20 September 2013
No. 1589

Dr Adama Traoré named Interim Director General of AfricaRice, leaves ICRISAT Board

Dr A Traoré with the plaque of appreciation given to him during the farewell ceremony held at ICRISAT Bamako, Mali. Also seen is Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Dr F Waliyar. Photo: ICRISAT

On 17 September, ICRISAT bade farewell to Dr Adama Traoré as member of the ICRISAT Governing Board upon his appointment as Interim Director General of the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice). In a farewell ceremony held at ICRISAT Bamako in Mali, Dr Traoré was recognized for playing a key role in developing stronger partnerships for food security and poverty reduction with various bodies at the national, regional and international levels.

“As he leaves the ICRISAT Board, we trust that he will continue to strengthen our relationship with our partners and hope that he continues to be a supporter of ICRISAT. We appreciate Dr Traoré’s contributions, particularly in strengthening our collaboration with regional bodies like the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) and the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP),” said Dr Farid Waliyar, Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

Dr Adama Traoré with ICRISAT scientists in Bamako. Photo: ICRISAT

“I am expecting cooperation beyond the task of being Interim Director General of Africa Rice. This will involve facilitating and strengthening opportunities between AfricaRice and ICRISAT and with all the CGIAR Centers,” says Dr Traoré.

Dr Traoré, a Malian national, served the ICRISAT Governing Board for 3 years since 2010. Before joining the Board, he was President and Executive Secretary of the National Committee on Agricultural Research (CNRA) in Mali, President of CORAF/WECARD, Vice President of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and has served on the board of many international organizations.

Team ICRISAT is thankful to Dr Adama Traoré for all his contributions and wishes him all the best in his new endeavors.

AfricaRice’s gain but ICRISAT’s loss

Dr Papa Abdoulaye Seck, the Director General of AfricaRice, has been nominated to become the Minister of Agriculture for Senegal this September. We congratulate Papa and look forward to working closely with him to help the people of Senegal and West Africa.

Dr Adama Traoré will become the acting Director General for AfricaRice, and sadly that means that he has to step down from the Board of ICRISAT. The Board and I will miss Adama’s contribution both during and between our meetings – his insights and wisdom have made a significant contribution to our work and helped develop many of our strategies. We wish Adama and his family all the best!

Nigel Poole
Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board

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Farmers’ field day showcases new Bhoochetana interventions in Karnataka, India

Karnataka’s Minister of Agriculture, Mr Krishna Byregowda, inaugurates the ICRISAT stall during the field day in Devangere, Karnataka. Photo: ICRISAT

New interventions like building climate resilient agriculture, ICT-based innovative extension system, and irrigated agriculture under the Bhoochetana – Phase II implementation (2013-2018) are envisioned to further boost agricultural productivity and improve the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in the state of Karnataka, India. To showcase these new interventions, a state-level farmers’ field day was held on 14 September in Devangere under this mission project by the Government of Karnataka and ICRISAT.

Karnataka’s Minister of Agriculture, Mr Krishna Byregowda speaking as Chief Guest highlighted the importance of soil health for increasing the productivity of agriculture in the state. He explained to the gathering of 1500 farmers and officials from 30 districts the importance of soil with balanced nutrition and good health in overcoming short dry spells due to climate change and variability. He also appreciated the initiatives of ICRISAT and other partners in the consortium for taking up the difficult task of unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture in the state.

The Minister also inaugurated the exhibition participated by the different consortium partners like government line departments, state agricultural universities, private companies and ICRISAT showcasing new technologies and products which can help smallholder farmers increase their productivity and profits.

Speaking on behalf of Director General William D Dar, Dr Suhas P Wani (Assistant Research Program Director – Resilient Dryland Systems), discussed the various initiatives under Bhoochetana which have benefitted the farmers in Karnataka over the last four years. He also addressed the need to strengthen the convergence of different activities like integrated watershed management and livestock management to build the resilience in agriculture of the state. In the last four years, the Bhoochetana initiatives contributed an estimated ` 1268 crores (US$ 230.5 million) as net benefits for the farmers.

Mr K Byregowda addresses farmers and state officials during the field day. Photo: ICRISAT

Karnataka’s Commissioner, Watershed Development Department, Mr HG Shivananda Murthy and Commissioner, Agriculture Department, Mr V Chandrashekhar also addressed the gathering highlighting the need for more concerted efforts to enhance the benefits further in the next four years.

The ICRISAT team composed of K Krishnappa, Raghavendrarao Sudi, G Pardharasardhi, Ch Srinivasara Rao and DS Prasada Rao.

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Building capacity in chickpea agronomy and germplasm maintenance in Eastern and Southern Africa

Participants scoring chickpea plants suitable for their respective agroecosystems. Photo: G Rao, ICRISAT

Chickpea is an important food and nutritional crop in Eastern and Southern Africa. With a view to building capacity in its agronomic management and germplasm maintenance, ICRISAT Nairobi in Kenya hosted a training on 10-12 September for 23 participants from 7 ESA countries, namely, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique and Eritrea.

