11 October 2013
No. 1592

Tropical Legumes II boosts groundnut production, improves livelihoods in Malawi

Dr Jeff Ehlers, Program Officer of the Gates Foundation (right) looking at a groundnut sheller during his visit to Malawi. Photo: M Dickson, ICRISAT

ICRISAT Malawi continues to play an important role in improving groundnut production and productivity in Eastern and Southern Africa. While the focus in the past few years has been to produce farmer- and market-preferred varieties with resistance to foliar diseases, emerging challenges such as drought and aflatoxin have led to a widening of the breeding scope. Through the Tropical Legumes II project supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ICRISAT and its partners such as the Irish Aid and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have likewise invested significantly to support the seed sector in Malawi.

In a recent visit to Malawi by Dr Jeff Ehlers, Program Officer of the Gates Foundation and Dr Emmanuel Monyo, Tropical Legumes II Coordinator for Africa and South Asia, they met with farmers in Mchinji who have enormously benefited from the project’s community seed production initiative. Farmers in the area have been organized into groups to receive start-up seed from ICRISAT for setting up community seed banks. This pass-on approach has led to the wide spread of seed of improved varieties in the communities. The activity is currently running in three districts, and boasts of 174 seed banks with about 8,000 farmers.

Women farmers in Malawi engaged in groundnut sorting. Photo: M Dickson, ICRISAT

Interacting with members of Mvunguti seed bank in Katonda-Mchinji, Dr Ehlers acknowledged the work of the farmers’ organization, their networking methods to develop new seed banks, and the training imparted to new beneficiaries by the farmers themselves. In turn, the farmers expressed their appreciation of the program’s high-yielding and disease-resistant varieties that have improved incomes, nutrition and health in their community. The proceeds from groundnut sale are now used to buy inputs for other staples like maize, send children to school, and other investments.

Dr Ehlers was also briefed on initiatives by ICRISAT Malawi and partners in support of the Malawi seed sector. The groundnut seed sector in Malawi has relied on ICRISAT to supply seed as most private organizations were deterred by fears of seed recycling and the high cost of production. This led to the formation of the Malawi Seed Alliance comprising of small seed companies, processors and traders in the groundnut value chain with the objective of improving the efficiency and sustainability of seed delivery services.

The Malawi Seed ALliance is currently a major contributor to the Government Fertilizer Input Subsidy Program, supplying over 50% of the total legume seed demand. Also showcased during the visit were  efforts to support national programs in the region with germplasm for further testing and variety release. A number of varieties have been released in Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and Malawi. Efforts are on to ensure that each national program has the capacity to carry out breeding activities effectively with support from the project. Through both the Tropical Legumes I and II projects, ICRISAT Malawi has developed populations that are currently available for utilization in the region. Work on Marker-Assisted Selection, a major focus under the Tropical Legumes I project, is in advanced stage.

Observing the 2013 season groundnut foundation seed ready for further multiplication as certified seed through the Tropical Legumes II partners in Malawi. Photo: M Dickson, ICRISAT

Dr Ehlers was also shown around the pathology laboratory where soil and crops are analyzed for Aspergillus spp and aflatoxin detection, respectively. Following the visit, he thanked ICRISAT Malawi for its support to farming communities in realizing their potential from groundnuts, the seed sector in Malawi, and the various partnerships that will ensure sustainability of the initiatives in place.

Drs Ehlers and Monyo visited ICRISAT Malawi on 25 September, and was briefed by Dr Patrick Okori on current breeding and outreach efforts of the station, including those supported by the Gates Foundation through the Tropical Legumes II project.

The Tropical Legumes II project is being undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

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Plant genetic resources and genebank management training course held for Asia and Africa

Dr Upadhyaya, Ms J Kane-Potaka and Dr R Varshney at the opening program of the training course.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Representatives from 15 genebanks across Africa and Asia have participated in a knowledge sharing course on the latest technologies and approaches in genetic material conservation and use.

