27 Jun 2014
No. 1629


David Bergvinson announced as next Director General of ICRISAT

Engaged in an animated discussion: (L-R) Drs William D Dar, David Bergvinson and Nigel Poole, ICRISAT Ambassador of Goodwill. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The Governing Board of ICRISAT is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr David Bergvinson as the next Director General of ICRISAT for a five-year term, effective 1 January, 2015. He will replace the current Director General, Dr William D Dar who has served the Institute with admiration and distinction since 1999.

Dr D Bergvinson is currently with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, USA, as Senior Program Officer, Crop Value Chains and Digital Design for Agriculture Development. He has been with the Foundation since 2007. In this role, he has accelerated the development and delivery of farmer-preferred products and services for staple crops in the developing world through formulating strategies, forging partnerships and applying digital technologies. He currently represents the Foundation on the CGIAR Fund Council.

Dr D Bergvinson has a well-articulated passion for smallholder agriculture, and a strong desire to improve the lives of the hundreds of millions of impoverished small farmers and their families living in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. He regards himself as an agent of change, and he possesses a clear vision for how science and partnerships can come together to accelerate the pace of development in the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged agrarian regions.

“Science should not be an end in itself. Science is a means to mitigate poverty, eradicate malnutrition and provide environmentally sustainable solutions to the most pressing challenges faced by the smallholder farmer. ICRISAT can achieve the impossible by forging strong partnerships with the public, private and civil society sectors. I look forward to working closely with all the staff and partners to realize ICRISAT’s vision of a prosperous, food-secure and resilient dryland tropics,” said Dr D Bergvinson.

Prior to joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr D Bergvinson was a Senior Scientist with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) at its Mexico headquarters for over 12 years. His research background is in crop improvement, plant biochemistry, integrated pest management, and entomology. He is no stranger to ICRISAT, having interacted with the Institute’s scientists on projects dealing with grain legumes, village level studies, seed systems, and digital technologies in smallholder agriculture.

Dr D Bergvinson is highly committed to the success of ICRISAT. He will lead the Institute’s work programme to advance agriculture in the tropical drylands of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as uptake of its five mandate crops critical for the drylands - sorghum, pearl millet, pigeonpea, chickpea and groundnut.

Dr D Bergvinson is committed to demand-driven innovation that recognizes the important role of women and youth to enable inclusive market-oriented development.

“Innovation has to be driven by the demands of farmers and markets, and the bigger the challenge, the more innovative ICRISAT can be in its approaches,” he said.

He is further committed to enhancing ICRISAT’s agribusiness innovation platform, its climate-smart agriculture focus, soil health and watershed management programs, digital technology to support inclusive market-oriented development, ability to create demand for nutri-cereals and grain legumes. Through South-South collaboration, he will strengthen ICRISAT’s footprint and impact in both Asia and Africa.

“Working to alleviate poverty in drylands across Africa and Asia is extremely challenging and I believe the Inclusive Market Oriented Development (IMOD) is an exciting and a very important concept to help the smallholder farmers in Africa and South Asia. Integrating IMOD into ICRISAT’s programs will enable poor farmers to translate surplus production into increased income and opportunities for them to realize their full potential,” said Dr D Bergvinson.

Dr D Bergvinson obtained his B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Masters of Pest Management from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Ottawa, Canada. He completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in maize biochemistry and pathology. 

Team ICRISAT welcomes Dr D Bergvinson, his wife Mary and their two children, Matthew and Amanda.

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Accelerating research work on legumes

The Grain Legumes team with Dr CLL Gowda. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Strengthening the hybrid breeding program and accelerating genomics-assisted breeding were the main areas of focus at the in-house review of ICRISAT’s Grain Legumes Research Program (Asia).

Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General-Research, in his inaugural address stated that the in-house reviews were re-initiated to present and discuss research activities of every scientist and seek peer review/inputs on yearly basis, which will also enhance the integration and coordination among scientists to undertake holistic research, and are especially helpful for young and new scientists.

Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, said that a total of 39 work plans, covering accomplishments of 2013 and targets for 2014, were presented during the two-day review meeting at the ICRISAT headquarters.

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Enhancing efforts to help women farmers and youth in Nigeria

Ms HS Garba (3rd from right) with WOFAN Agricultural specialist and ICRISAT staff at ICRISAT-Nigeria. Photo: ICRISAT

To build the capacities of rural women groups, youth organizations and vulnerable households, ICRISAT and the Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) in Nigeria have agreed to step up their collaboration.

