13 Jun 2014
No. 1627


Union Agriculture Minister emphasizes on scaling up cultivation of pulses

Dr William D Dar presenting an ICRISAT information folder to India’s Union Agriculture
Minister Radha Mohan Singh. Photo: A Pal, ICRISAT

Recognizing the importance of pulses in enhancing food security and incomes of smallholder farmers, India’s Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh discussed with ICRISAT, the new government’s priority for scaling up cultivation of pulses and making it more competitive and attractive to farmers.

This was discussed at a recent meeting between ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar and the Minister who recently took charge of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Dr Dar briefed the Minister about ICRISAT, its mission and activities, and its collaboration with the National Agricultural Research System (NARS).

“ICRISAT is committed to working for the smallholder farmers in the dryland areas of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Through its research activities, community-based interventions, and institutional and policy innovations ICRISAT helps smallholder farmers move from poverty to prosperity,” Dr Dar informed the Minister.

The Minister was updated about ICRISAT’s research activities in Bihar on chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut under the Tropical Legumes II (TL II) project by ICRISAT Deputy Director General-Research Dr CLL Gowda, and Mr Ashish Bahuguna, Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India, who is also an ICRISAT Board member.

Under the TL II project, ICRISAT has been working closely with the Bihar Agricultural University in Banka and Bhagalpur districts of Bihar, India. For chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut ICRISAT has been conducting Farmer Participatory Varietal Selection Trials (FPVST); providing access to seeds of improved varieties and imparting training on improved crop management practices. The project commenced in 2010-11 and has shown a 30-40% increase in the net income of smallholder farmers.

The Minister was also briefed on the Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) project activities in Bihar. As part of the VDSA project, household surveys are being carried out in four villages of Bihar since 2010 covering 40 households in each village. Two villages, Arap and Baghakole, are in Patna district while the other two, Inai and Susari are in Darbhanga district of Bihar. Both TL II and the VDSA projects are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Bhoochetna project by ICRISAT which is being implemented across all 30 districts in the state of Karnataka was also discussed during the meeting.

The Minister expressed keen interest in ICRISAT’s work and urged Dr Dar and the team to expand ICRISAT’s activities in Bihar.

Dr WD Dar met the Minister on 10 June in New Delhi, India. Dr CLL Gowda, Mr A Bahuguna and Dr G Narendra Kumar, Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs, ICRISAT, were also present at the meeting.

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Tracking gender empowerment in CGIAR Research Programs

Deep-seated gender inequities prevent women from taking advantage of new technological innovations in agriculture. Recognizing that this issue constrains the CGIAR Research Programs from achieving their strategic objectives, the CGIAR Consortium is engaged in defining indicators for the Gender and Empowerment outcome. Gender and Empowerment is one of the 11 Intermediate Development Outcomes (IDOs) of the CGIAR Research Programs.

(L-R) Drs W Bauchspies, Jacqueline A Ashby, Senior Advisor, Gender and Research, CGIAR, and E Njunga-Mungai engaged in discussions.
Photo: FE Pinto, CIAT

Not all technological innovations benefit women and a rigorous gender analysis is required to better understand how to target and deliver gender-responsive innovations. A gender gap assessment in agriculture by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations shows that women producers face numerous constraints in technology adoption and this is closely associated with their lower levels of productivity compared with men. This holds true for numerous commodities across the world.

The IDOs identified by the Consortium are: productivity, income, adaptive capacity, future options, gender and empowerment, policies, nutrition, capacity to innovate, environment and climate. For the Gender and Empowerment outcome two indicators have been suggested – women’s control over productive resources and women’s participation in decision making. These indicators will be used for monitoring and evaluating the Gender and Empowerment IDO. 

The recommendations for the gender indicators were provided by the Gender and Agriculture Research Network. The network’s core group consists of the gender research coordinators from the 15 CGIAR Research Programs. They were participating in a two-day workshop held on 19-20 May in Cali, Colombia, where they developed recommendations on the indicators and how the indicators could be measured.

