02 May 2014
No. 1621


Dr Nigel Poole named ICRISAT Ambassador of Goodwill

Dr Nigel Poole (Left) receiving the ICRISAT Ambassador of Goodwill plaque from the Board Chair, Prof Chandra Madramootoo (Right) and Director General Dr William Dar. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr Nigel Poole has been named ICRISAT Ambassador of Goodwill for his vision and leadership in championing the Institute’s mission for sustainable and science-based solutions for better livelihoods of the poor in the drylands.

During his six years serving on ICRISAT’s Governing Board, with five years as Board Chair, Dr Poole’s guidance and inspiring leadership have brought the Institute to a new level of performance, achievements and visibility, leading to its unprecedented science and institutional health.

“I believe that ICRISAT has the solution and plays an important role in improving the lives of more than 600 million of the world’s poorest of the poor living in the drylands. I am pleased and proud to be an ICRISAT Ambassador, and to be a part of the solution,” said Dr Poole.

Dr Poole now joins ICRISAT’s other distinguished Ambassadors of Goodwill, Mr Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Federal Republic, Nigeria; India’s Former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam; and Rt. Hon. James Bolger, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, to help the institute promote science-based agricultural solutions in improving livelihoods and attaining food and nutrition security of smallholder farmers in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Poole’s title as ICRISAT Ambassador was awarded to him by the new ICRISAT Board Chair, Prof Chandra Madramootoo and Director General Dr William Dar at a dinner party celebrating the successful conclusion of the 70th ICRISAT Governing Board meeting held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 26 April.

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70th Governing Board Meeting A Season of Change

The ICRISAT Governing Board with the Management Group and Research Committee at the 70th
Governing Board meeting at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The 70th meeting of the ICRISAT Governing Board held at the headquarters from 24-26 April bannered a shifting landscape of people, policies and processes for a stronger, more relevant international agricultural research for development institute for the semi-arid tropics.

Dr Nigel Poole who has been the Board Chair since July 2009 turned over the helm of the ICRISAT ship to Prof Chandra Madramootoo. “There is no manual, no handbook that charts the course that a Chair of the Board must follow,” said Dr Madramootoo. “Nigel steered the ship through uncertain waters and his passion and dedication ensured that we are always in safe harbor.”

The Governing Board also confirmed the appointment of Dr Paco Sereme, Research Director, Plant Pathology, National Agricultural Research Institute (INERA), Burkina Faso, who has been serving as Board member since 15 November 2013, in place of Dr Adama Traore who resigned from the Board on joining AfricaRice as Director General. Likewise, effective 1 May 2014, Dr Nigel Wells Kerby, Managing Director, Mylnefield Research Services Ltd, Scotland; and Dr Rachel K Chikwamba, Group Executive, Strategic Alliances and Communication, Pretoria, South Africa were confirmed as Board members. Dr Nigel Poole, former Chair and Dr Molapo Qhobela, member, left the Board upon completion of their terms on 30 April.

Dr Gry Synnevag will be the Chair of the Nominations Committee effective 1 October 2014 to replace Dr Meryl J Williams who will be completing her second and final term as member of the Board on 30 September 2014.  Considering the timing and transition of the new Director General, the Board approved a one-year extension of Prof C Madramootoo as member and Chair until April 2016.

To strengthen the governance of the CGIAR Research Programs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals, the Board approved the harmonized Independent Steering/Advisory Committee. Through its Chair, the Committee will provide the Board a report every six months during the Board meetings in September and April.

A heightened focus on sub-Saharan Africa by the Governing Board was a key highlight during the meeting. Thus, the Board created a Task Force to be chaired by Prof C Madramootoo, with Drs G Synnevag, P Sereme, R Chikwamba and D Delmer as members, to review the anagement response to the Center Commissioned External Review (CCER) for sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) recommendations, and to prepare the implementation plan with support from management, to be presented at the September 2014 meeting of the Board.

The Governing Board also recognized that new genomics approaches are beginning to have an impact on the crop improvement processes of all three legume crops. In order to strengthen the legume research work in Africa, shuttle breeding between Africa and Asia was considered as a good approach. The Board requested management to prepare a publication on using shuttle breeding between Asia and Africa. To enhance the level of involvement in SSA, the Board directed that the strategy paper on integrating genomics and biotechnology research in SSA should be used to strengthen genomics research in the regions.