The partnership will focus on assisting women smallholder farmers in setting up processing units and improving their market access. There will also be a focus on bridging the gaps in ICRISAT’s programs and activities especially those involving women.

Following a visit to the ICRISAT-Nigeria office on 18 June, Ms Hajiya Salamatu Garba, Executive Director of WOFAN, requested ICRISAT to carry out demonstrations of improved crop production technologies, simple farm machineries, and post-harvest processing machines. WOFAN will lead the training of women groups, youth and vulnerable households.

To carry out the demonstrations, a 8 ha farm located at Dawakin Kudu LGA of Kano State will be allocated to ICRISAT. The organizations also agreed to work together especially in northern Nigeria. ICRISAT is currently working in 17 states of Nigeria under sorghum and groundnut value chains of the Federal Government Agricultural Transformation Agenda on crop production, processing and marketing.

Other issues discussed with WOFAN include publicity, monitoring of activities and ways to track success stories. It was noted that WOFAN has an ongoing agreement with radio and television stations in Sokoto, Kano and Gombe States.

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ICRISAT at the 4th Agricultural Science Week in Niger

ICRISAT took the opportunity to raise awareness on aflatoxin management at the 4th Agricultural Science Week organized by West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research for Development (CORAF/WECARD).

Dr A Traoré visiting the ICRISAT stall and interacting with Dr Mahamadou Gandah, ICRISAT Country Representative, Niger.

The ICRISAT exhibit stall featured information material on aflatoxin management in grain legumes (especially groundnut). Posters, videos and flyers were shared with the visitors to promote the aflatoxin testing kit available within ICRISAT research stations of Samanko (Mali) and Sadoré (Niger). Manuals on sorghum hybrids production were also distributed to visitors along with mini-packs of peal millet, sorghum and groundnut seeds.

The Science Week held from 16-20 June in Niger had the theme: ‘Innovative agro-forestry-pastoral systems to feed West and Central Africa. A visit for 150 participants of CORAF/WECARD to ICRISAT’s Sadoré research station was also organized.

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India’s Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh visits ICRISAT

Dr Suhas P Wani (extreme right) explaining Integrated Watershed Management on a 3D model to the minister. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“Taking technologies that are ready to the doorstep of every smallholder farmer in the country is a priority for the Union Government. With support from ICRISAT and other agricultural institutions, we will reach out to more farmers in rural India,” said Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister for Agriculture. 
The honorable minister while on a visit to the headquarters of ICRISAT in Patancheru, Telangana, India, on 23 June, was highly appreciative of the institute’s farmer-participatory integrated watershed management model.

“We must improve the health of soil to the benefit of smallholder farmers. I urge ICRISAT to upscale plans to extend soil health cards to every farmer in the country,” the minister added.

Recognizing the importance of pulses in enhancing food security and incomes of smallholder farmers, the minister discussed with ICRISAT, the Union Government’s priority of upscaling cultivation of pulses and making it more competitive and attractive to farmers. He pledged additional support to the efforts of ICRISAT to enable a Pulses Revolution in India.

ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar, Deputy Director General-Research Dr CLL Gowda and other members of the senior management team, briefed the minister on the various research programs at the institute. While visiting the ICRISAT Centre of Excellence in Genomics, the Director General shared with the Minister the idea of an India Genome Centre for Agriculture which has the potential to transform India into a global leader in genomics. The initiative focuses on areas critical to food security and aims to coordinate the work of all the genomics institutes across the country.

Dr Rajeev Varshney detailing genomic-related activities at ICRISAT. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Dr WD Dar and CLL Gowda presenting an information folder on the India Genome Centre for Agriculture to the minister.

Enhanced support to value chains of nutri-cereals like sorghum and millet which have been traditional crops in most areas across the country is essential. With high nutritional composition and resilience to survive in dry areas, nutri-cereals will be critical to India’s future helping overcome malnutrition and to cope with climate change. ICRISAT has been working closely with several organizations in the country on sorghum and millet but, recognizes the need for new intensified efforts to promote them robustly at the consumer level. ICRISAT’s plans for a farmer-centric rainwater harvesting model were also detailed to the minister, while viewing a 3-D model of how watershed management benefits farming.

Minister RM Singh also toured the Center of Excellence in ICT Innovations for Agriculture and the RS Paroda Gene Bank and interacted with the scientists.

