06 Jun 2014
No. 1626


Strengthening IFAD-ICRISAT partnership for improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers

ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar presenting ICRISAT information folder to Dr Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD. Photo: ICRISAT

At the recent inauguration of the CGIAR Consortium Office in Montpellier, France, ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar and Deputy Director General Research Dr CLL Gowda met the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Dr Kanayo Nwanze and reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to work with IFAD for improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Dr Nwanze appreciated ICRISAT’s research for development work which has had a significant impact on the livelihoods of the smallholder farmers.

ICRISAT discussed future needs of smallholder farmers in the drylands with Dr Nwanze including

Climate resilient agriculture and bridging the yield gaps in West Africa though soil test-based nutrient amendments with micronutrients

Critical deficiencies of multiple micro and secondary soil nutrients are holding back the potential of macronutrient application.

Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to the diagnosis and mapping of the problem and providing recommendations.

There is a need to develop a holistic fertilization approach adopting a participatory research for development approach that involves key stakeholders – farmers, agricultural scientists, policy makers and the fertilizer industry.

(L-R) Drs CLL Gowda, WD Dar, S Sivasankar, C Madramootoo, and N Ellis at the newly inaugurated CGIAR Consortium Building.

Dryland cereals and grain legumes for enhanced nutritional security and production systems sustainability

To combat protein and micronutrient deficiencies we need to further understand the links between soil nutritional content and the various choices we make during production and processing of the different grains into food. Various points along the value chain have been identified where further research is required. Working across the value chain increases the chances of preserving the health benefits of various crops from production to consumption.

Crop diversification with climate resilient legume cultivars to help smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia to cope with climate change

Climate change is expected to severely impact food security in South Asia. Diversifying the cereal-based cropping systems by integrating climate-resilient grain legume cultivars in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar were identified as important to help smallholder farmers cope with climate change.

Dr Nwanze was supportive of the concepts and   scaling-up of these technologies to substantially increase large-scale impacts. 

An ICRISAT team headed by the Board Chair Dr Chandra Madramootoo and Dr Dar; and including Drs CLL Gowda; Noel Ellis, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes; and Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Dyland Cereals, was in Montpellier, France for a series of meetings and the inauguration of CGIAR Consortium Office.

The new building was inaugurated by the French Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forests,
Mr Stephane de Foll in a ceremony on 2 June. The CGIAR Consortium Office offices will now operate from the new building.

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National-level evaluation trials of ICRISAT-bred groundnut varieties

Ten ICRISAT-bred high oil containing groundnut varieties will be evaluated in the All India Coordinated Research Program on Groundnut (AICRP-G) multi-location testing in India during 2014-15. These varieties were identified for three major groundnut growing states of India (Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu).

The recommendations were made at the annual review and work plan meeting of the ‘Development and promotion of promising varieties / lines with high yield and high oil content with enhanced O/L ratio for enhancing production and quality of groundnut oil in drought-prone environments to boost the income of small and marginal groundnut farmers in India’ project supported by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India, which was held on 30 May at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore.

Seven lines are now in the second year of testing and three new lines, ICGV 07038, ICGV 06138 and ICGV 03057 were proposed for testing in 2014 by National Agricultural Research Systems partners from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh at the AICRP-G workshop held on 27-29 May.

FPVS trial at Mota Gundala village in Gujarat, India. Photo: ICRISAT

The lines were identified following evaluation trials conducted in these three states during 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Going by the earlier successful identification of farmer preferred varieties (FPVs) under the Tropical Legumes II project, 33 Farmer Preferred Varietal Selection Trials (FPVST) were conducted to identify high oil yielding groundnut FPVs in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh by partners during 2013-14.

The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

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Working for a collective climate change communication and engagement strategy for Southeast Asia

Participants of the workshop. Photo: ICRISAT

A collective approach to communications and engagement is fundamental to the success of any research for development collaboration on climate change.

In a pioneering and dynamic initiative, 20 communication specialists from seven CGIAR centers, global and regional communication staff of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and selected media organizations in Southeast Asia, came together for two days (29-30 May) in Hanoi, Vietnam, to build a stronger and more far-reaching regional collective communication strategy to combat climate change.

Limiting climate change – and its effect on agriculture and food security – requires significant communications and engagement among key national and regional partners of CCAFS Southeast Asia (SEA).  Collective communication is what will push climate-smart technologies to be integrated into national and regional programs and policies. This will benefit the marginalized and vulnerable sectors in rural and urban poor communities.