ICRISAT is celebrating 2014 as ICRISAT’s Year of Gender.

ICRISAT leads two CGIAR Research programs: CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals which were represented by Dr Esther Njuguna-Mungai and Dr Wenda Bauchspies respectively.

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Partnering with the new state of Telangana

Dr William D Dar with Dr Rajiv Sharma (2nd from left). Also seen in the picture are Mr M Prabhakar Reddy and Mr SS Sharat Kumar from ICRISAT. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

To express ICRISAT’s solidarity with the efforts of the government of the newly created state of Telangana to revitalize agriculture and create prosperity in rural areas, ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar met the new Chief Secretary Dr Rajiv Sharma.

“ICRISAT welcomes this opportunity to work with the new government of Telangana in raising rural prosperity and turning Telangana into the Seed Bowl of India,” said Dr Dar.

During the meeting, Dr Dar briefed the Chief Secretary on ICRISAT’s work in the region over the last 42 years. Dr Dar spoke about the pigeonpea revolution in over 300,000 ha in Telangana; the Kothapally integrated watershed project; encouraging entrepreneurship in agriculture through ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) program; close partnership with ANGRAU; village level studies on key issues such as gender, health, nutrition and institutional support mechanisms; and scholarships for students and opportunities for graduate research.

The new state government has announced specific thrust areas to accelerate development of the new state. The thrust areas are: converting Telangana into the Seed Bowl of India; promoting food processing industries to create employment opportunities for the local youth; and creating incubation centers to promote entrepreneurship.

Expressing ICRISAT’s commitment to support the state government in its efforts, Dr Dar said, “ICRISAT will be happy to collaborate in areas that align with the new Telangana government’s thrust areas.”

In this context, Dr Dar submitted six concept notes on areas where ICRISAT can work together with the new Government. The areas covered are: Enhanced Crop Productivity through Improved Cultivars and Innovative Integrated Seed Systems; Soil Health Mapping for Increased Agricultural Productivity; Telangana Climate Resilient Agriculture Center; Interventions of Agribusiness and Innovation Platform; Promoting Food Processing and Food Safety; and Green Phablet powered by Green SIM.

Dr Dar welcomed Dr Sharma to the ICRISAT Governing Board. As a matter of protocol, the Chief Secretary of the host state is an ex-officio member of ICRISAT Governing Board.

Telangana is the newly created 29th state of India which came into existence on 2 June.

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Understanding critical traits for sorghum improvement

To enable rapid throughput evaluations of critical traits for sorghum improvement, a Near Infrared Spectrometer (NIRS) was installed at the Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER) Biotechnology Laboratory in Mali. The NIRS was acquired by ICRISAT under the Dryland Cereals Research Program.

Measurements of sorghum grain samples from the Generation Challenge Programme - Backcross Nested Association Mapping populations were taken to understand the process of creating a method for a targeted trait.

Mr Jean-Michel Gerber of Burker Optics SARL, France, provided a four-day orientation and training on the use of the equipment. Drs Niaba Teme, Head, and Abdoul Kader Bouré, Mohamed Haidera  of the IER-Biotechnology Lab, Oumare Cisse  of the IER Animal Nutrition Lab,  and Baloua Nebie and Fred Rattunde of ICRISAT took part in the training.

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New ways of doing business identified and put high on the priority for the future of work in Africa

Dr Kaleson W Gwadi, research scientist at the Lake Chad Research Institute (Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria) and National Coordinator for Pearl millet-Nigeria, speaking on the achievements and perspectives. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Representatives from six African countries, ICRISAT and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 3-5 June for an open dialogue and to share experiences and lessons learnt over the last four years of sorghum and millet research and development under the HOPE (Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of sorghum and millets) Project. A key focus of the meet was: how can we do business differently to ensure greater uptake of technologies and have a greater impact.