The minister expressed keen interest in encouraging ICRISAT’s highly successful ICT models Krishi Gyan Sagar and Krishi Vani – powered by the Green SIM. Krishi Vani, a mobile-mediated agro-advisory platform, is delivering voice messages in regional languages to smallholder farmers across Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, on weather, market, crop information, government schemes, nutrition, and health.

With the Markets, Institutions and Policies team.
With the Knowledge Sharing and Innovation team.
Photos : PS Rao, ICRISAT

He also enquired of ICRISAT’s activities in states of Telangana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand and urged scientists to intensify their efforts in mapping soil health.   

“The country and smallholder agriculture have benefitted hugely from the efforts, contributions and innovations of ICRISAT over the past few decades. I urge the institute to enhance and expand its activities to all states and help farmers mitigate climate adversities,” the minister said.   

Responding to the minister’s request, Dr WD Dar reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to help smallholder farmers in the dryland areas of Asia and Africa.

“We will upscale our work, innovate and explore new ways and means to assist smallholder farmers move from poverty to prosperity. Through research activities, community-based interventions, and institutional and policy innovations, we will revolutionize smallholder agriculture together,” Dr WD Dar informed the minister.

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Learner-Participants interact with ICRISAT Director General

Dr WD Dar interacting with the participants.
A song recital by the participants.
Photos : PS Rao, ICRISAT

ICRISAT regards research fellows, scholars and interns as invaluable members of the institute. The Learning Systems Unit (LSU) at an event on 13 June facilitated 80 Learner-Participants to meet and interact with the ICRISAT Director General, Dr William D Dar and members of the senior management staff in an informal setting.

“All Learner-Participants must put in hard work to reach their goals and ICRISAT is a great platform to make things happen,” the Director General said while addressing the participants.

The LSU, as part of ICRISAT’s Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) program, acts as a support system for the Learner Participants.

Also present at the event were ICRISAT’s Drs Stefania Grando, MCS Bantilan, KK Sharma, Rajeev K Varshney, Dileepkumar Guntuku, Rosana P Mula, Mr Richard P Burgos and Mr M Prabhakar Reddy.

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Strong complementarities required between different initiatives in Dryland Systems research

Dr T Yellamanda Reddy from the Accion Fraterna Ecology Centre
presenting on the implementation of improved common property
resources management in the action villages.
Photo: A Haileslassie, ICRISAT/ILRI

At the first 2014 meeting of the Innovation Platform (IP) of Dryland Systems, research participants expressed the need for strong complementarities between different programs such as Bhoochetana, Bhoochetana Plus, the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and other Indian initiatives.

The local IP of Dryland Systems research aims to bring together private and public stakeholders in order to create a sustainable basis for structuring initiatives and for better coordination. In India, ICRISAT and partners have established innovation platforms in Kurnool and Anantapur districts of Andhra Pradesh and Bijapur district of Karnataka.

The meetings held recently in the districts reviewed the results of the baseline study, achievements of on-farm demonstrations in 2013, preliminary results of the feed resources assessment and the results of soil sample analyses. The overall trends of climate change in the target districts and challenges faced by farmers were also discussed.

The meetings were facilitated by scientists from ICRISAT, the International Livestock Research Institute and International Water Management Institute. 

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Entertainment and theme park to showcase the value of agriculture and science

ICRISAT team with Ms RK Maharana, General Manager, Ramoji Film City (extreme left), Mr Ramoji Rao, Head of Ramoji Group (4th from left), and Mr Rajeev Jalnapurkar, CEO, Ramoji Film City (extreme right) during a recent visit to Film City. Photo: ICRISAT

Ramoji Film City, a world class tourism and recreation center in Hyderabad, India, is now moving into eco-agro adventures where people can participate, learn and be entertained. New partnerships with ICRISAT are being forged which will help millions of people better understand agriculture and science.

Creative ideas on how to attract youth to agriculture through entertainment, involving women in more participatory ways, educating children through agro camps, and generally involving all people through an agro theme park, interactive displays and online activities were discussed at the meeting between ICRISAT team and the Film City management.

The discussions also focused on supporting and promoting nutritious foods like millets that are traditional and often forgotten in many areas.

The Film City is set up on 2,000 acres in Hyderabad, India. It is the world’s largest film studio complex with a theme park and receives about 1.5 million tourists every year.

The film city was set up in 1996 by the Ramoji Group which covers television and newspaper media, film production, financial services, retail, education and hospitality.

Mr Ramoji Rao, head of Ramoji Group, has a deep rooted philosophy of supporting farmers. This has opened up new opportunities to bring science and entertainment together for the benefit of agriculture.

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