01 November 2013
No. 1595

Bringing rural youth back into agriculture

Making agriculture more remunerative is key to drawing youngsters to the profession that has lost its lure. Photo: ICRISAT

The developing world will soon have the largest share of youth, and around 82% of them will be concentrated in Asia and Africa. How can agriculture be made more intellectually stimulating and financially rewarding for them? How can they be lured back into a profession that feeds the world?

These were some of the important issues discussed at the Regional Workshop on Youth and Agriculture: Challenges and Opportunities held at Islamabad, Pakistan on 23-24 October, aimed at sharing regional and international knowledge and experiences to encourage the youth in agriculture.

In a presentation on “Agricultural research for development foresights for the youth: Global and regional dimensions of CGIAR perspectives,” Dr N Nagaraj, Principal Scientist (Economics) on behalf of ICRISAT Director General William D. Dar, gave insights on how to encourage the youth back into agriculture by proving that it is highly remunerative, and by promoting high-value agriculture and setting up agricultural transformation centers. Other key points raised in the paper are: introducing ICT in farming for better information dissemination, targeted programs for schools and college/universities, more public investment in rural infrastructure, farm mechanization, and farm education and outreach.

Following detailed deliberations in the technical sessions, five major recommendations were suggested: 1) Include agriculture as a subject in school curricula; 2) Initiate continuous education for farmers through mass media, short courses, visits and exchange programs among member states of the Asia Pacific Association for Agriculture Research Institutions (APAARI); 3) Develop vocational training institutes in agriculture, covering topics such as value addition, dairy farming, poultry farming, farm mechanization and alternative use of energy; 4) Access university curricula and the need of stakeholders and update the curriculum in agriculture; and 5) Focus on integrated research and development to get rid of the drudgery in agriculture.

The workshop was organized by the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) in collaboration with APAARI, Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), ICRISAT, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Bioversity International, International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT), and Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Among those who attended the workshop were PARC Chairman Dr Iftikhar Ahmad; APAARI Director General Dr Simon Hearn; APAARI Executive Secretary Dr Raj S Paroda; NARC Director General Dr Azeem Khan; CIMMYT Director General Dr Thomas Lumpkin; ICARDA Director General Dr Mahmoud Solh; ICRISAT Research Program Director – Dryland Cereals, Dr Stefania Grando; national and international experts; government officials and representatives from the private sector.

Participants of the workshop held in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photo: APAARI

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Promoting entrepreneurship among African students

Dr F Driver (left) congratulates Dr HA Diallo (center). Also seen is Mr A Ariho (right). Photo: RB Kumar, ICRISAT

About 16 students and academicians from Africa had the opportunity to present their business ideas at a camp held on 11 October in Nairobi, Kenya. The camp aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among African students and creating a competitive agribusiness environment by scouting for innovations in agribusiness.

Called “Agbiz Idol Camp,” the event was conducted by ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI-ICRISAT) Program as part of the Agri-Business Education Fair organized by the African Network for Agriculture, Agrofrestry and Natural Resources Education, and its partners under the Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) initiative of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).

Contestants were screened and evaluated under the two categories of entrepreneurs and academicians by a panel comprising of Mr Alex Ariho, UniBRAIN Facility Coordinator; Mr Ralph Von Kaufmann, former UniBRAIN Facility Coordinator; Mr SM Karuppanchetty, Chief Operating Officer, ABI-ICRISAT; and representatives from the UniBRAIN Agribusiness Innovation Incubator Consortia.

Ms Irene W Gichingiri and Mr Goodhope Shombe won the awards in the entrepreneur category, while Dr Hortense Atta Diallo and Dr Niran Thompson were declared winners in the academician category. The winners were all felicitated by Mr Ariho and Dr Francoise Driver, University of Mauritius, with an award and a certificate of participation.

ABI-ICRISAT shall assist the entrepreneurs in building their business plans and their incubation will be facilitated under the Creating Competitive Livestock Entrepreneurs in Agribusiness, Ghana.

As part of the Agri Business Education Fair, Mr Karuppanchetty shared best practices in handholding and mentoring business incubation centers under the Network of Indian Agri-Business Incubators (NIABI) and the Global Agri-Business Incubation (GABI) network.

