10 January 2014
No. 1605


India strengthens ties with CGIAR institutions in Ethiopia and Kenya

Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, Mr Krishna Byre Gowda (extreme right) visiting a farmer’s field near Holetta in Ethiopia. Photo: ICRISAT

Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, paid a visit to Ethiopia and Kenya to gain an understanding of the work being carried out by CGIAR centers based in Africa and to identify best practices and information that can be used to strengthen the ongoing developmental programs in the state of Karnataka in India.

Interacting with representatives of the centers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Addis Ababa on 24 December, the Minister said, “Though the state of Karnataka made significant progress in improving the productivity of agriculture, in recent years, growth had stagnated. Intensive cultivation had led to a rapid decline in soil nutrient levels, leading to micronutrient deficiencies.

“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of ICRISAT and the State agricultural department, some of these issues were identified and corrective actions were taken. Karnataka has now returned to a positive growth rate in agriculture. This demonstrates the need for science-based interventions in identifying problems and in implementing appropriate solutions,” he added.

Mr Byre Gowda also stressed on the importance of improving agriculture in developing countries such as India and Ethiopia despite its diminishing share in GDP due to the sector’s crucial role as a source of livelihood for a majority of the poor people.

The interactions gave the Minister a clear overview of various projects and activities that the centers are pursuing in Ethiopia. Among the activities that were found to be highly relevant to the conditions in Karnataka include efforts on sustainable intensification through expansion of small-scale irrigation and strategic improvements in rainfed agricultural systems by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI); the soil health program of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); mapping of soil nutrient status using satellite imagery by the International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) in collaboration with US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with support from the Canadian International Development Agency and efforts to improve resilience of dryland systems by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).

Mr K Byre Gowda interacts with representatives of CGIAR centers with country offices in Ethiopia. Photo: ICRISAT

Mr Byre Gowda’s visit focused on wide ranging discussions with the representatives of eight CGIAR centers based in Ethiopia – ICRISAT, ILRI, IWMI, ICRAF, CIMMYT, ICARDA, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The Minister also visited the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and met with its Director General Dr Fentahun Mengitsu, who briefed him about the Institute’s research network and major programs and those implemented by the Government of Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia has made significant progress in the past 10 to 15 years and is one of the few countries in Africa that is spending more than 10 per cent of the national budget on agriculture,” Dr Mengitsu explained. He went on to elucidate on his country’s historical relationship with India and its contribution to capacity building. The sustainable land management initiative, similar to the watershed programs in India, is one of the flagship programs currently being implemented by the Government of Ethiopia to support smallholder farmers.

Concluding the meeting, the Minister said: “Farmers in India and Ethiopia are facing very similar problems. Some of the problems that India is facing now could be Ethiopia’s problems in the future. There are lessons that each of us can borrow from the other’s work. A strong collaboration between the two countries will be mutually beneficial”.

The visit was organized by ICRISAT on behalf of the Consortium of CGIAR centers that is working closely with the Government of Karnataka, Ministry of Agriculture in implementing the “Bhoochetana Plus” program.

Mr Byre Gowda also visited farmers’ fields and a commercial flower farm near Holetta, in Ethiopia.

In Nairobi, Kenya, the Minister interacted with representatives of CGIAR centers located in the country. He toured the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) campus and interacted with the local farmers.

The visit was facilitated by Drs Moses Siambi, ICRISAT’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA); KPC Rao, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT; and NVPR Ganga Rao, Senior Scientist – Breeding, ICRISAT.

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Training on unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture via convergence and Research for Developmen

Participants visiting fields under the Bhoochetana program
in Davangere district, Karnataka. Photo: ICRISAT

With the changing paradigm of rainfed agriculture for sustainable production, an international capacity building course on Convergence to unlock the potential of rainfed agriculture through a research for development approach was organized by the ICRISAT Research Program on Resilient Dryland Systems. The course was attended by 18 participants from Asia (India) and Africa (Tanzania and Ethiopia).

ICRISAT’s Deputy Director General – Research, Dr CLL Gowda in his inaugural address highlighted ICRISAT’s initiatives in Asia and Africa which have helped to bring different actors and stakeholders together to bridge the large yield gaps to improve the rural livelihood system. 