Other decisions highlighted by the Board include the approval of the 2013 financial statements with the total budget of USD 82.995 million. The Board also approved the total budget of USD 82.700 million for 2014.

The Governing Board approved the Policy Guidelines for the Assessment of Project Management Capabilities of Recipients (NGOs) of ICRISAT Sub-Grants. KPMG’s appointment as external auditors of ICRISAT was renewed for the year 2014 and the audit plan for the period 2014-2016 was approved.

Lastly, to raise and channel resources for science-backed up-scaling/out-scaling and commercialization projects, the Board approved the creation and institutionalization of the ICRISAT Development Center (IDC).

The 70th Board meeting in session. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Statement from the Board Chair on the Director General selection process

In a statement to all ICRISAT staff dated 26 April, Prof Chandra Madramootoo, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair gave a comprehensive update of the ongoing selection process for the next ICRISAT Director General.

“This task and the process we are following are being given the highest priority by the Board, as we recognize the importance for ICRISAT to continue with stability and with its standards of excellence,” said Prof Madramootoo.

He explained that the Board formed a search committee at its last meeting and has been following a rigorous process with the assistance of an international recruitment company, in which a large pool of candidates was presented and a shortlist made. In the week coinciding with the Governing Board meeting, another step in the process was completed with three of the shortlisted candidates. In addition to interviews with the Board search committee, each candidate met with the ICRISAT Management Team, Research Committee and section heads. This was followed by seminars presented by the candidates to all senior research staff at headquarters, staff from Africa who were able to connect virtually, and the search committee.

“We greatly appreciate the participation of so many staff, and found the inputs and advice from them most helpful. We recognize your efforts, and your professionalism is a huge credit to ICRISAT,” said Prof Madramootoo.

The Board search committee, he added, is continuing its deliberations and the selection process is ongoing. This task will continue over the immediate months as per the timeline set out by the Board. The Chair closed his statement by promising to keep everyone informed as the search process continues.

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70th Governing Board visit to fields and laboratories

LeasyScan Phenotyping platform (Drs Vincent Vadez, Jana Kholova and team)
The LeasyScan phenotyping platform which was recently launched at the ICRISAT headquarters in India uses 3-D images for better evaluation of leaf canopy parameters, and of a ‘camera-to-plant’ concept to increase the throughput. The high throughput scanning equipment can scan between 3200 to 4800 plots per 2 hours. The platform is a totally new concept with a huge potential.


Waste-water treatment for Water4Crops (Dr SP Wani and team)
ICRISAT has been undertaking strategic research on wastewater treatment and its safe reuse in agriculture through the Water4Crops project under India-European Union (EU) collaboration. The wastewater treatment system constructed on ICRISAT campus comprises a solar power-operated water pump to lift the wastewater, an elevated tank to hold the untreated wastewater, constructed wetlands, and a storage tank to store treated wastewater.

Climate Change Research for Plant Protection (Drs Mamta Sharma, HC Sharma and team)The Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection (CoE-CCRPP) at the ICRISAT headquarters strives to understand the effect of climate change variables on the occurrence and distribution of diseases and insect pests in two grain legumes, chickpea and pigeonpea, across geographical regions, study host x pathogen/pest x environment interactions and the expression of resistance to pests and pathogens in resistant and susceptible cultivars. The facility is run with funding support from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.


Insect Rearing Laboratory for Stem Borer and Pod Borer (Dr HC Sharma and team)
ICRISAT’s insect rearing and bioassay facility helps research in entomology, crop improvement, and biotechnology at ICRISAT. It provides nuclear insect cultures to scientists in the national program and to our collaborators in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and state agricultural universities (SAUs).

Gender and Nutrition Research Revitalized in the VDSA (Drs MCS Bantilan, R Padmaja and team)
The ICRISAT Village Level Studies (VLS) now called the Village Dynamics Studies in South Asia (VDSA) examine the gender implications of changes in production systems over time, focusing on nutrition. The existing panel data for six villages in semi-arid tropic (SAT) India (1975-84 and 2001 onwards) documents changes in the farming systems and rural households. Building on this, new panel data is being generated to examine changes over time in key gender-related and health, nutrition and institutional issues. These will be used to measure the empowerment of women and help in devising strategies to reduce the gender parity gap.

