13 September 2013
No. 1588

Innovation platforms to help strengthen sustainable seed systems in West and Central Africa

Participants of the training workshop. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Innovation platforms have been initiated in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Cameroon as a vehicle to reinforce interaction among actors of the seed value chain, towards enhancing sustainable seed systems of staple crops to improve food security and agricultural production in West and Central Africa.

To address the capacity building needs of the innovation platforms, a training workshop was conducted on 3-6 September participated by all major actors of the seed value chain – researchers, seed producers, grain producers, traders, agro dealers, transporters, processors, wholesalers, retailers, farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, and consumers of various products.

The training workshop was undertaken as part of the project “Unlocking the opportunities to enhance sustainable seed systems of staple crops (sorghum, pearl millet, maize, cowpea and groundnut) to improve food security and agricultural production in West and Central Africa” launched in 2011.

Dr B N’tare presents a certificate to a workshop participant. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

“One attribute of the innovation platforms is that the actors get to know each other’s requirements and are ready to work to enhance  individuals and platforms, thus facilitating their access to good quality seed, markets and other agricultural inputs and credit. It also gives them the capacity to lobby policymakers for pro-poor policies. This goes along with actualizing, reinforcing and moving faster along the IMOD trajectory,” said Dr Bonny N’tare, Assistant Director, West and Central Africa and Principal Scientist – Breeding, addressing the participants.

The training workshop took into account the key bottlenecks in the seed value chain identified across all the platforms, such as innovation platform mechanisms, seed production systems, seed legislation and quality control, marketing, and creating and managing small-scale businesses.

According to Harouna Yossi, Director of the Centre Régional de Recherche Agricole of IER-Sotuba, “The training of trainers will allow members of the innovation platforms to develop powerful tools to not only produce quality seeds but also to manage seed companies for the benefit of all stakeholders in the national seed industry.”

The training workshop was facilitated by Dr Lamissa Diakité (Regional Project Coordinator), M’piè Bengali (Specialist in Innovation Platforms), and Amadou Sidibé (Seed Technologist) from the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER); and ICRISAT’s Dr N’tare who gave a presentation on variety development, maintenance and release.

Participants of the training workshop proudly display their certificates. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Each topic during the workshop was developed as a module and presented in French and the local language (Bamanankan) to the 35 participants from 3 regions in Mali (Kita, Kolokani and Sikasso). The modules will be developed into a training guide for trainers and distributed in other participating countries.

The project is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) through CORAF/WECARD and coordinated by IER in partnership with ICRISAT, whose role is to provide backstopping in capacity building and research methodologies.

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Strengthening pearl millet hybrid parents improvement and seed production

Dr MCS Bantilan addresses the participants of the course. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“Capacity building is an important component for harnessing the full potential of latest technology to achieve greater crop productivity,” said Dr MCS Bantilan, Director, Research Program on Markets, Institutions and Policies speaking on behalf of Director General William Dar at the opening of the Third International Training Course on Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Improvement and Seed Production held at ICRISAT headquarters on 10 September.

“This course will contribute to ICRISAT’s mission of improving food security, ending poverty and sustaining the environment through research for development and purposeful partnerships,” she added.

The course aims to train young scientists and those new to pearl millet improvement in the theory and practice of pearl millet breeding with special reference to biotic and abiotic stresses; seed production, processing and marketing; alternative uses and commercialization; and methods of conducting good trials.

Welcoming the participants, Dr Stefania Grando, Director, Research Program on Dryland Cereals, emphasized that countries in sub-Saharan Africa could exploit hybrid technology in pearl millet to increase crop productivity, as has been successfully achieved in India. She appealed to the participants to share the constraints they face in their pearl millet improvement program. Dr SK Gupta, Senior Scientist, briefed the participants about the objectives of the training and gave a detailed account of the 10-day program. 

As many as 29 participants from Niger, Sudan, Mali, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and India are attending this interactive lecture-cum-field demonstration-oriented course. The resource persons have been drawn from ICRISAT and  experts from public and private institutions, notable among them being OP Yadav, IS Khairwal and G Harinarayana, former Project Coordinators of the All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project; RS Mahala; Paresh Verma; Michael Blummel of ILRI; Anand Pandravada; RK Gumber and others from central and state institutes.

The trainees will also attend the International Workshop on Pearl Millet Genome Sequencing on 13 September, and will visit a pearl millet research farm and a seed processing center during the course.  The training program, which will conclude on 19 September, is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.

