07 February 2014
No. 1609


At the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture
ICRISAT shares big ideas to help drive innovation for an agricultural revolution

Director General Dr WD Dar speaking as one of the panelists in the plenary session on “Africa: The Frontier for Arid Farming” at the GFIA. Also seen are (left) Dr Amit H Roy, President and CEO, International Fertilizer Development Center, USA, and (right) Mr Pierre Herben, CTO, Yara International. Photo: ICRISAT

Responding to the call for game-changing, sustainable agricultural innovations and showing how thinking out of the box can feed the world, ICRISAT shared its big ideas and innovations, such as the crucial role of agribusiness and entrepreneurship to build the economy, at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA).

“We at ICRISAT are working to create global awareness and build competencies on agribusiness incubation to promote start-up agribusiness ventures for the benefit of farmers by establishing agribusiness incubators. This, we believe, is one of the keys to our Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy.” 

This view was expressed by ICRISAT Director General Dr William D. Dar as one of the panelists in the plenary session on “Africa: The Frontier for Arid Farming” at the GFIA held on 3-5 February in Abu Dhabi.

“ICRISAT already has a proven model for agribusiness incubation based on our experience in setting up 22 agribusiness incubators in India, the same model that is now being adopted in setting up 6 incubators in Africa, the first one of which was launched recently in Mali. Five food processing business incubator centers and five food testing laboratories will also be set up in Africa through the initiative of the Government of India,” Dr Dar said.

“Our IMOD strategy to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation includes the development of equitable, sustainable, and resilient systems that connect African subsistence farmers to higher-value markets,” Dr Dar added.

Dr Dar then shared ICRISAT’s scientific innovations that can be scaled up to boost smallholder agriculture productivity, create jobs and improve livelihoods, as well as strategies to facilitate public-private partnerships and knowledge transfer, and create investment opportunities for smallholder farmers.

ICRISAT is now working on the Big Ideas concept, a collection of ICRISAT innovations and avenues for partnerships to tackle the biggest hurdles and opportunities critical for the development of agriculture and agribusiness in the drylands. Some of these ‘big ideas’ include: building climate resilient communities, a model for sustainable management of natural resources, dryland cereals and grain legumes breeds for the future, empowering women,  center of excellence in nutrition and food safety, nutritional security for rural communities, ICT agro-advisories , and new opportunities for business and development.

Dr F Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR Consortium discussing ICRISAT’s Big Ideas folder with Dr Dar, along with Mr S Karuppanchetty and Dr KK Sharma at the ICRISAT exhibit booth. Photo: ICRISAT

GFIA 2014 with the theme “Driving Innovation for an Agricultural Revolution” served to showcase innovations and new technologies needed to drive the future of global agriculture. It brought together an unprecedented array of world-renowned innovators, investors, food producers, retailers, governments, scientists, and non-government and agricultural organizations. The multi-faceted event included an exhibition with over 125 exhibitors plus a 1,800-delegate conference comprising keynote sessions, panel discussions, an African Ministerial discussion and 150 innovation presentations by 180 speakers.

Addressing the assembled dignitaries via video address at the opening ceremony, Mr Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, used his speech to emphasize the significance of technological innovation in combating the problems of the poor.

“In a world where most of the poorest are farmers, investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty. To help the poorest seize agriculture’s potential, we need to unleash as much innovation as possible,” said Mr Gates.

Dr Frank Rijsberman, Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium, focused his message on why dry areas should invest massively on innovation to ensure food security. “History shows us that the most effective route to keeping global food prices low is to massively increase investment in agricultural innovations,” said Dr Rijsberman.

At the conference, Dr Dar took the opportunity to hold a series of Ministerial discussions with delegations led by: HE Rashid Pelpuo, Minister of State Private Sector Development and Public Private Partnerships, Ghana; HE Robert K Sichinga, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Zambia; and Ms. Anna Olivia, Agriculture Secretary, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya.

During the event, the African agribusiness incubation network initiated by UniBRAIN - Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in association with ICRISAT was launched by Dr Dar, along with Prof Wale Adekunle, Director of Partnership, FARA; Mr Alex Ariho, Facility Coordinator, UniBRAIN, and ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) team led by its CEO, Dr Kiran Sharma. This initiative will enhance the promotion and development of agribusiness incubation network in Africa through capacity building and communication on opportunities, and will be an association partner of the Global Agri-Business Incubation (GABI) network.