“Our unifying goal is getting climate change into agriculture policies, and agriculture into climate change policies at the global, regional and national levels,” said Ms Vanessa Meadu, CCAFS Communication and Knowledge Manager. While overall coordination of communications lies with the CCAFS coordinating unit, the major responsibility of communicating research outputs and activities is distributed across all 15 CGIAR research centers and core partners. This collective approach requires a strong internal communication flow within CCAFS, proactive knowledge sharing, working together and maximizing the benefits from each and every communication platform.

Dr Leocadio Sebastian, CCAFS Regional Program Leader for Southeast Asia, said: “The compelling problems in the region are not always about climate change, but an interplay of existing problems aggravated by climate change, such as: agricultural practices, policies, markets and institutions unresponsive to changing climates; and poverty and food insecurity among rural communities, making the rural poor more vulnerable to climate change.”

ICRISAT was represented at the workshop by Ms Cristina P Bejosano of the Strategic Marketing and Communication, who shared the Institute’s communication initiatives particularly in the areas of climate change and dryland stresses – building resilience of dryland farming communities through a systems perspective, growing nutri-resilient crops, and better farmer adaptation. The Institute’s partnering for communications approach, which aims to build the capacity of national partners to effectively communicate science with more tools and better skills, was also well-received during the workshop.

The two intensive days of workshop were devoted to sharing knowledge from across CGIAR centers and regional/national partners, and mapping out a Collective Engagement and Communication Plan for Southeast Asia along CCAFS’ four impact pathways: climate smart agricultural practices; climate information services and climate-informed safety nets; low emission agricultural development; and policies and institutions for resilient food systems.

Others present at the workshop were: Dr Le Huy Ham, Director, Agricultural Genetics Institute, Vietnam; Dr Sonja Vermuelen, Head of Research, CCAFS; Dr Dindo Campilan, Director for Asia, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); Communication Heads/Regional Communication Staff of CIAT, Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), International Potato Center (CIP), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), ICRISAT, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI); and selected national media partners from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Philippines and Vietnam. It was conceptualized and coordinated by Dr Rex Navarro, CCAFS-SEA Communication Consultant and former Communications Director, ICRISAT.

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Up-scaling innovations for increased productivity of legumes

Dr R Varshney briefing other participants on the proposal at the meeting. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

In order to build on the achievements and the lessons learned from Tropical Legumes (TL) I and II projects in ensuring increased legume productivity and nutrition for smallholder farmers, ICRISAT is developing the Legumes for Livelihood (L4L) project. L4L will exploit the genomic resources and tools developed in TL I and TL II while up-scaling successful innovations to achieve the goal of increasing production and productivity of legumes in the target countries.

“We appreciate the support and contribution of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and partner institutes towards the TL II project, that helped transform the lives of millions of smallholder farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” said ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar. He was speaking at the Proposal Revision Meeting of the Legumes for Livelihood (L4L) project.

Both TL I and II facilitated the release and availability of more than 129 new improved varieties of the six target crops in various countries across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The projects helped to strengthen partnerships among different stakeholders in the legumes value chain; enhanced market linkages; and increased incomes and benefits for smallholder farmers with the help of improved technologies and crop management practices.

 “I am pleased to inform that the team is moving forward on the next phase of the proposal (of L4L), so that we and our partners continue to work towards improving the productivity of legume crops under the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes,” added Dr Dar.

About 24 scientists, including partners from three CGIAR Centers, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and ICRISAT (including colleagues from Kenya, Lilongwe, Addis Ababa, Niamey and India) attended the meeting.

“We hope to have a very strong proposal with support of all partners by the end of July,” said Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director-Grain Legumes and Principal Investigator of the proposal.

Both TL I (led by the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme) and TL II (led by ICRISAT) are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The TL II project is a joint initiative of three international agricultural research centers: ICRISAT (chickpea, groundnut and pigeonpea), IITA (cowpea and soybean), and CIAT (common bean). It is being implemented under the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

The Proposal Revision Meeting of L4L project was held at the ICRISAT headquarters on 25-27 May. It was organized in continuation of earlier meetings held in India in December 2013 and in Nairobi in March this year.

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High-iron pearl millet cultivars for nutritional security

Drs WD Dar, CLL Gowda, S Grando, and HP Yadav visiting the pearl millet fields at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The first ever bio-fortified high-iron pearl millet cultivar, which was released for all-India cultivation by the Government of India in April this year, has recorded 11% higher grain yield and  iron content of 72 ppm, an improvement of 9%. This is in comparison to the original pearl millet variety ICTP 8203.