Participants from 10 countries who attended the training course. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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MG+ Retreat reinvigorates the Institute’s strategic focus

DG William Dar delivers his message.
Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Prof Go from the Asian Institute of Management facilitates the workshop. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Twenty members of ICRISAT’s Management Group (MG) and Research Committee (RC) gathered for a three-day MG+ Retreat on 4-6 September to brainstorm on refocusing the Institute’s strategic plan to 2020 towards achieving the vision of prosperous, food-secure and resilient dryland tropics.

MG+ members deep in discussion at the retreat.
Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

The program was a mix of discussions, demonstrations and experiential learning, focused on building cohesion and teamwork among the MG and RC members and at the same time in aligning individual programs to achieve better results. The workshop also carried out a review and thorough analysis of the status of the Inclusive Market Oriented Development (IMOD) approach and its implementation, using various frameworks and tools to reinforce this model.   

In his message, Director General William D. Dar stressed the need for the MG and RC members to think out of the box and commit to strengthening the IMOD approach, and keeping in mind the importance of the CGIAR Research Programs.

The three-day activity was spent developing a spirit of teamwork and camaraderie among the participants to ensure a high degree of synergy; a thorough analysis of food security and value chain analysis relating to ICRISAT’s activities; case studies to explore new tools and frameworks for implementing IMOD, including scenario planning and business planning; and finding ways to revise an existing venture/project that was at the core of ICRISAT’s existence and which included the Institute’s five mandate crops. The activity also saw participants reviewing the application and integration of ICRISAT’s strategic plan in the context of change, followed by group presentations by four teams on how ICRISAT could extend its reach to the farmers through IMOD.

Working in a spirit of camaraderie towards achieving ICRISAT’s goal of empowering smallholder farmers.
Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT
Dr Dar gives away a certificate to Dr Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals. Also seen is Prof M Luz.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Held at the Leonia Holistic Destination at Shamirpet, Hyderabad, the retreat was facilitated by faculty members from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Manila, composed of Profs Mike Luz and Gulliver Go.

Participants of the MG+ retreat. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Workshop on gender research maps out platform for priority setting

Dr CG Goodrich, Ms S Agrawal and gender consultants at the workshop held in Nairobi. Photo: ICRISAT

Rural women in developing countries rely on agriculture, and it is widely acknowledged that gender should be a major consideration in agricultural development for the rural poor. With gender as a cross-cutting theme across the CGIAR Research Programs, the first workshop on strategic gender research under the ICRISAT-led CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland Cereals and on Grain Legumes kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya on 4-5 September.

The two CGIAR Research Programs aim to systematically consider and address gender disparities, constraints and opportunities in legumes and dryland cereals research and development and contribute to the promotion of gender equality in agricultural development in general. Gender research and analysis will be used to (a) strengthen the relevance and targeting of legumes and dryland cereals research for development for enhanced impacts and (b) inform and deepen the relevance of other research themes of the program.

The gender research will examine and investigate the specific contributions of women and men in the cultivation of grain legumes and dryland cereals and in the value chain; their differential access to and control over resources; and their rewards in the target production contexts. It will also identify a typology of farming households involved in the cultivation and production of these crops and the gender relations in these typologies.

Findings from the study will help Dryland Cereals and Grain Legumes in planning and priority setting, as the findings are expected to improve the systematic targeting of different categories of women and men and the gender relations that condition technology choice and adoption, and how benefits are shared. The study will also seek to throw light on other areas of research of the gender-related constraints and opportunities faced by women along the value chain, including technology access and adoption; and inequalities in access to and control over resources and services. These in turn will help in developing strategies to address gender inequalities and identify aspects of technology design/development needed for research to be responsive to gender differences in terms of access, adoption and the distribution of benefits from new legume and dryland cereal technology.

ICRISAT was represented in the workshop by  Dr Chanda Gurung Goodrich (Principal Scientist – Empower Women), Ms Sweta Agrawal (Gender Consultant), and five independent gender consultants (2 from ESA, 2 from WCA and 1 from India) who were hired to conduct the study, and develop the work plan and methodologies for research.

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Exploring agri-business opportunities for young entrepreneurs

SM Karuppanchetty interacts with students and staff of Vennela Educational Society. Photos: VES

With the intention of promoting  youth in agribusiness, the Agri-Business Incubator (ABI) Program of AIP-ICRISAT organized a workshop on Agri-business opportunities for young entrepreneurs at Ratnapuri Institute of Technology, College of Polytechnic, Medak district, Andhra Pradesh on 6 September.