Dr Suhas P Wani, Acting Research Program Director – Resilient Dryland Systems and  the course director, emphasized the importance of consortium, convergence and collective action for sustainable intensification of rainfed agriculture and the need for partnerships to translate knowledge into action. He highlighted ICRISAT’s approach to unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture through integrated watershed management and described the pathways of ICRISAT’s research for development approach which has been scaled up in different states of India as well as in other parts of Asia.

The training program covered the concepts of research for development, convergence, collective action, consortium; best practices of convergence in natural resource management, watershed management, productivity enhancement and climate resilient agriculture; convergence in high-value crops for profit; and impact pathways.

Participants worked on group assignments and made presentations on identifying drivers of success; identifying opportunities to increase profit; documentation of case studies; and institutional innovations. They shared experiences in convergence and collective action achieved in their states/countries. Participants were exposed to live examples of convergence, collective action and consortium approaches at Adarsha watershed, Kothapally as well as the Bhoochetana initiative in Karnataka.

The resource persons for the course included experts from the Department of Land Resources, New Delhi; Commissioner of Rural Development, Andhra Pradesh; Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru; Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka; Watershed Development Department, Government of Karnataka; The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC); and ICRISAT.

The course was coordinated by Dr KH Anantha, Scientist – Watersheds and was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland Systems and on Water, Land and Ecosystems. It was held from 16-27 December at the ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru, India.

Participants of the capacity building course. Photo: ICRISAT

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ICRISAT provides technical support to Catholic Relief Services in Niger

A training workshop on improved market garden production techniques, in Matamey village, Niger. Photo: M Amadou, ICRISAT
A practical demonstration of how to prepare biopesticide with neem leaves. Photo: M Amadou, ICRISAT

More than 67 participants were trained in covered garden nursery management, irrigation techniques, home garden techniques, integrated pest management, garden seed multiplication and storage and compost preparation at a workshop organized by ICRISAT in Matamey, Niger on 11-23 November.

With the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), over the next five years, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) will implement the Development Food Aid Program (DFAP) which aims to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition among vulnerable rural populations in Niger. ICRISAT will provide technical support to the program.

The staff shared presentations with the participants followed by practical demonstrations.

The training was conducted by ICRISAT-Niamey’s Mr Housseini Issaka, Research assistant and Mr Moustapha Amadou, Research technician.

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Prestigious Indian National Science Academy (INSA) fellowship conferred on Rajeev K Varshney

Dr Varshney receiving the fellowship award from INSA
President Dr K Lal. Photo: ICRISAT

The Indian National Science Academy (INSA) conferred its elected fellowship on Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, for his outstanding work in the area of legume genomics at its 69th anniversary meet in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India on 28 December. INSA was established in 1935 with the objective of promoting science in India and harnessing scientific knowledge for the cause of humanity and national welfare.

Accepting the fellowship from INSA President Dr Krishan Lal, Dr Varshney said, “This prestigious fellowship as well as other awards I have received have been possible only because of the excellent work we have been doing at ICRISAT in collaboration with our scientists and partner organizations. I am privileged to be working with ICRISAT and to have the support of my colleagues and partners.”

Dr Varshney has been instrumental in the genome sequencing of pigeonpea and chickpea, development of molecular markers and high density molecular maps in a number of legume species and the deployment of molecular markers for developing abiotic and biotic stress-tolerant genotypes of chickpea and groundnut.

Congratulating Dr Varshney, Director General Dr William D Dar said, “You are bringing honor not only to yourself but to ICRISAT as well. Congratulations!”

Team ICRISAT congratulates Rajeev!

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Developing scenarios on future livelihood conditions for Dryland Systems research

Participants of the workshop in Kano, Nigeria. Photo: ICRISAT

Stakeholders of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems met to develop scenarios about possible future livelihood conditions for Dryland Systems research areas at a workshop organized by ICRISAT in collaboration with the Michigan State University’s Department of Community Sustainability.

The workshop sessions were held in Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, on 9-11 December and in Kano, Nigeria on 16-18 December. Regional representatives from CGIAR centers, local district authorities, delegates from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and farmers attended the workshop.

