meeting, simulations were conducted for baseline and for one of the future climate scenarios, using the data collected from about 1000 farmers in the four countries. The results of the simulation analysis and insights helped in better understanding the impacts of climate change on performance of maize in the region and in identifying management practices that can help adapt the systems to the identified negative impacts. Results of the crop simulation analysis are currently being analyzed by the economic team for impacts on food security and income of the maize growing farmers.

The meeting helped the country teams in refining and testing the methodology, gain experience in setting up the model runs and in analyzing the results. One of the problems faced by the teams is in analyzing large amounts of data generated through simulation analysis and deriving information on key trends.  Dr Ioannis N. Athanasiadis from the Democritus University of Thrace, Xanthi, Greece and G. Sridhar from ICRISAT-Ethiopia have developed R scripts and VB macros which helped the participants in the analysis of data. The meeting discussed and agreed on a way forward that included completing the assessment with projections from all the 40 downscaled climate scenarios for mid and end century periods.

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Strengthening ICRISAT-Philippines partnership
Technical assistance to enhance agricultural productivity in Ilocos Sur province mapped out

In the Philippines, rainfed agriculture is an important sector, covering three-fourths of the 10 million hectares of its total cultivated area. Important as it is, rainfed agriculture is a neglected sector, receiving little investment and policy support despite contributing about 40% of total food production supply in the country.

Ilocos Sur Vice Governor DV Savellano (center, right) with his wife, Ms Dina Bonnevie, in a meeting with Dr Dar and senior staff to map out initiatives to enhance agricultural productivity in the province. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

In the northern Philippine province of Ilocos Sur, however, rainfed agriculture is now on top of the provincial government’s agenda as the key to agricultural productivity and improved livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Towards this, Ilocos Sur Vice Governor Deogracias Victor Savellano accompanied by his wife, Ms Dina Bonnevie, visited the ICRISAT headquarters on 10-12 July to learn from the institute’s rainfed agriculture innovations which could be the best bets in alleviating poverty and improving food security in the province. He also interacted and worked with ICRISAT scientists in jointly mapping out agriculture research, development and extension (RD&E) initiatives to revitalize rainfed agriculture in his province.

In a meeting with the Vice Governor, Director General William Dar emphasized that rainfed areas will be the hardest hit by increasing water scarcity, frequent droughts, rising temperatures, new pests and diseases, shorter growing seasons and degraded natural resources particularly amid the threat of climate change. To surmount this, the government must pursue an integrated, holistic approach to rainfed agriculture development such as ICRISAT’s Bhoochetana program.

In response, Vice Governor Savellano expressed commitment to facilitate the approval and implementation of a collaborative project with ICRISAT on the adoption of the Bhoochetana approach to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers by enhancing agricultural productivity in Ilocos Sur province. The proposed project, dubbed as Sustainable Intensification for Prosperity and Growth (or SIPAG, meaning ‘hardwork’ in Filipino language) is a technical assistance initiative aimed at increasing crop productivity, cropping intensity and farmers’ income in the province by 20% in three years while improving and/or maintaining soil health. The Vice Governor has promised to present the proposal during the provincial strategic planning workshop to be held this month for approval and funding consideration by the provincial government of Ilocos Sur.

Prior to the ICRISAT headquarters, the Vice Governor visited the Bhoochetana program in Bangalore, Karnataka along with Dr Suhas Wani, Assistant Research Program Director – Resilient Dryland Systems. There he met with Dr KV Sarvesh, Director of Agriculture and other state government officials, agricultural extension workers, and farmer leaders, where he had discussions on the successes and impacts of the program.

At the ICRISAT campus, Vice Governor Savellano visited the Genebank, Center of Excellence in Genomics, Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops, Agribusiness and Innovation Platform, and the institute’s experimental and demonstration farms. He also had a tour of the Kothapally village watershed model in Ranga Reddy district, Andhra Pradesh. The Bhoochetana program is based on learnings from the on-farm Adarsha integrated watershed management in Kothapally which have been scaled-up in Karnataka.

The Vice Governor likewise had interactions with scientists on ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market Oriented Development (IMOD) approach and Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based innovative extension delivery systems for development.

At the DG’s office welcoming the Vice Governor and his wife. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT   Vice Governor DV Savellano at the Kothapally village watershed in Ranga Reddy district, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Agricultural development through agribusiness
NAIP-ICAR and ICRISAT to organize Agri-Tech Investors Meet

The National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in collaboration with ICRISAT will be holding a two-day Agri-Tech Investors Meet at the NASC Complex, New Delhi on 18-19 July.

The Agri-Tech Investors Meet is a unique technology commercialization platform that will showcase ready-to-commercialize agri-technologies from different sectors of agriculture and promote business incubation services. To be featured are presentations of agro-technologies developed under the NAIP and pre-selected through business-to-business (B2B) meetings. The 22 Business Planning and Development (BPD) Units of NAIP will also be featured to promote its incubator services for agro-enterprises and for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The event will be attended by a wide range of participants, from industry officials, scientists, entrepreneurs and incubator professionals.

“By helping nurture innovations and entrepreneurship in agriculture through its Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program, ICRISAT is fulfilling its mission to help eliminate poverty and improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the drylands. The Agri-Tech Investors Meet, in particular, will serve as a platform for promoting incubator services to start-ups, such as providing innovators an opportunity to explore and incubate their ideas to facilitate technology commercialization through public-private partnerships,” said ICRISAT Director General William D. Dar.

Highlighting the importance of the meet, ICAR Director General S Ayyappan said, “Indian agriculture is full of challenges and opportunities. To accelerate agricultural growth, the way forward is to create a robust entrepreneurship climate within the sector. The Agri-Tech Investors Meet seeks to promote entrepreneurship in agriculture and accelerate the successful development of entrepreneurial companies and activities through an array of business support resources and services,” Dr Ayyappan added.