Welcoming the participants, ICRISAT’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Moses Siambi echoed the need to promote chickpea in the region due to its ability to withstand moisture stress. He underlined the importance of strategic partnerships to facilitate access to seed, production and marketing following the principles of IMOD.

Senior Scientist Dr Ganga Rao gave an overview of chickpea’s area and productivity trends in different ESA countries, breeding priorities for the region (enhanced yield potential, tolerance to terminal drought, resistance to pod borer, fusarium wilt and ascochyta blight and improved seed quality) and achievements made in fast tracking varietal releases in Ethiopia (5), Tanzania (4) and Kenya (6) in the last couple of years. He emphasized the need for varietal releases in Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Eritrea following success stories in other ESA countries. 

Samuel Njoroge spoke on the importance of chickpea diseases such as Ascochyta blight, Fusarium wilt and dry root rot and their integrated management and disease assessment. Chris Ojiewo presented an overview of heat tolerance in chickpea in ESA countries under changing climate. He also shared the R&D efforts in Ethiopia that led to a revolution in chickpea production, utilization and marketing. Similarly, NARS partners from Tanzania (Robert Kileo) and Kenya (Paul Kimurto) shared their experiences under the Tropical Legumes II project.

Emmanuel Monyo, Project Coordinator, Tropical Legumes II - Phase II shared his experiences in legumes seed systems in general and the progress made in chickpea seed systems in particular. He appreciated the achievements in Ethiopia and requested other ESA countries to follow the example to sustain chickpea seed systems in ESA.

The participating NARS presented their views on constraints, opportunities and strategies to promote chickpea in their respective countries after country-wise breakout sessions. They zeroed in on challenges such as the lack of technical capacity, poor linkages with markets and processing companies, non-functional seed systems with poor policies, lack of improved varieties in some countries, biotic and abiotic stresses and lack of awareness of the crop by farmers. Interactions among members revealed the demand for chickpea and its global importance which offers huge opportunities for area expansion and productivity enhancement. Eritrea, Uganda and Mozambique came out as countries with great potential but have so far received little or no attention.

The team also organized a field day to chickpea germplasm evaluation and trial sites. Participants were asked to score and select materials that they felt would be good for their agroecosystems. The selected lines will be supplied to the individual countries, thereby achieving the dissemination objective of the project.

In his concluding remarks, Moses Siambi emphasized the need to impart in-country training to other stakeholders in the chickpea value chain, and called upon project leaders to organize exposure visits to countries like Ethiopia where chickpea has been a success story. Participants were presented with certificates by Moses Siambi.

The training was part of the activities of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, CGIAR Research Program for Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections and the Tropical Legumes II project.

Participants of the training in Nairobi. Photo: I Shiundu, ICRISAT

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Food Processing Business Incubation Centers to be set up in Angola and Ghana

The Indian delegation interacting with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (Direccao Nacional da Agricultura Pecuaria Florestas), Angola.
Photo: Arthur
The Indian delegation along with Dr N Karbo, Director, CSIR-ARI, Ghana. Photo: Emmanuel Adu

With food processing gaining importance in Africa’s economic growth, the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) of ICRISAT is now facilitating the setting up of Food Processing Business Incubation Centers (FPBICs) in Angola and Ghana.

The initiative is part of the India Africa Forum Summit II (IAFS-II) under the auspices of India’s Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI). This bilateral project will establish state of-the-art FPBICs with AIP-ICRISAT providing in-house training, hand-holding, mentoring and technical support to the staff deployed. 

Under this initiative, Mr Aravazhi Selvaraj, Chief Operating Officer, Innovation and Partnership Program (IPP), AIP, along with Mr Suneel Kumar Arora, Deputy Secretary, MoFPI, joined the official Indian delegation led by Mr U Venkateswarlu, Joint Secretary of MoFPI, to Angola and Ghana on 4-11 September.

“The main focus of the FPBIC project is to help provide entrepreneurs with the technical know-how on the latest technologies and equipment used in food processing industries, and to provide scientific support in value addition processes and their know-how including infrastructure support for initiating and scaling-up their businesses,” explained Mr Aravazhi.

During the visit to Angola, the delegation along with Mr P Balachandran, Counsellor, Embassy of India in Angola, held extensive discussions with the Angolan Ministry of Agriculture and gave a detailed overview of the wide ranging initiatives in African countries under the IAFS-II. 

In Ghana, the delegation held discussions with Dr N Karbo, Director, and Dr Emmanuel Adu, Deputy Director, CSIR-ARI (Counsel of Scientific and Industrial Research - Animal Research Institute), Dr Abdulai B Salifu, Director General, CSIR, and other senior officials.
Ghana’s Deputy Minister Dr Musheibu Mohammed-Alfa, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation also briefed the delegation about the various initiatives being undertaken for the FPBIC program. 