Scientific achievements were identified along with success stories. However, it was strongly agreed that a much greater emphasis on the delivery of the technologies was critical; while continuing with scientific discoveries. New ways of doing business were necessary to achieve more successful uptake of the technologies as well as ensuring more efficient and appropriate development of technologies.

This was the first consultative forum convened to develop a proposal for a second phase of the HOPE project which has been operating for four years across 10 countries in Africa as well as India. HOPE 2 is expected to focus on six African countries: Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania.

“There must be ownership by the national programs or this will not work. There is no half way,” said Mr Yilma Kebede, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The HOPE project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Let’s not slip back into the way we worked in the past. We need to get out of routines. We have to elevate our game with new ways of thinking and doing things. The transition may be painful but it needs to be done.  Let’s start having ownership. The Foundation is always there to cheer you on with your successes and to guide you. You can count on this,” he added.

Some of the new ways of doing business that were identified included:

More cross-country collaboration

There were very similar issues across all the countries. The issues helped identify the efficiency gains and opportunities for more knowledge sharing, cross country learning and joint solution building. The common issues covered the whole value chain: breeding/crop improvement needs; seed systems; crop management; processing, market linkage and access, supportive policies, technology delivery and uptake. This showed the advantages of a multi-country project.

Rethinking “how” we deal with issues

As countries shared their strategies and highest priority needs, it was recognized that the issues were similar to those identified four years ago. It was agreed that these issues need a commitment longer than four years to have significant impact. It also became necessary to challenge ourselves on “how” we deal with the issues.

Creating a common vision

It was recognized that project partners needed a common vision about the project. This helps them focus on the bigger picture along with each of the areas, and also understand how their efforts contribute to the whole project. HOPE 2 will place stronger emphasis on internal communications to create a common vision and shared understanding.

National systems having ownership of the work and meeting the goals

It was agreed that HOPE 2 must be owned and driven by the national systems to be  successful and sustainable. It must be “National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) empowered”. ICRISAT’s role was recognized as essential to bring this together and act as a facilitator and catalyst as well as contributing technical expertise. This also requires strong commitment from the national systems.

Dr Stefania Grando, ICRISAT Program Director - Dryland Cereals, who is also the Principal Investigator of HOPE Project, noted, “I believe in participation and this is the right start. But remember that participation has to continue all the way.”

A greater emphasis on  delivery along with monitoring and evaluation

It was recognized that to have a much higher level of impact there should be a greater and more strategic emphasis on delivery of the technologies and processes. HOPE 2 will develop uptake strategies and involve a wider variety of stakeholders along the value chain. Monitoring and evaluation of the uptake will provide continual feedback and enable the team to adapt as needed.

A strong communications element will be included

Communications was identified as an area that needed a lot more emphasis and will mean a new way of doing business. It was recognized and agreed that communications was needed to make contributions towards:

Better internal communications;

To broadly communicate the issues and success stories to as many people as possible; and To help with the uptake of new technologies and practices along the whole agricultural research for development value chain - from crop improvement to market development. Areas along the value chain identified as needing highest priority for communications efforts included seed systems development; crop variety adoption; on-farm technologies and processes (include diversifying on farm); and influencing policy.

It was also agreed that the new approach required the engagement of the communications staff in all the six countries right from the beginning of the project, including at the strategy and project development stages.

New ways to share knowledge

Communities of practice around different challenges were identified as new ways to do business as these would be much more open to and have a strong emphasis on sharing ideas and lessons learnt across the six countries.

An access point provided for integrating different tools in crop breeding

This would follow an integrated crop improvement practice and work across each partner country and ICRISAT. Modern tools, such as genomics, would be used and integrated to speed up the process of developing improved crop varieties.

Capacity building in a wider variety of disciplines

Capacity building was seen as important in overcoming skill gaps not only in traditional science areas but also in areas such as adoption, extension and communication.