Dr KK Sharma also organized a round table session on “A developmental model of linking youth and women entrepreneurs: leveraging mutual strengths.” The session attracted a large number of delegates and was attended by Dr Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary, Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR); Mr Raman Sehgal, Managing Director, Misr Seeds, Egypt; Mr Alex Ariho, Facility Coordinator, UniBRAIN, FARA, Ghana; and Mr Amit Mehra, Founder and CEO, Reuters Market Light, India.

Dr K Sharma served as one of the members of the GFIA Steering Committee responsible for mapping out the GFIA agenda, composed of 20 international experts in the fields of academia, research and development, science, industry and investment.

Along with Drs Dar and Sharma, S Karuppanchetty and Aravazhi Selvaraj of AIP participated in the three-day event. ICRISAT also set up an exhibit booth during the conference showcasing AIP’s activities, services and achievements in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and joined in the CGIAR Consortium booth.

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ICRISAT reaffirms its commitment to promote agribusiness in Africa

Guest speakers during the Forum: (L-R) Mr S Chaudhary, Dr WD Dar, Mr A Bahuguna, Ms P Kaur, Mr VS Sahney, Dr S Ayyappan, and HE Eng Wassfi Hassan El-Srehin. Photo: FICCI

“ICRISAT along with its partners in Asia and Africa shall continue to explore, deliberate and bring forth ways and means to promote entrepreneurship in the area of agribusiness and food processing in order to benefit the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar said.

Dr Dar was speaking at the “Asia-Africa Agribusiness Forum” organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) in New Delhi on 4-6 February.

At the valedictory function, Dr Dar spoke at length on the ongoing efforts of ICRISAT to promote agribusiness and food processing to benefit the smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs in Africa. He also discussed about ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) and its key initiatives with partners to promote agribusiness and food processing in the region.

“In Africa through partnership with the UniBRAIN project of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), ICRISAT is currently facilitating the setting up of six pilot agribusiness incubators in Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Zambia. In addition to this, ICRISAT has been chosen by the Government of India to implement two important projects in Africa under the India Africa Forum Summit II (IAFS II). The Food Processing Business Incubation Centers project will see five incubators being setup in Cameroon, Ghana, Uganda, Angola and Mali, while five Food Testing Laboratories will be set up in the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Gambia and Zimbabwe,” Dr Dar said.

“These food processing incubation centers and state-of-the-art food testing laboratories will provide a big boost to the agri- and food processing sector in these countries,” he added.

The need for better policies, more effective institutions, improved infrastructure, and better access to markets and to high quality inputs particularly for dryland farmers in India and Africa was also highlighted at the event, along with ICRISAT’s continuous support to the efforts of various Governments, especially the Government of India, through strategic partnerships to promote agribusiness and food processing.

Among others who spoke on the occasion were Ms Preneet Kaur, Honorable Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India; Mr Ashish Bahuguna Agriculture Secretary, Government of India;  Dr S Ayyappan, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research; HE Eng Wassfi Hassan El-Srehin, Secretary-General, African-Asian Rural Development; Mr Siddharth Chaudhary, Managing Director, Radikal Foods Limited; and Mr Vikramjit Singh Sahney, President, SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, Chief Operating Officer, NutriPlus Knowledge Program under ICRISAT’s AIP, participated in the panel discussion on “My Food Processing Factory: Technology, Resource, Manpower or all?”. He elaborated on the need for developing an ecosystem to foster innovation, based on understanding local strengths and needs, with focus on capacity building and ensuring food safety to promote IMOD.

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Ethiopia honors ICRISAT and partners

Dr CLL Gowda, receiving the award from Dr F Mengistu as
Dr Asnake Fikre, Director of Crops Research (EIAR) looks on.
Photo: C Ojiewo, ICRISAT

Acknowledging ICRISAT’s contributions and long-standing partnership in chickpea research, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) presented a partnership award to the institute. The award was given by Mr Wondirad Mandefro, Minister for Agriculture, Ethiopia and Dr Fentahun Mengistu, Director General of EIAR.

Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General for Research, received the award on behalf of ICRISAT during the International Chickpea Workshop themed “Harnessing Chickpea Value Chain for Nutrition Security and Commercialization of Smallholder Agriculture in Africa” held on 30 January at Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.