The first ever of its kind at ICRISAT Patancheru, the week-long training program on “Plant Genetic Resources and Genebank Management” was successfully held on 7-12 October. The training course focused on efficient conservation of germplasm in the genebank, promoting use of genetic resources in crop improvement programs, awareness on how to access plant genetic resources in view of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), and restriction on movement of germplasm across geographical boundaries. Seventeen participants from nine countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam) and from four ICRISAT regional locations (Niamey, Nairobi, Bulawayo, and Lilongwe) attended the course.

In his welcome message, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, emphasized on the importance of plant genetic resources as building blocks for crop improvement program, and the use of applied genomic tools to facilitate germplasm characterization to identify beneficial alleles for use in crop breeding. Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Head, ICRISAT Genebank, provided details of the training program and the principles and practices for germplasm and genebank management.

Delivering the inaugural address on behalf of Director General William D. Dar, Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director, Strategic Marketing and Communication, stressed on the need for Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach noting that although genebanks are a long way from the markets they are at the start of the value chain and their efforts make a difference to what options are available later for satisfying market demands. The ICRISAT genebank, she added, has the largest collection of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, sorghum and pearl millet, and six other small millets, and operates at international standards. She emphasized the role of genebanks not just for ’conserving’ the priceless genetic resources but for playing a key role in ensuring the ‘use’ by present and future generations in enhancing food and nutritional security.

The course included lectures, hands on training, and field/laboratory visit to various facilities at the ICRISAT headquarters and to the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) Regional Station at Rajendranagar, Hyderabad. The trainees were exposed to knowledge on, among others, management of genetic resources (assembly, conservation, regeneration, characterization, evaluation, documentation and data information retrieval); genebank maintenance, various storage practices adapted at genebanks for conservation of genetic resources; and techniques and procedures for screening germplasm for abiotic and biotic stresses. All these are very critical for genetic resource specialists to learn to efficiently and cost-effectively manage large collections in genebanks, and provide genetically diverse and agronomically beneficial germplasm for use in crop breeding.

The participants expressed satisfaction on the course contents and activities, the overall usefulness of the course to their programs, and the learning opportunities at ICRISAT.

Participants of the training course. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Farmers’ field day in Mali showcases profitable groundnut production

Participants looking at groundnut varieties and books on aflatoxin control and management options on display during the field day.
Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT
Women farmers appreciating an improved variety of groundnut. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

“I learned a lot on how to produce better quality seed in a profitable manner to meet market standards by way of sowing, harvesting and keeping them away from diseases and aflatoxin contamination. ICRISAT is truly helping women farmers in terms of capacity building, by ‘teaching us how to fish rather than giving us fish.’ This will help improve our production towards more efficiently combating malnutrition,” said Minata Sanogo, woman farmer from Doumanani village, Sikasso region.

On 3 October, 79 groundnut farmers (60 of whom are women) convened at the ICRISAT Samanko station in Mali for a farmers’ field day. The group was welcomed by Dr Farid Waliyar, ICRISAT Regional Director for West and Central Africa who highlighted the Institute’s groundnut research for development interventions which have particularly benefited women farmers in Mali.

The group visited experimental and demonstration plots of improved groundnut varieties, showing keen interest to learn about quality seed production techniques, new varieties, as well their resistance to foliar diseases and tolerance to drought and aflatoxin contamination. The women were particularly impressed by improved ways to harvest groundnut being tested by ICRISAT and expressed hope that these technologies will reach their communities in the near future. 

“I produce and process soja (also known as soya) which we use to improve children’s nutrition in my village. I wish that women farmers continue to benefit from ICRISAT’s work on quality food production to improve children’s nutrition,” said Maimouna Berthé, from Kléla, Sikasso region.