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Public-private partnership highlighted at Farmers’ Day in Karnataka, India

Drs SP Wani and DG William Dar along with Mrs and Mr Jindal at the Farmers’ Day in Bellary district. Photo: ICRISAT

An enthusiastic group of 1,100 farmers gathered to share their experiences as part of a pilot watershed program being implemented in four villages in Bellary district (Kodalu, Chikka Anantapur, Dodda Anantapur and Joga), state of Karnataka, India. This program is a public-private partnership between Jindal Steel’s JSW  Foundation, ICRISAT and the Government of Karnataka, aimed at improving the sustainability and livelihoods of smallholder farmers.

Addressing the gathering of farmers and officials during the Farmers’ Day held on 24 October, Director General William D. Dar highlighted the farmer-centric thinking approach of the JSW Foundation, and the importance of a public-private partnership model for the sustainable development of natural resources and to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in drought-prone Bellary district.

In his address, Mr Sajjan Jindal, Managing Director of JSW Foundation, stated that the partnership would not only transform the four villages covered by the program but also all of the rainfed farms in Bellary district. He and Mrs Sangita Jindal, Chair of JSW Foundation, visited the fields where farmers have grown cotton and pigeonpea using improved soil test-based nutrient management. Mr Jindal expressed commitment to help farmers in the district increase their incomes through science-led development with the help of ICRISAT.

During the interactions, farmers explained how various interventions such as planting of Glyricidia on bunds to generate N-rich organic matter for improving soil health, vermicomposting for safe recycling of farm residues, farm ponds for harvesting rainwater for supplemental irrigation as well as conservation of soil moisture for better crop growth, had benefited them.  Mr  Mallikarjuna, a farmer, said he harvested 1.6 tonnes of cotton last year, and is expecting additional yields from adoption of improved management practices.

Dr SP Wani, Acting Research Program Director – Resilient Dryland Systems, explained the integrated watershed development program and the novelties of the public-private partnership initiative in which wastewater treatment will enable farmers to use safe water for agriculture and also to improve sanitation in the village. The project covers 7000 ha in four villages and is benefiting 1260 farm families. 

The farmers also visited the exhibition stalls of ICRISAT, DoA and private seed companies, where they gathered information on improved management practices and new high-yielding cultivars of crops.

Dr Ramappa, Joint Director of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture, Bellary district and the Director of the Watershed Development Department were also present at the event. The activity was jointly organized by ICRISAT and Karnataka’s Department of Agriculture.

Dr SP Wani explaining the benefits of ICRISAT’s hybrid pigeonpea. Photo: ICRISAT
Drs William Dar and SP Wani with Mrs and Mr Jindal at the ICRISAT stall. Photo: ICRISAT

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High-level delegation from Ghana and Uganda explores partnership opportunities with ICRISAT

AIP-ICRISAT staff with Mr AP Kajara (5th from left); Prof KM Maredia (2nd from left); and Dr M Mohammed-Alfa (3rd from left). Photo: H Mane, ICRISAT

Aiming to study ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (ICRISAT-AIP) operations and explore opportunities to jointly promote entrepreneurship in the African continent, a high-level delegation of Ministers from Africa visited the ICRISAT headquarters on 28 October.

The three-member delegation was composed of Mr Aston Peterson Kajara, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Government of Uganda; Dr Musheibu Mohammed-Alfa, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Economic Development, Government of Ghana; and Prof Karim M Maredia, Professor and Director, World Technology Access Program, Michigan State University, USA.

The ICRISAT-AIP team led by Dr Kiran K Sharma briefed the delegation on the Platform’s operations and activities in Africa. These activities involve handholding of Agri-Business Incubators under the Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) – Forum of Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) project, and the setting up of Food Testing Laboratories and Food Processing Business Incubation Centers under the Indo-African Forum Summit. 

Mr Kajara expressed appreciation of AIP’s public-private partnership model and assured to extend all the help required by ICRISAT in the effective implementation of projects in Uganda. He said his country would also support the provision of joint soft landing services to Indian agro-companies that wish to start operations in Uganda.

Dr Mohammed, on the other hand, expressed interest in partnering with AIP in setting up and exploring funding opportunities for a science park in Ghana. He is currently studying various working models in India, and assured support in exploring opportunities for collaboration with ICRISAT, beyond the scope of the current projects of UniBRAIN-FARA and India’s Ministry of Food Processing.