Nirmal Seed Company marketed this variety (called Dhanashakti) for cultivation on about 10,000 ha in 2012, and on about 12,000 ha in 2013. This year it is expected to reach over 40,000 ha.

The thrust of the pearl millet program for India is on hybrid development.

The pearl millet breeding team demonstrated several high-iron hybrids, some of which are in advanced testing stages.

Ten of these will be evaluated this year for the first time in All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project (AICPMIP) trials. 

The launch of Shakti-1201 in Agra, India. Photo: ICRISAT

One such hybrid is ICMH 1201. Based on more than 40 field trials, this hybrid had iron content similar to that of ICTP 8203 but with 38% higher grain yield.  It is now under commercial production and will be marketed as Shakti-1201 this year on more than 5,000 ha by Shakti Vardhak Seeds Company, a member of the Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium.

Shakti-1201 was launched in Agra, India, on 23 May in the presence of more than 400 dealers and distributors from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states of India. Dr KN Rai and Mr Binu Cherian from ICRISAT took part in the launch ceremony.

ICRISAT Director General, Dr William D Dar; Deputy Director General-Research, Dr CLL Gowda; Research Program Director-Dryland Cereals; Dr Stefania Grando; and Project Coordinator, AICPMIP, Dr HP Yadav, visited the pearl millet fields at the ICRISAT headquarters on 23 May, to review the bio-fortification breeding products. They were specifically briefed on Dhanashakti, Shakti-1201 and several other high-iron hybrids in the pipeline.

The activities related to the development of the two cultivars were undertaken under the HarvestPlus program, part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

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Exploring avenues in Nigeria

To strengthen ICRISAT’s work in Nigeria and explore avenues to strengthen partnerships with
government agencies and other research organizations, Dr Ramadjita Tabo, ICRISAT Director for West and Central Africa, visited Nigeria from 19-23 May.

Dr R Tabo and Dr H Ajeigbe at the ARCN-ICRISAT Technical Committee meeting chaired by Prof B Y Abubakar, Executive Secretary of ARCN (Center). Photo: ICRISAT

As part of his visit Dr Tabo attended the Joint ARCN-ICRISAT Technical Committee meeting involving representatives from Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN); Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Ahmadu Bello University, Samaru-Zaria; Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Maiduguri; Centre for Dryland Agriculture, Bayero University, Kano; and ICRISAT Scientists. In his address Dr Tabo pointed out that ICRISAT investment in sub-Saharan Africa is crucial as people living in this region depend on ICRISAT mandate crops for their livelihood.

During his meeting with ARCN Executive Secretary, Prof B Y Abubakar, Dr Tabo discussed the recommendation of the Technical Committee to establish aflatoxin laboratories at the IAR Samaru-Zaria and the University of Agriculture, Makurdi.

To strengthen partnerships with the government of Nigeria, Dr Tabo met the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture Dr Julius Odeyemi who expressed appreciation for ICRISAT’s involvement in the crop commodity value chains. He also supported the decision to establish aflatoxin labs as suggested.

At the meeting with the Chief of Party, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Nigeria, Dr Tabo discussed modalities of partnership with CRS to implement the ‘Support to Vulnerable Household for Income Generation’ project. The project will be implemented in Sokoto State where ICRISAT is implementing the Sorghum Value Chain, and Federal Capital Territory covering 30,000 households.

Dr R Tabo at the ICRISAT Nigeria office. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Tabo also visited the West Africa Agriculture Productivity Project (WAAPP) project office. WAAPP Project Coordinator, Prof Damian Chikwendu expressed his appreciation in partnering with ICRISAT so as to strengthen the groundnut and sorghum seed systems through enhanced breeder and foundation seed production, trainings and production demonstrations.

In his response, Dr Tabo referred to the quality of partnership with Nigeria and lauded that these opportunities will further strengthen ties through better integration of projects and programs for the benefit of smallholder farmers in West and Central Africa.

At the ICRISAT-Kano office, Dr Tabo interacted with ICRISAT staff and scientists. ICRISAT Country Representative Dr H Ajeigbe presented the achievements of the station in 2013 as well as a summary of the CGIAR Research Programs and bilateral projects implemented in 2013. The action plan for 2014 was also discussed. In his address to the staff, Dr Tabo spoke of the need for strengthening the ICRISAT Nigeria office considering the spread of activities and high expectations of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

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Safe and efficient reuse of wastewater for agriculture

Delegates of the meeting. Photo: ICRISAT

Limited freshwater resources require more efficient water management. Non-conventional sources such as treated domestic wastewater can be one potential source of water for agriculture.