Gender integration at each stage along the value chain

It was agreed that gender aspects should be integrated at each stage of the HOPE 2 agenda, to identify how to benefit and empower women at each stage along the value chain.

In his closing remarks, George Okwach, HOPE Project Coordinator, alerted participants to the fact that, “What the project partners have done and achieved this week in Addis Ababa was only the beginning of a long consultative process. A long road still lay ahead. There are more meetings and workshops planned at the national and regional levels. We will maintain the spirit of consultations between different partners at all stages, with the purpose that, in the end, we shall have a proposal for HOPE 2 that every partner can be happy with and proud of. We want the national partners to feel that they own the project, from start to finish. This was an innovative start and we felt very excited about the new challenges in looking at new ways of doing business.”

Participants of the workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: S Sridharan, ICRISAT

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ICT for improving productivity and profitability of agriculture

Participants of the workshop. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

ICRISAT and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) came together at a two-day workshop on “Innovative ICT Approaches and Tools for Improving Productivity and Profitability of Smallholder Agriculture”.

At the workshop a proposal was finalized to use, evaluate, and sustain ICT knowledge platforms, tools and decision support systems to unlock the potential of rainfed agriculture. This proposal aims to enhance the already proven successful model of ICRISAT’s “Krishi Gyan Sagar and Krishi Vani - powered by Green SIM”. The workshop was held on 4-5 June at the ICRISAT headquarters with participation from both public and private partners. The workshop was steered by Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku, Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation, ICRISAT and Dr Malu Muia Ndavi, Senior Program Officer, IFAD.

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Chickpea research helping Ethiopian smallholder farmers

The contributions of ICRISAT in chickpea research in Ethiopia were recognized at an event that brought together various chickpea value chain stakeholders in the country.

Dr Asnake Fikre, Director of Crops Research, Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC), mentioned that of the 24 varieties released in Ethiopia so far, 15 were directly from ICRISAT material. Various stakeholders shared their success stories on chickpea production and trade at the event.

Dr. Fikre was speaking at the gathering to celebrate the Award of Merit which was bestowed upon the chickpea research team of the EIAR by the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office.

The team was honored for its contributions to improved chickpea productivity and in facilitating poverty reduction and improved livelihoods.

“Earlier, I had no capital to support my family and lived on selling local beverages for subsistence. Then I was introduced to the new chickpea variety and received 20 kg of seed from Debre Zeit. I experienced good yields and that led to a good income. I can now afford education for my children,” said Ms Demeku Haile Selassie, a farmer in Gimbichu Woreda.

“Thanks to the research by DZARC and ICRISAT, we found that chickpea varieties can perform and give a good yield even in drought prone regions,” said Mr Abebe Tesfaye Tigray, representative from the Ministry of Agriculture.

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ICRISAT– Philippines partnership

Photo: A Pal, ICRISAT

ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar presenting a copy of his book ‘Feeding the Forgotten Poor’ to H.E. Benito B Valeriano, the Philippine Ambassador to India and Nepal. The Director General also had the opportunity to brief the Ambassador on ICRISAT (India) – Philippines partnership activities and thank him for his support to ICRISAT projects in the Philippines.

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Increasing pigeonpea cultivation in Rajasthan through women’s participation

Dr A Hingane interacting with women farmers in Mundia village. Photo: ICRISAT

Increasing numbers of women farmers are adopting pigeonpea cultivation in the state of Rajasthan, India. Convinced by the returns gained by the farmers in the villages of Jaipur district, 100 women from four villages of Alwar district have expressed their willingness to take up pigeonpea seed production on their farms.

Recognizing the important role played by women in agriculture, a new initiative is being undertaken by ICRISAT’s pigeonpea breeding team to encourage the involvement of women farmers from Rajasthan in pigeonpea seed production and post-harvest processing.

In line with the efforts, an awareness and training-cum-planning program was organized by ICRISAT at Mundia village of Alwar district on 27 May.