Both the Ministers agreed to jointly provide soft landing facilities for Indian seed companies so that local seed demand could be met and suitable crop varieties could be promoted in the region. Further, Prof Karim invited AIP to explore opportunities to closely work with the Michigan State University in promoting entrepreneurs in the area of food processing and nutrition in project mode.

The ministerial delegation was taken around the offices of the AIP incubatees by Chief Operating Officers Mr SM Karuppanchetty (ABI program); Mr S Aravazhi (Innovation and Partnership program) and Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar (Nutriplus Knowledge program).

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IFAD commends work on selection of farmer-preferred cultivars and improved seed access in Nepal and India

Members of the supervision mission visiting pigeonpea trials in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh. Photo: RAKCA, Sehore
Farmers in Jharkhand interact with the mission members. Photo: JTDS

A supervision mission designated by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) reviewed the progress of the project “Sustainable management of crop-based production systems for raising agricultural productivity in rainfed Asia.” The mission was carried out by Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Executive Chairperson of the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Research, Extension and Development, Kathmandu, Nepal.

The mission conducted field visits in several project sites in Surkhet district in Nepal; and in Ranchi and Sarayakila districts of Jharkhand; and Sehore, Sajapur and Rajgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh in India on 18-26 October. It held extensive consultations with project partners and farmers participating in the project.

The wrap-up meeting was held on 28 October at the ICRISAT headquarters attended by Director General Dr William D. Dar, Deputy Director General for Research Dr CLL Gowda and Project Coordinator Dr Pooran Gaur. The mission appreciated the project’s progress, particularly in the selection of farmer-preferred cultivars and in improving access to quality seeds by small-scale farmers.

The four-year project is being implemented in Nepal (western mid-level hills region), India (Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan), Lao PDR (northern and southern areas) and Vietnam (Ha Tinh and Cao Bang provinces). Its overall goal is to enhance the income of farmers engaged in rainfed agriculture through sustainable, enhanced productivity and diversified income-generating opportunities. The project involves four components: 1) Designing resilient productive cropping systems;  2) Technical support and scaling out and up of innovations; 3) Inclusive market-oriented development; and 4) Building of capacity within the national agricultural research system and among farmers. 

The project partners include Jharkhand Tribal Development Society (JTDS) and Birsa Agricultural University (BAU) in Jharkhand; Rajamata Vijayaraje Scindia Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (RVSKVV) in Madhya Pradesh; State Project Management Unit of Mitigating Poverty in Western Rajasthan (MPOWER), Rajasthan in India; Sustainable Natural Resource Management and Productivity Enhancement Project (SNRMPEP) in Laos; Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) in Nepal; and Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) in Vietnam.

Among those who participated in the field visits were Dr Tara Bahadur Gimire and Mr Bibek Sapkota in Nepal; Dr HS Gupta, Dr PK Singh and Mr Manoj Sinha in Jharkhand; and Dr HS Yadav, Dr VS Gautam, Dr AN Tikle,  and Dr RP Singh in Madhya Pradesh. From ICRISAT, Dr Pooran Gaur accompanied the Mission in Madhya Pradesh and Dr GV Ganga Rao in Jharkhand.

Dr H Upadhyaya (far left) with Drs WD Dar, CLL Gowda and P Gaur at the wrap-up meeting in ICRISAT. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Working towards a CGIAR Capacity Development Community of Practice

Participants of the workshop. Photo: ILRI

Identifying principles and building blocks for a CGIAR capacity development strategy was the focus of a workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya on 21-25 October. A key output of the workshop was the launch of the CGIAR Capacity Development Community of Practice (CoP) to foster mutual learning, co-creation, sharing of best practices, and advocacy for a capacity development across the CGIAR system.

Representing ICRISAT at the workshop sponsored by the CGIAR Consortium were Drs G Dileepkumar and Rosana Mula, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation Global Leader and Learning Systems Unit Coordinator, respectively, who shared the Institute’s on-going innovative capacity building activities.

Among the key recommendations drawn from the workshop were: aligning capacity development with the on-going CGIAR reform process; pursuing opportunities for partnerships on capacity development; following a research and apply systems approach to capacity development; and coming up with a common impact framework for capacity development where the focus is on improving the quality of capacity development within the CGIAR Research Programs and integrating appropriate capacity development approaches in new initiatives.