At the review and planning meeting for the Water4Crops project, delegates agreed to strengthen collaboration between the European Union (EU) and India for strengthening the capacity of local agencies and private companies and for technology transfer for low-cost, decentralized treatment of wastewater.

Water4Crops is a Euro-India collaborative project co-funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India and the European Commission. The project is executed as twin projects “Water4Crops-EU” and “Water4Crops-India”.

ICRISAT is leading the Indian part of the project which is aimed at addressing the issues of recycling, resource recovery and efficient use of treated wastewater in agriculture. The Indian consortium comprises 17 partners including private corporates and national research institutions, while the EU consortium has representatives from 22 research institutions and corporates in EU countries.

Mr Kaushik Mukherjee, Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka, chaired the inaugural session and highlighted the need to integrate use of treated wastewater for agriculture in villages surrounding the treatment plants in cities like Bengaluru. He also stressed that projects like Water4Crops can make a significant contribution to the State of Karnataka helping it address health as well as water scarcity for agriculture.

Drs Antonio Lopez, Leader, EU Consortium and Suhas P Wani, Leader, India Consortium, jointly presented the overall progress of the project at the meeting. The project has achieved good progress in each of the seven work packages: (i) Agro-food industry wastewater valorization and reuse; (ii) Municipal wastewater bio-treatment and reuse; (iii) Agricultural water management; (iv) Development of water-efficient crop varieties; (v) Enabling green growth using water treatment and reuse innovations; (vi) Dissemination and technology exchange; and (vii) Management and Coordination.

Dr Wani indicated that decentralized low-cost biological treatment system such as constructed wetland could be the potential technology as farmers are currently using untreated domestic wastewater for irrigation.

“The project team will come up with a decentralized wastewater treatment system for rural areas and this component will be included as one of the activities in the integrated water resource management program of government policy,” Dr Wani said.

Action sites for both industrial and domestic wastewater have been selected and based on the characterization of wastewater, researchers have constructed wetland treatment systems for strategic study. The bio-treated wastewater will be used safely for irrigation. The Water4Crops team is also working on efficient irrigation system for treated wastewater so that available water can be used more effectively. 

Fifty delegates from India and the EU consortia took part in the meeting held on 27-29 May in Bengaluru, India.
The first Indian INNOVA platform meeting for industries and research institutes for identifying potential technologies for transfer was also held at the event.

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RECL and ICRISAT join hands on integrated watershed management

Dr WD Dar exchanging the MoU between ICRISAT and RECL with Mr PJ Thakkar, Director (Technical), RECL. Photo: ICRISAT

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, he Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (RECL) has partnered with ICRISAT to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by adopting a science-led integrated watershed development approach.

The initiative “Farmer-centric Integrated Watershed Management for Improving Rural Livelihoods” will benefit more than 10,000 families in Mahabubnagar district of Telangana State and Anantapur of Andhra Pradesh, covering a total area of about 11,000 hectares. This initiative will be spearheaded by the ICRISAT Development Center (IDC) headed by Dr Suhas P Wani.

Highlighting the importance of the initiative, Mr Rajeev Sharma, Chairman and Managing Director, RECL said, “This is the first time RECL has undertaken agricultural interventions under CSR and we would be glad to expand this collaboration to benefit larger number of farmers in the country. We appreciate ICRISAT’s approach of focusing on improving watersheds to enhance farmers’ livelihoods.”

IDC undertakes large scaling-up/out of ICRISAT’s science-backed technologies to achieve major impacts. It is aimed for the benefit of ICRISAT’s research to move along the impact pathway, towards fulfilling its mission – to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the dryland tropics.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in New Delhi on 29 May in the presence of senior officials of ICRISAT and RECL.

“This is a novel CSR initiative being taken up for the first time to benefit small and marginal farmers; we will employ all the necessary expertise and technical help to ensure the success of the project,” said Dr William D Dar, Director General, ICRISAT.

The major thrust of the project will be on conserving rainwater and augmenting the groundwater and surface water resources in the watershed and efficient use of land and water resources through improved and sustainable management of natural resources.

The major activities under this initiative include: rainwater harvesting, soil and moisture conservation, reuse of domestic water, selection of appropriate crops based on market demand, growing forage for livestock and rehabilitation of wastelands. Training and capacity building of local community members and institution building for long-term sustainability will be important cross-cutting activities.

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