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African cereal scientists trained on Breeding Management System

Participants of the training program. Photo: ICRISAT

With the aim to continue to assist Africa build their own breeding programs, a Breeding Management System training was conducted covering features of the software from the Integrated Breeding Platform, plant breeding data management, including pedigree information, nursery and trial data management, electronic data capture, and genotyping data and analysis.

Twenty-one participants from ICRISAT and partner organizations in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and Zimbabwe underwent the training on Breeding Management System in Nairobi on 7-11 April.

The sorghum database was made available to all the participants and on the last day of the workshop, participants were able to initiate the data import for their own breeding programs and also analyze the datasets.

Dr Alistair Orr, Principal Scientist – Economics (Markets, Institutions and Policies) opened the workshop on behalf of the Regional Director and, in his message to the participants, stressed on the importance of data management and digitalization to improve the efficiency of breeding programs within the region.

The training was organized following interactions between Dr Stefania Grando, Research Program Director – Dryland Cereals and cereal scientists in Nairobi in March.

The training was coordinated by Henry Ojulong, Eric Manyasa and Trushar Shah and was facilitated by Fernando Rojas from the Generation Challenge Programme and Praveen Reddy. The activity was undertaken under the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.

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Making a better life for smallholder farmers
Yamang Lupa program launched in the Philippines

Steering Committee meeting of the Yamang Lupa program chaired by DA Undersecretary Dante S Delima (center). Photo: ICRISAT

Adopting the principles and strategies of Bhoochetana in unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture, ICRISAT and the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture recently launched the Yamang Lupa (soil wealth) program in Samar (Region VIII), Philippines, one of the three benchmark pilot provinces in the country. The other two provinces are Quezon and Zamboanga Sibugay. All three provinces cover 10,000 ha in each benchmark site.

Vice Governor of Samar, Honorable Stephen James T Tan, said in his address: “We are fortunate to be a part of this innovative mission mode program for transforming rainfed agriculture in the region.”

In his message, ICRISAT’s Dr Suhas P Wani, representing Director General Dr William D Dar, stressed the Institute’s full support to make the Yamang Lupa program successful in Philippines, emphasizing that the program’s main goal is not only to increase productivity of food grains for food security but also to improve farmers’ livelihoods through an Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD).

The inauguration function was attended by DA officials, Municipal and Provincial Local Government Officials, and management staff of the Yamang Lupa program - Region VIII.

Messages of support and commitment were delivered by Regional Executive Director Bernadette F San Juan of DA-Region VIII; Visayas State University President, Dr Jose L Bacusmo; Executive Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Research; and Dr Nicomedes P Eleazar who was represented by Yamang Lupa program leader, Engr Samuel Contreras of the DA-Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM).

Following the inaugural function of the Yamang Lupa program, the ICRISAT project management team composed of Drs SP Wani, Junel Soriano and Heraldo Layaoen along with DA staff interacted with farmers in the project sites, for a better understanding of the institutional arrangements as well as the type of interventions that the program offers.

In a related activity, Dr WD Dar, along with Dr SP Wani and other ICRISAT scientists participated in the seminar on “Adoption of Bhoochetana Principles and Approaches for Natural Resources Management towards Sustainable Philippine Agriculture” held at DA-BSWM, Manila, Philippines. The seminar was attended by more than 50 participants including senior faculty and researchers from State Universities and Colleges, research managers and senior agricultural workers all over the country.

In his message at the seminar, Dr Dar stressed the need for an integrated system to be adopted for the Yamang Lupa program through convergence and capacity building of all stakeholders. During the Steering Committee meeting deliberations after the seminar, DA Undersecretary, Mr Dante S Delima highlighted the importance of Bhoochetana to benefit smallholder farmers in the Philippines with the help of ICRISAT, and promised to ensure convergence of various activities among partners in support of the program. 

Dr Wani meanwhile presented ICRISAT’s key successful case studies and experiences in India and Africa on its holistic research for development approach in managing natural resources.

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