Groundnut remains the major source of livelihoods for small-scale farmers in West Africa. In Mali, groundnut contributes to 64% of household cash revenue. It is considered a woman’s crop in many West African countries. ICRISAT’s collaborative work in Mali has been especially targeting women farmers – empowering and training them on good practices for quality seed production and marketing. Some women associations have been linked to markets.

The field day ended with a discussion led by Dr Waliyar and ICRISAT scientists with the women farmers who shared lessons learned during the tour and their expectations for future collaboration with ICRISAT and partners. Also attending the field day were NGO partners (Plan Mali, CAAD, Faso Kaba, GRAADECOM, Sahel 21, and EUCORD) with whom ICRISAT has been working with to empower women individually or in groups to access improved varieties. The activity has been undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

Participants interacting with ICRISAT staff. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

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Improved groundnut and millet varieties showcased in Bauchi State, Nigeria

Women farmers displaying groundnut and millet harvested from demo plots. Photo: I Abubakar, ICRISAT

On-farm trials and participatory demonstrations of improved varieties of millet (SuperSossat and Sossat-C88) and groundnut (SAMNUT 24) as well as improved agronomic and management practices were showcased during two farmers’ field days held on 16 and 17 September in Bauchi State, Nigeria. Joining the activity were farmers and State agricultural stakeholders in Gurduba and Kafin Madaki, Ningi, and in Ganjuwa Local Government Areas of Bauchi State, respectively. It was organized by the Bauchi State Agricultural Development Project (BSADP) and the Groundnut Value Chain of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

In Gurduba, farmers, drummers and traditional dancers gathered in an athmosphere of festivity. They showed keen interest on improved varieties of groundnut and millet on display. Women farmers had a display of local foods prepared with the crops. The highlight of the event was a display of produce by the ICRISAT Farmers Association Ningi.

Among those who attended the field day were BSADP’s Dr Abdurrahman (Director, Planning), Alh Ja’afar Abubakar (Director, Media) and Aminu Tahir (Zonal Program Manager); Director of Agriculture, Ningi Local Government Area; and Alh Hassan Sabo representing Alh Muhd Kilishi Musa,  Chair and District Head of Ningi. The farmers were shown around the demonstration plots. The program was covered live by the Ningi community radio station and the media and saw over 300 participants composed of farmers, marketers, processors, and extension agents attending.

At the field day in Kafin Madaki, the farmers were exposed to the technologies introduced by ICRISAT. They also requested ICRISAT and the government to provide more support to the agricultural sector. The field day showcased improved groundnut varieties SAMNUT 21 and SAMNUT 22 which were planted alongside local variety Mai borgu. The farmers appreciated the improved varieties and management practices over the local variety, and urged for assistance to facilitate greater seed production to enable farmers’ access to varieties. One of the sessions was devoted to the major actors in the ICRISAT/BSADP collaborative work for the 2013 cropping season.

Among those who attended were the district head of Ganjuwa as the guest of honor; BSADP’s Mallam Saleh Yahaya (Director, Rural), Mallam Salisu Huseini (Director, Extension) and  Mallam Jafaru Abubakar, Aminu Tahir; Alh Saleh Sidi Bara representing the Ganjuwa Local Government Caretaker Committee Chairman; and Ahmed Wakili representing the National Fadama III program. Among those who spoke were Abubakar Inuwa (ICRISAT Kano) and Alh Lawan Shirama (BSADP).

Participants in the groundnut demo plot. Photo: I Abubakar, ICRISAT

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ICRISAT agropedia – a knowledge sharing portal

Participants of the workshop organized by MANAGE.

The agropedia consortium has rebuilt its portal and is now ready to be deployed as a ‘Software as a Service (SaaS)’ model.

Currently, there are over 20 agropedias at various stages of development in India. The strategy envisioned by the agropedia consortium is expected to ensure ownership of content and sustainability of the knowledge sharing portals – an issue that has trailed agropedia in the past 4 years.  It is so designed that any content added to individual agropedia will automatically get inserted into the mother agropedia of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The vision is to have agropedias for each national agricultural research partner – all feeding knowledge into one comprehensive knowledge sharing portal for Indian agriculture.