At the event, women farmers received guidance on pigeonpea cultivation along with an estimate on the costs incurred. They were also briefed on other value adding activities such as dal making, processing and packing, and marketing which could lead to extra income. Efforts to train women in weaving baskets out of dried stalks of the crop are underway. This effort would be targeted at girls and women who may not otherwise be engaged in other farming activities in order to provide them gainful employment. 

The technical experts who interacted with the farmers and responded to their queries included
Dr Anupama Hingane, Principal Investigator and Special project Scientist, ICRISAT, Dr SJ Singh,
State Coordinator and Scientist-in-Charge and  Mr Uttam Chand, Scientific officer, Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute, Durgapura.

The women farmers who expressed an interest in taking to pigeonpea cultivation would receive further training from ICRISAT scientist in farmers’ fields and also at the institute’s headquarters. To raise the income of women farmers, dal mills would be installed in target villages, to generate employment opportunities for women.

In the ongoing pigeonpea project in Rajasthan, ICRISAT in collaboration with Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agricultural University, Bikaner, Rajasthan, aims to introduce and expand the production of pigeonpea through farmer participatory mode.

During the 2014 cropping season an area of 1,400 ha across nine districts of Rajasthan (Jaipur, Dausa, Alwar, Karoli, Sawai Madhopur, Bharatpur, Tonk Dhaulpur and Ajmer) will be covered by a short-duration pigeonpea variety ( ICPL 88039)developed by ICRISAT. This activity will be conducted under the project “Enhancing the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers of Rajasthan through the introduction of eco-friendly pigeonpea varieties” in collaboration with the Rajasthan Agricultural Research Institute, Durgapura.

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

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Farmers appreciative of finger millet yields in Malawi

Farmers evaluating finger millet varieties during the field day. Photo: H Ojulong, ICRISAT

To provide improved livelihoods and enhance food security in Malawi, a number of improved varieties of finger millet were introduced in Malawi. These varieties developed by ICRISAT-Kenya, were introduced in the districts of Mzimba and Kasungu in Northern and Central Malawi.

To review the progress made in the region an ICRISAT team including Drs Stefania Grando, Director-Dryland Cereals, Henry Ojulong, finger millet breeder, ICRISAT-Nairobi, Oswin Madzonga, Lorent Gondwe and Sam Njoroge, ICRISAT-Malawi toured the region during the recent field days in Mzimba and Kasungu.

In Kasungu, the field day was hosted by the Kamudi Nkata farmer group, in which 34 women farmers and 43 men farmers took part. Farmers in the region earn an income from finger millet when it is sold to make local beer, sweet drink and Ugali (dish of millet flour cooked with water to a porridge or dough-like consistency).

The farmers’ preferred traits were early maturity, high yield, drought tolerance, blast resistance, compact heads and medium height. Farmers noted that all the introduced varieties were better than their local varieties, and selected Kal Atari, Acc 3779, and Gulu E as their preferred varieties. 

Speaking on behalf of the farmers, the area chief thanked ICRISAT for providing alternative varieties and crops for food security. He observed that despite the demonstrations being planted late, due to delay in seed delivery, they have performed better, thus showing their ability to give increased productivity despite limited rainfall. Dr Grando thanked the farmers for embracing finger millet, a crop with high nutritive value and pledged more support.

In Chamunguma of Mzimba district, 98 farmers took part in the field day. Most farmers in the area grow finger millet and are getting an average yield of 700 kg/acre, compared to 300 kg/acre in Kasungu. Farmers were appreciative of the wide variability among the varieties, especially in relation to yield, resistance/tolerance to blast and drought. 

Finger millet is grown in several districts of Malawi, but is mainly concentrated in areas in the Northern part of the country. These areas have the same agro ecology as finger millet growing areas in neighboring Tanzania where a number of varieties have been tested under the ICRISAT-led Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets project.

This activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals.

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