Under the technical guidance of ICRISAT, the delegation has identified a site in CSIR-ARI, Fafraha, Ghana, to house the FPBIC.  At the end of the visit, the delegation had discussions and interactions with Mr K Jeeva Sagar, the High Commissioner of India to Ghana, who assured full support and cooperation in implementing the project.

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Leading the efforts in pearl millet genome sequencing

Director General William D Dar delivers his message during the workshop. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“Pearl millet is an important nutritious crop and is cultivated on over 17 million ha in India and Africa. It is staple food for over 100 million poor people across the globe. Hence, it gives me immense pleasure to announce that ICRISAT, together with key partners, is now leading the efforts of sequencing the genome of such an important crop,” said Director General William D. Dar in his message at the opening session of the International Workshop on Pearl Millet Genome Sequencing held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 13 September.

“The pearl millet genome sequencing consortium composed of several leading groups in pearl millet genomics and breeding is making good progress in generating a high-quality draft genome of pearl millet,” according to Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes in his introduction to the workshop. He also highlighted efforts to re-sequence 900 diverse germplasm lines and parental lines of pearl millet which will give complete insights into the genome organization that can be deployed in pearl millet breeding.

“ICAR and ICRISAT have a long and successful association in the past, particularly in deciphering the pigeonpea and chickpea genomes. We are happy to again be a part of this great effort of unraveling the pearl millet genome, which will address questions related to pearl millet improvement,” said Dr Swapan K Datta, Deputy Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Dr Stefania Grando, Research Program Director – Dryland Cereals welcomed the participants to the workshop. The activity aimed to bring together several scientists from all ICRISAT locations (Asia, Eastern and Southern Africa and West and Central Africa) working under the pearl millet genome sequencing consortium. The consortium is composed of ICRISAT, ICAR, Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) in France, Aberystwyth University (IBERS) in the UK, Cornell University, University of Georgia and University of Florida in the USA, Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA), and the Pioneer Overseas Corporation.

During the technical sessions, consortium members represented by Liu Xin (BGI- Shenzhen), Yves Vigouroux (IRD, France), Jason Wallace (Cornell University, USA), Rattan Yadav (Aberystwyth University, UK), Ndjido Kane (ISRA, Senegal), RS Mahala (Pioneer Overseas Corporation, India), Peggy Ozias-Akins (University of Georgia, USA), Mahendar Thudi and Anu Chitikineni (ICRISAT, India) presented updates on the progress of their work at their respective centers.

In total, 12 consortium members (three from India; two each from Niger and Senegal; one each from China, France, USA, UK and Kenya) took part in the workshop. In addition, 31 pearl millet breeder trainees of the International Training Course on Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Improvement and Seed Production and several members of the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium also participated in the workshop and gained insights into the ongoing efforts. Drs CLL Gowda (Acting Deputy Director for Research), Shoba Sivasankar (Director, CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals), Rachit Saxena, Krishna Mohan Katta, Rakesh Srivastava, SK Gupta, Rajan Sharma; and C Tom Hash, Hamidou Falalou (ICRISAT-Niamey), Damaris Odeny (ICRISAT - Nairobi) also participated in the workshop.

Participants of the workshop. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Pearl millet trainees visit private sector research farm and seed processing center

Course participants visit the JK Agri-Genetics farm.
Participants monitor how seed quality testing is done. Photo: ICRISAT

As part of the 3rd international training course on “Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Improvement and Seed Production,” participants visited the Seed Company Research farm of JK Agri-Genetics Limited at Medchal, Hyderabad, India and the Seed Processing Center of Bayer Crop Sciences at Toopran on 13 September.

The objective of the visit was to expose the trainees to the different components of a private seed company involved in pearl millet research. Dr Suresh Kumar Gupta, Vice President (R&D), JK Agri-Genetics, with his team interacted with the trainees, providing them information on the scoring system used by seed companies to evaluate pearl millet hybrids and variability in hybrid parental lines, and on various seed production issues.

Mr Gautham Reddy, Manager Seed Processing Plant, explained to the trainees the entire chain of unit from the collection to packing of seed. The trainees showed keen interest in learning about seed quality testing procedures in the Seed Quality Lab.

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Training of journalists on climate change

Dr SP Wani explains ICRISAT’s take on climate change at the workshop.

PANOS South Asia and The Hindu Media Resource Centre, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation conducted a five-day media workshop on the topic “Climate Change and its Impact on Agriculture and Food Security.” Dr Suhas P Wani represented ICRISAT to the workshop, delivering a lecture on “Climate Change and Dryland Agriculture: Building Resilience for Adaptation.” About 40 media personnel participated in the workshop primarily aimed to increase people’s awareness of climate change through a series of articles on scientific information shared during the event. 

Dr MS Swaminathan in his presentation stressed the importance of agriculture, particularly rainfed agriculture, in achieving food security, stating that the “future is for nations with the grains and not with the guns.”

Dr B Venkateswarlu, Director, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (India) also presented India’s initiatives for a climate resilient agriculture and the achievements of the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture.

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