The conference will showcase more than 70 ready-to-commercialize agro-technologies from different agricultural sectors – crops, horticulture, food technology, veterinary, agri-engineering, agri-inputs, and fisheries. In addition, B2B meetings will be held with over 60 top-level scientists from ICAR.

The two-day meet is being organized with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) as industrial partner and the Indian School of Business (ISB) Munjal Institute for Global Manufacturing as knowledge partner.

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ICRISAT Malawi holds field day for groundnut breeders and genebank managers

Partners assessing and selecting accessions of their choice during the field day. Photo: P Okori, ICRISAT

To expose groundnut breeders and genebank managers to germplasm materials being maintained at ICRISAT Malawi, the Groundnut Breeding team organized a field day on 24 June for collaborating researchers in Eastern and Southern Africa. Partners from Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique participated in the field day. The event also presented an opportunity for the research partners to collectively plan for the implementation of the CGIAR Research Programs on GrainLegumes and on Genebank.

The field day had four events: (1) Assessment and selection of diverse groundnut accessions to be subsequently used by partners in their breeding programs; (2) A guided tour of breeding and seed systems activities to identify capacity areas for support to partners; (3) Planning for germplasm acquisition from partner countries and genebanks as well as sharing of materials available at ICRISAT; and (4) Discussions on the way forward to strengthen research for development partnerships.

During the interactions, the researchers expressed preference for materials with traits such as earliness, drought tolerance, aflatoxin resistance, large seed, and high-yield potential. The participants’ selections will be dispatched and new explorations to collect and access more germplasm will be executed as a result of the field day.

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AgMIP partners meet to discuss Indo-Gangetic Basin project

Participants of the AgMIP IGB project boot camp. Photo: ICRISAT

Under the AgMIP-ICAR collaborative project “Strengthening simulation approaches for understanding, projecting and managing climate risks in stress-prone environments across the central and eastern Indo-Gangetic Basin (IGB),” a boot camp was jointly organized by the South Asian Regional Coordination Team, ICRISAT and the IGB project team of ICAR at the ICRISAT headquarters on 24-28 June.

The activity brought together climate, crop and economic modelling scientists of the IGB project to discuss various issues related to the integration of inputs and outputs of different models, for an integrated assessment of climate change in agricultural systems in IGB.

During the boot camp, the IGB project partners discussed climate scenario generation of study sites, assemblage of survey data, simulation of rice and wheat farm yield, historical yield simulation, and future yield simulation. It was attended by 12 participants from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and was coordinated jointly by Dr N Subhash of IGB and
Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku, AgMIP South Asia Coordinator. Dr Guillermo A Baigorria participated as AgMIP Resource Person for the IGB project.

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Partnership to strengthen mobile-based advisory system sealed

Director General WD Dar exchanging the MoU with Mr S Srinivasan.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

To promote effective mobile-based advisory system to help improve smallholder farmers’ access to knowledge and information, ICRISAT signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) to promote the sustainable “Krishi Vani” model of delivering voice advisories to farmers. The agreement was signed by Director General William D. Dar and IKSL Chief Executive Officer S Srinivasan on 5 July at the ICRISAT headquarters.

Through the agreement, ICRISAT and IKSL have agreed to collaborate on: (1) five free voice messages to farmers and farm facilitators on a daily basis; (2) call-back facility; and (3) focused services for groups with common interest by providing Green SIM cards. These voice messages as prepared by experts will be delivered at one go to millions of farmers in different areas of India.

Krishi Vani is a financially sustainable, innovative ICT-mediated extension system. It brings private sector participation into public interest, where farmers get free advisories, farm facilitators and IKSL can generate revenue, and ICRISAT can promote a platform for communicating with smallholder farmers directly. This is a proven revenue model that has generated Rs 31,000 in 15 working days for farm facilitators in Anantapur district.

“This is an excellent instrument in providing the last mile connectivity to smallholder farmers,” said Dr Dar during the agreement signing. He also underscored the importance of advisories related to market intelligence. Mr Srinivasan added “Jointly we shall work together to mitigate the situation related to food shortage with this latest technology.”

Dr Dar and Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku also discussed with the IKSL delegation the importance of leveraging mobile technology for empowerment of people living in rural India, with a mission to improving the quality of decision-making by people in the villages through useful information inputs in local language and voice format. Also present on the occasion were Mr Sumanthkumar from ICRISAT, and Mr Narayanarao, Mr John, Mr Siddannagouda and Mr Satish from IKSL.

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Workshop on building representative agricultural pathways

At the workshop on Building Representative Agricultural Pathways (RAP), ANGRAU.
Photo: D Murthy, ANGRAU

To facilitate the development of future agricultural and socioeconomic models on climate change adaptation, a one-day workshop on “Building Representative Agricultural Pathways” was conducted on 2 July at the Agro Climate Research Center, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India.

The workshop sought to develop regional Representative Agricultural Pathways through discussions among an interdisciplinary team of scientists on qualitative narration of future agricultural and socioeconomic scenarios. Speaking during the event, Dr Padma Raju, Vice Chancellor, ANGRAU underscored the impact of bio-physical conditions which are critical to agriculture, as well as social, economic and institutional conditions for defining plausible futures for South India.
Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku, AgMIP South Asia Coordinator and ICRISAT’s Global Leader for Knowledge Sharing and Innovation, discussed AgMIP’s South Asia project goals and activities, and the importance of integrated assessment of climate change impacts on principal crops and cropping systems.

The workshop was attended by 24 participants from ANGRAU and private companies. Drs Raji Reddy, Dakshina Murthy, and Sunandhini from ANGRAU coordinated the event.

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