Also recognized during the workshop were partners such as the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Area (ICARDA), The Generation Challenge Program, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the latter two for outstanding financial support in chickpea research mainly through the Tropical Legumes Projects (I and II) and the Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP).

Ethiopia has emerged as a major exporter of chickpea in the African continent, and is tied with Myanmar for the sixth position among exporting countries. During the past decade, production has doubled (160,000 t to 330, 000 t) due to 13% increase in area and 74% increase in productivity.

Ethiopia’s policy makers and scientists acknowledge that this success was made possible with strong support and collaboration from ICRISAT and ICARDA. Out of the 23 varieties released in the past two decades, 15 are from ICRISAT, 6 from ICARDA and the remaining from EIAR. Many of these varieties have been adopted by farmers, thanks to support from the Ethiopian Seed Agency, and the informal seed systems (community-based seed systems, and farmer-to-farmer seed exchange) supported by the Tropical Legumes II project.

A joint ICRISAT-ICARDA project will start this year to assess the adoption and impact of improved chickpea cultivars in Ethiopia.

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Incoming Board Chair visits ICRISAT Ethiopia office

To explore opportunities for further strengthening ICRISAT’s programs and activities, incoming Board Chair Dr Chandra A Madramootoo visited the ICRISAT Ethiopia office on 3-4 February. He held extensive consultations with the ICRISAT staff based in the country office and partners from other CGIAR centers and national institutions.

Dr Madramootoo (2nd from left) visiting chickpea farms
at the Debre Zeit research station. Photo: ICRISAT

“With the establishment of the country office in Ethiopia which provides immense opportunities for ICRISAT to make a significant impact, we opened up an opportunity to demonstrate our responsibility and commitment to improving the livelihoods of poor farmers in the semi-arid tropics. Highly supportive government, policies that favor agricultural development, potential market opportunities for ICRISAT products both internally and externally, and opportunities to work jointly with various international and national centers provide the right environment to achieve this. The ground is well set for an exciting phase in ICRISAT R4D along the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development pathway,”
Dr Madramootoo said during his visit.

Dr Madramootoo met Dr Iain Wright, International Livestock Research Institute’s (ILRI) Animal Science Program Leader and Director General’s Representative in Ethiopia. Dr Wright briefed
Dr Madramootoo of ILRI’s activities and its efforts to forge collaboration and enhance coordination among the 10 CGIAR centers having offices in its Addis Ababa campus.

One of the key initiatives in this direction is the ongoing effort by ILRI in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Ethiopia to develop a mega-program to enhance productivity and sustainability of agriculture in the country – similar to the ICRISAT-led consortium of CGIAR institutions and the Government of Karnataka in India.

Dr Madramootoo also interacted with ICRISAT Ethiopia scientists and other staff, and met with heads of various institutions at the ILRI campus for ways to develop a stronger research agenda that maximizes synergies and promotes substantive collaboration among CGIAR Consortium members.

At the Melkassa Agricultural Research Station, the incoming Board Chair was briefed by the center’s Director Dr Getachew Ayana on past and present collaborative activities and contributions of ICRISAT to EIAR.

Dr Madramootoo interacting with ICRISAT Ethiopia
staff members. Photo: ICRISAT

“ICRISAT has made highly valuable and critical contributions not only through its support to the sorghum improvement research for which the Center has the national responsibility, but also in building the capacity and skills to develop and implement effective research programs. A number of our staff received training in breeding techniques, field experimentation and natural resource management. This contributed significantly in strengthening the research at the center,” said Dr Ayana.

At Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Station, Dr Madramootoo was given an overview of the center’s activities on chickpea and other legumes.

Dr Million Ishete, Director of the center, acknowledged ICRISAT’s support in providing access to germplasm and in chickpea and other legume improvement works.

ICRISAT’s Dr Chris Ojiewo also briefed the incoming Chair of the ongoing trials to breed drought and heat tolerant varieties and to identify tolerant/resistant varieties for biotic stresses.

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Center Commissioned Expert Review on IMOD

CCER panel members, ICRISAT Niger staff and representatives of the International Fertilizer Development Center with women farmers in Niger. ME Romeo, ICRISAT

The Center Commissioned Expert Review (CCER) panel on IMOD Implementation, consisting of Dr SS Acharya, India (Chair), Dr AA Fall, Senegal (member) and Ms Grace Ngungi (Kenya) visited ICRISAT’s Eastern and Southern Africa and West and Central Africa offices from 17 January to 2 February.