Along with the Indian Institute of Technology - Kanpur, ICRISAT has also been helping the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad to launch its own agropedia (manage.agropedia.in). NT Yaduraju and Kiran Yadav of ICRISAT’s Knowledge Sharing and Innovation,  participated in the workshop organized by MANAGE on 27 September to give a demonstration of the ICRISAT’s agropedia portal. The workshop was convened by Dr VP Sharma, Director of IT, and attended by Mr B Srinivas IAS, Director General, and other senior faculty members from MANAGE.

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Generation Challenge Programme congratulates ICRISAT award-winning scientist

Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Principal Groundnut Breeder and Head, ICRISAT Genebank, was recognized by the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) for garnering two prestigious awards – the 2013 Crop Science Research Award and the Frank N Meyer Medal for Plant Genetic Resources by the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) for his outstanding contributions of global significance in the fields of crop science research and plant genetic resources.

Dr Jean-Marcel Ribaut, GCP Director, congratulated Dr Upadhyaya during the General Research Meeting of GCP held on 27-30 September at Lisbon, Portugal. Dr Ribaut recounted efforts of Dr Upadhyaya in enhancing the use of germplasm collections in breeding programs in developing high yielding cultivars with a broad genetic base through the “mini core” (1% of entire collection representing diversity of entire collection) concept – developing mini core collections of chickpea, groundnut, pigeonpea, sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet and foxtail millets.

As groundnut breeder, Dr Upadhyaya has developed a large number of improved short-duration, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant breeding lines of groundnut, several of which have been released as cultivars in Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Dr Upadhyaya thanked Dr Ribaut for the recognition given to him by the GCP.

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India-Sri Lanka joint initiative on health and nutrition kicks off

Dr SD Mazumdar receiving an ITI booklet from Dr GAS Premakumara (3rd from right).
Photo: ITI, Colombo
Drs SD Mazumdar and S Gopalakrishnan presenting ICRISAT information materials to His Excellency Shri YK Sinha (center).
Photo: ITI, Colombo

The start-up meeting of the project “Ensuring Human Health, Food and Nutritional Security through Novel Cereal and Fruit-based Prebiotics” under the Indian and Sri Lankan InterGovernmental Science & Technology Cooperation program laid the groundwork for the successful implementation of this joint health and nutrition initiative.

Held at the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) of Sri Lanka, Colombo, on 30 September – 3 October, the meeting was inaugurated by Dr GAS Premakumara Director/CEO of ITI, who expressed interest in initiating more collaborative activities with ICRISAT, and urged both institutes to identify areas of mutual interest.

The project, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India (India counterpart), is jointly implemented by ICRISAT for India and ITI for Sri Lanka. The project shall focus on understanding the prebiotic (carbohydrates that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria) potential of sorghum and pearl millet which are grown extensively in the dryland areas of India, along with finger millet and banana which are grown extensively in Sri Lanka.

During the visit, extensive discussions were held and work plans finalized, while exchange visits and probable areas for future collaborations between the two institutes were identified. The ICRISAT team also visited the Plant Genetic Resource Centre and the Horticultural Crops Research and Development Institute, both located at Peradeniya, in order to understand the work being carried out on finger millet and banana in Sri Lanka. The team also called upon the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, His Excellency Shri YK Sinha, to appraise him on the progress of the project, who in turn promised to extend his full support to ICRISAT in successfully implementing this important initiative with Sri Lanka. 

Representing ICRISAT at the meeting were Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, COO of NutriPlus Knowledge program, Agribusiness Innovation Platform (AIP), and Dr S Gopalakrishnan, Senior Scientist, Biological Control Laboratory. The Sri Lankan team consisted of Dr Radhika Samarasekera, Additional Director (R&D), and Ms W Divisekara and Dr Jaanaki Goonaratne.

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