The CoP composed of the workshop participants also identified the way forward towards the realization of key concerns in capacity development work.

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ICRISAT innovations showcased at crop science society conference in Uganda

African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Ms Rhoda Tumuslime at the ICRISAT stall.

Innovations showcased by ICRISAT at the 11th African Crop Science Society Conference held in Uganda on 14-17 October included new resilient and highly productive crop varieties developed in partnership with farmers and national agricultural research organizations, ways of strengthening seed systems for informal and formal sectors, and knowledge and innovation dissemination approaches focusing on farmers as learners and trainers. The theme of the conference was “Sowing innovations for sustainable food and nutrition in Africa.”

ICRISAT’s Dr Patrick Okori presented a keynote paper on “Opportunities for increasing crop productivity through agro-ecological intensification,” demonstrating efforts by the Institute to sustainably increase productivity and cropping system resilience. Using examples of ICRISAT’s work in Eastern and Southern Africa, he presented the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy as a pillar for sustainable intensification in which value-added innovations are deployed by farmers to capture larger rewards from markets and manage risks thereby improving food and nutrition security, and reducing poverty and environmental hazards. ICRISAT’s innovations were also showcased through posters, exhibitions and oral presentations.

The ICRISAT exhibition stall displayed both popular and new groundnut and pigeonpea varieties as well as technology dissemination literature. The stall was visited by Uganda’s Minister of Agriculture Mr Tress Buchanayadi and the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture   Ms Rhoda Tumuslime. Various stakeholders showed keen interest in accessing new legume varieties.

Mr Wills Munthali, Ms Veronica Guwela, Mr Oswin Madzonga and Mr Felix Sichali of ICRISAT also attended the Conference.

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ICRISAT observes Open Access Week

Dr Venkadesan of ISB speaks on the state of open access. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Committed to promoting Open Access – encouraging and educating academic and research community about its potential – ICRISAT organized an Open Access Week observance on 24 October attended by more than 50 participants ranging from scientists and managers to officers, scholars, interns and partners. The event was part of the global Open Access Week celebration on 21-27 October.   

“Being part of the research community, we need to encourage Open Access in order to break past barriers of information exchange.

This will help us gain access to the huge repository of knowledge and research information that can enhance our capacity to do better research in the future,” said Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General for Research, at the inauguration of the event and the Open Access Booth.

On the occasion, Dr Venkadesan, Director, Learning Resource Centre, Indian School of Business delivered a lecture on “The state of Open Access: A report,” emphasizing that the movement can be successful only if the research community is educated about it and the various types of access routes. 

Giving his take on “Open Access initiatives in India with special reference to agriculture,” Dr Veeranjaneyulu, Librarian, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), made a presentation on the Indian perspective of open access, citing the various initiatives by the National Agricultural Research Systems.

The event was organized by the Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) Team and coordinated by Mr Chukka Srinivasarao, Senior Manager, Data Management and Mr Siva Shankar, Library Officer.

Dr CLL Gowda inaugurating the Open Access Booth. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

ICRISAT has been promoting open access repositories for:

Publications – Open Access Respository – ( http://oar.icrisat.org )

Data Dataverse –
( http://dataverse.icrisat.org/dvn )

Educational Repositories KSIConnect – ( http://ksiconnect.icrisat.org )

AgED Open Courseware –
( http://www.aged.icrisat.org )

A central access point to all ICRISAT scientific information and data –
( http://EXPLOREit.icrisat.org )

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ICRISAT at the Global Soil Week 2013

That soils are crucial for food, water and energy security was emphasized at the 2nd Global Soil Week held in Berlin, Germany on 27-31 October. The event’s theme was “Losing ground,” giving focus on the threat of loss of soil through degradation as well as insecurity or loss of land rights of marginalized crops around the world.

ICRISAT co-sponsored a session on “Integrated governance for energy security and sustainable land use” at the event on 29 October, where Dr Suhas P Wani, Acting Research Program Director – Resilient Dryland Systems, presented a lead paper on “Governance of land use and bio-fuel production in India: Strategies, challenges, potentials for integration”. The session was co-sponsored by The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The 2nd Global Soil Week was attended by 475 participants representing 73 countries and was devoted to understanding soils in the nexus, managing the nexus, and creating pathways to social change.

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