The panel is evaluating IMOD implementation along ICRISAT’s research for development programs in response to the challenge of inclusive agricultural growth.

The panel had detailed discussions with ICRISAT teams in Kenya, Malawi, and Niger and held extensive consultations with ICRISAT’s key partners and stakeholders in the region, including the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Africa Harvest, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, Demeter Seeds, Seed Trade Association of Malawi, and others. The panel members also interacted with farmer groups like Mooriben and women entrepreneurs.

The panel was impressed with the range of activities undertaken by ICRISAT and the feedback obtained from the numerous interactions.

Mr M Srinivas Rao, ICRISAT Research Program – Markets, Institution and Policies, accompanied the panel and facilitated the visit and various meetings. The CCER panel will commence the evaluation in India on 13 February.

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United States Patent and Trademark Office explores partnership opportunities with ICRISAT

Dr CLL Gowda with the USPTO delegation at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

A five-member delegation headed by Dr Kitisri Sukhapinda, Patent Attorney, Office of Policy and External Affairs, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) visited the ICRISAT headquarters on 3 February. 

Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General for Research, briefed the delegation of the institute’s research activities. The delegation expressed interest in knowing more about ICRISAT’s Intellectual Property (IP) policy and the manner in which IPR is handled, particularly in collaborations involving private sector partners.

The CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets were explained to the delegation, with focus on how the CGIAR Centers regard the results of their research and development activities as international public goods (IPGs) and how the consortium is committed to extensive diffusion and use of IPGs to achieve the maximum possible access, scale, scope of impact and sharing of benefits to the poor, especially with smallholder farmers in developing countries.

“Recognizing the role of private sector seed companies in developing and marketing hybrids, ICRISAT set up the Hybrid Parents Research Consortia (HPRC) in 2000 for crops like pearl millet, sorghum and pigeonpea – and we are currently in the 4th phase,” said Dr Gowda on the query on public-private partnerships involving scientific innovations.

“In line with its commitment to deliver IPGs to its stakeholders, ICRISAT effectively manages its IPRs on research products by placing them in the public domain and making them prior art, thus preventing others from infringing on ICRISAT’s rights. ICRISAT publishes its research results in recognized journals and also disseminates them on our open access repository (OAR),” Dr Gowda added.

Mr B Hanumanth Rao, ICRISAT’s Senior Manager, IP, explained that the institute has initiated a process of making center publications as prior art with the European Patent Office (EPO) through a Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2005. As part of that, ICRISAT has been providing its publications in EPO’s Non-Patent Literature (NPL) database.

Possibilities for an ICRISAT – USPTO collaboration were then discussed. Dr Sukhapinda was accompanied by Mr John Slette, Senior Attache for Agricultural Affairs and Ms Komal Kalha, Senior Legal Counsel (IP) from the US Embassy, New Delhi; Ms Kalpana Reddy, First Secretary for IP South Asia; and Ms Kavita Vijh, Commercial Specialist for IP, USPTO, New Delhi.

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M Madhan receives EPT Open Access Award 2013


The Electronic Publishing Trust for Development (EPT) has announced the winner of its 3rd Annual Award in recognition of the effort made by individuals working in the developing and emerging countries in the furtherance of Open Access (OA) to scholarly publications.

This year, the trust received 10 nominations from a broad spread of countries (Armenia, Egypt, India, Kenya) and covering a very varied range of work. The panel members were impressed by the high standard of nominations, and in the end were unable to decide between two, so declared ICRISAT’s Mr Muthu Madhan and Ms Rosemary Otando, Kenya, as joint winners.

Mr Madhan, Manager, Library and Information Services, has been highly influential in promoting Open Access within the Indian research community, and is heavily involved in setting up many open access repositories. To date he has been instrumental in setting up at least 10 repositories including one for data, and in developing  mandatory repository deposition for  Institute publications (http://oar.icrisat.org, http://ethesis.nitrkl.ac.in). His solid achievements in driving the establishment of ‘green’ open access in India make him a worthy recipient of the award. The award will be presented to the two awardees at a suitable event later in the year.

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