The event was part of ICRISAT’s partnership with the Vennela Educational Society (VES), in which AIP-ICRISAT will provide technical support in the production and cultivation of vegetables, hybrid pigeonpea seed, other crops, and dairy production for the Society’s agriculture curriculum.

The workshop was intended to develop and expose the participants to farm production, capacity building, financial and marketing skills and value addition under the guidance of agricultural and agribusiness experts, so that they can develop their own agri-enterprises.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer, ICRISAT-ABI, explained how the partnership would help students in exploring agribusiness opportunities and in availing better employment prospects. He underlined the need to tap into existing and emerging agribusiness opportunities and link the youth to technology and funding avenues, so that they could promote farming as a business and learn how to use the partnership as a trading, agribusiness information and agribusiness link platform.

Among those who spoke during the workshop were Mr Suneel Vemu (Agribusiness Development Associate) and Mr Harshvardhan Mane (Seed Business Officer) of ICRISAT- ABI. The workshop was attended by Dr VRR Datla, Secretary, Vennela Educational Society, its staff and more than 60 students.

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Delegation from Niger’s Directorate General of Agriculture visits Sadoré center

The delegation from Niger’s Directorate General of Agriculture during their visit to ICRISAT Sadoré. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Niger’s Director General of Agriculture, Mr M Ibrahim Harouna, and a delegation of central managers from the Directorate General of Agriculture, visited the ICRISAT Sahelian Center in Sadoré, Niger on 14 August to learn about the Institute’s seed production plans for the rainy and post-rainy seasons of 2013-14 and to visit seed multiplication plots. 

The Directorate General of Agriculture is Niger’s implementing agency for the West African Agricultural Productivity Project – a major World Bank development project in the region. 

After a brief introduction and welcome by Regional Scientist Dr Falalou Hamidou, the group was shown around the genebank, seed production fields, seed unit storage facilities, crop diversification and millet breeding plots, and the Sadoré village nursery. The delegation expressed appreciation of the seed unit’s storage facility, its contents and the production and marketing of fruit planting material that has been transferred to the women of Sadoré village. Director General of Agriculture, Mr Harouna has promised to formalize a partnership to facilitate the wider dissemination of ICRISAT-developed crop varieties.

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ICRISAT sets up knowledge center in remote village in Maharashtra, India

Dr M Bhattarai (far left) addresses students during the launch of the Kinkhed-ICRISAT Community Knowledge Centre. Photos: ICRISAT

August 24 was a red-letter day in the lives of the poor households of Kinkhed village in Akola district of Maharashtra in India. The day saw the inauguration of the Kinkhed-ICRISAT Community Knowledge Centre in a village where ICRISAT has been conducting its
Village Level Studies (VLS) since 1975, know known as the Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia  (VDSA) project. 

The facility was set up under the ICRISAT Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia project with grant support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on the request of the village community in Kinkhed.

The knowledge center inaugurated by Dr Madhusudan Bhattarai (Principal Scientist, Research Program – Markets, Institutions and Policies), is expected to benefit poor households, especially those children going to school but who have no access to computer literacy.

Villagers and local stakeholders have committed to strengthen the knowledge center and turn it into a model center where over 1000 students from Kinkhed and 6 other villages will get the opportunity to learn computer basics.

The grant is one among six such community-driven development (CDD) or village grant experiments initiated by ICRISAT in selected villages of semi-arid tropic areas of India, where ICRISAT’s Village Level Study program has been running for the last 40 years.

Students inside the Community Knowledge Centre.
Photos: M Bhattarai, ICRISAT

Also present during the inauguration were Mr VK Chopde, Resident Staff of ICRISAT; local partners Mrs Gayatrirai S Kambe (Zilla Parishad member, Akola), Mr Sangeet Kambe (Panchayat Samiti member, Murtizapur), Mr Thale (Revenue Officer, Kinkhed), Mr DM Wankhade (Principal of ZP School, Kinkhed); and about 150 prominent members of the community, panchayat and taluka members, village sarpanches of nearby villages, school principals, and others. The chairpersons of the program, Mr RA Kolkhede and Mr DM Wankhade, spoke of the benefits of the ICRISAT Village Level Surveys conducted in the village through the decades.

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