Participants at the workshop brainstormed to:

  • Identify key drivers of change leading to different possible future conditions in Dryland System program districts;
  • Identify possible changes in these drivers by considering current trends as well as plausible changes that do not follow those trends;
  • Group ideas into sets of coherent narrative scenarios describing possible future conditions in each of the program districts in 2050;
  • Identify new challenges and opportunities for smallholder farm households under each scenario;
  • Suggest possible strategies which smallholder farm households could use to adapt under different scenarios; and
  • Identify key research topics connected to future scenarios and adaptation possibilities.
Organized into small discussion groups, the participants explored the process to construct scenarios representing the plausible future situations requiring their intervention.

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Understanding the role of technologies, prices and policies in dryland agriculture

Dr N Nagaraj making a presentation at the conference.

ICRISAT sponsored a Special Session on “Agrarian transformation in dryland agriculture in India: Role of technologies, prices and policies” at the 73rd Annual Conference of the Indian Society of Agricultural Economics (ISAE).

Chairing the session was Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies (MIP) who also presented an overview of the session and spoke on the Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) project.

Among the topics presented during the session were -- Agricultural transformation in rainfed agro-ecosystem in India (Dr Lalmani Pandey); Changes in agrarian structure and agricultural productivity in SAT India: Insights from longitudinal panel data (Dr Uttam Deb); Four decades of agrarian transformation: A meso and micro analyses of dryland villages in Madhya Pradesh (Dr Madhu Bhattarai); and Changes in agrarian structure, adoption of technologies and agricultural productivity in Eastern India (Dr Anjani Kumar), all from ICRISAT and Economic analysis of agricultural transformation process in Karnataka (Mr Basavaraj Jamakhandi, a PhD student from UAS-B). This was followed by discussions.

As rapporteur, Principal Economist Dr N Nagaraj reviewed the papers in the area of “Development of dryland agriculture: Technological, institutional, infrastructural and policy imperatives” and conducted a group discussion.

The conference also discussed the following issues pertaining to the drylands -- theoretical and empirical research contributions focusing on the drivers and impacts of agrarian crisis in the drylands of India; economic and social benefits of adoption of micro-irrigation systems; impacts of electricity and water pricing policies on water and land productivity; analyzing the trade-offs in enhancing economic returns from dryland farms with water-efficient crops and micro-irrigation technologies; and institutional interventions and infrastructural support for agricultural development in the drylands.

The conference was held at the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM) in Hyderabad, from 18-20 December. The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets.

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Promoting agribusiness opportunities for young entrepreneurs

Mr S Aravazhi releasing the Souvenir-cum-Abstract
Proceedings, along with other dignitaries at the seminar.
Photo: H Mane, ICRISAT

To promote the participation of youth in agribusiness, the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) of ICRISAT participated in a one-day, state-level seminar on ‘Sustainable Agriculture and Food Processing’ organized by the Ratnapuri Institute of Technology – College of Polytechnic, Medak district, Andhra Pradesh on 6 January.

The seminar was conducted as part of ICRISAT’s partnership program with Vennela Educational Society, (VES), in which AIP is facilitating technical support in the production and cultivation of vegetables; and hybrid seed production of pigeonpea and other crops.

Speaking at the event as Chief Guest, Mr S Aravazhi, Chief Operating Officer of the Innovation and Partnership program explained how ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy is supporting young entrepreneurs in the areas of food processing and sustainable agriculture. “Food processing is one of the most important links in the agricultural value chain that enables value addition and reduction of post-harvest losses of agricultural produce. Enabling farmers to become part of this link by engaging them as entrepreneurs and through small- and medium-term enterprises (SMEs) can help in the development of a vibrant agrarian and rural economy,” Mr Aravazhi said.

Mr S Aravazhi observing the working of the semiautomatic
double cluster milking machine displayed at the agro-products exhibition organized at the seminar. Photo: H Mane, ICRISAT

Discussions at the event focused on the need to tap existing and emerging agribusiness opportunities and on linking youth to technology and funding avenues, enabling them to promote farming as a business, and learning how to use this partnership for trading, agribusiness information and agribusiness link platform.

More than 210 students from Vennela Education Society, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University and other colleges attended the seminar.

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