04 Jul 2014
No. 1630


2nd ICRISAT Gender Forum meeting
Scientists urged to think of gender as an ongoing social process

Participants in animated discussions at the second Gender Forum meeting. Photo: ICRISAT

At the second ICRISAT Gender Forum meeting scientists were exhorted to think of gender as an ongoing social process. This strategy would overlay ICRISAT’s research to identify how and where gender needs to be integrated or connected.

Many such ideas were deliberated at the second ICRISAT Gender Forum meeting held at ICRISAT-Mali on 26 June. Scientists debated the multiple definitions of gender that ranged from gender disaggregated data; identification and justification of a specific target group; gender analysis that focuses on power and difference; to research teams including women and men to reflect the targeted community’s composition. This led to the practical issue of “what goes in the gender column of our work plans?” and the reflection that each research project will have its own requirements.

Participants highlighted that being gender responsive meant going beyond research protocols that integrate gender, and moving on to incorporating gender responsive practices in our research. This could mean that the research teams should comprise at least one woman. However, it was revealed that women are often given the responsibility of cooking for the teams! This is a reminder that gender structures all that we do and the challenge lies in beginning to see it and identify it in order to work with it.

Director General Dr William D Dar had formally launched the Gender Forum on 26 May at a ceremony at ICRISAT headquarters, Patancheru, India. The Gender Forum is part of ICRISAT’s commitment towards integrating a gender transformative approach in agricultural research to lead to more effective development outcomes and impacts. It seeks to focus on understanding how gendered power relations result in inclusion or exclusion and move from a ‘Women in Development’ approach to a “Gender and Development’ approach and finally to a transformative approach which involves refocussing on power relations that sustain inequity.

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

Edouard Roméo Mensah, Associate Professional Officer - Economics (Markets, Institutions and Policies), suggested that advance planning to include a gender dimension into research would greatly help scientists become aware about gender aspects in research and questions that may include gender, and the survey zones where they are likely to get gender-representative samples.

The discussions centered on the likelihood of gender aspects being already included in ICRISAT’s research without being specifically defined as “gender responsive”. It was felt that an examination of current work to identify where such gender needs are already being addressed or may be driven by a gendered priority would be useful.

Dr Tom Hash, Principal Scientist - Breeding (Dryland Cereals), suggested that gender-disaggregated information on crop trait preferences, access to various resources including land, labor, capital and other inputs for crop production and utilization can help better target the needs of the farm communities.

Some of the other activities suggested were:

Being gender responsive means going beyond research protocols that integrate gender, to incorporating gender responsive practices in all of ICRISAT’s work.

(a) holding a regional workshop on integrating gender into agricultural research; (b) conducting monthly gender meetings on integrating gender into research, gender strategy, specific research projects to facilitate documentation of gender in our work; (c) starting a blog or web forum with questions being answered by gender experts; (d) building gender capacity by adding staff (scientific officers) or sharing post-docs with expertise in gender; and (d) ensuring that women are hired as technical staff and are given appropriate training.

ICRISAT-West and Central Africa hosted the meeting in Bamako, Mali. The event was streamed live to all ICRISAT offices and external participants.

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Exploring ways to reduce climatic change impact with a multi-modeling approach

Delegates from Zimbabwe engaged in discussion. Photo: ICRISAT

At a recent workshop, participants demonstrated the use of integrated assessment of farming systems using a multi-modeling approach to combat the impact of climate change on crop-livestock farming systems in southern Africa. At the feedback meeting of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) held on 17 June at Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, stakeholders also shared results on the projected impact of climate change and different adaptation strategies; and provided feedback on climate and gender sensitive technologies, institutions and policies.

In her introduction, Dr Patricia Masikati, Scientist, ICRISAT, described the mixed farming systems common to the region. “Mixed farming systems are predominant in the region. They are complex systems with various interacting subsystems and hence, decision making for optimal production can be challenging,” said Dr Masikati. The AgMIP project aims to help that decision making process by conducting multi-modeling regional and global assessments of climate change impact, adaptation and mitigation, sustainable farming systems and other key aspects of food systems using crop, livestock and economic models.

Delegates from Mozambique discuss climate change challenges and adaptations. Photo: ICRISAT

The climate, crop, livestock, economics and GIS teams shared their work and how their different models can be linked towards achieving the project’s objectives. Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, Scientist (MIP), ICRISAT, said that climate change would increase food insecurity and vulnerability if substantial investments and comprehensive adaptation packages are not provided. She also stressed that interventions have to go beyond food security and climate change, and build the capacity of farmers to take up alternative livelihood activities, eg, more diversified farming systems coupled with off-farm income. 

Participants from Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe shared their country’s specific views on climate change and initiatives to cope with climate change and the contributions they expect from research institutions. The common challenges included incidences of extreme weather phenomena such as droughts, floods and high temperatures especially during the cropping season. The coping strategies mentioned were promotion of irrigation schemes among smallholder farmers, use of improved varieties and drought tolerant crops such as sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes in addition to different animal types and breeds. They highlighted that it would be important to build the capacity of the national agricultural research systems. The participants also emphasized the importance of expanding the knowledge base of key climate processes and their possible consequences on the different developmental sectors. The knowledge gap is particularly acute in the agricultural sector where there is limited knowledge on the interactions between projected increases in CO2, temperature and precipitation variations and their combined effects on crop and animal production.

The AgMIP project is part of CGIAR Research Programs – Dryland Systems (DS) and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

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Improving efficiency of data collection in village surveys
Computer Assisted Personal Interviews to be widely used in field surveys

To improve efficiency, save time and cost, and improve the quality of data collection, the Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) project has developed a laptop-based data collection tool for use in field surveys.

Pilot testing of CAPI at Dokur village, Mahabubnagar district, Telangana. Photo: Sidhu A, ICRISAT

The Markets, Institutions & Policies (MIP) research program at ICRISAT has developed a tool referred to as Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI). This tool will cut down the time required for data to be made available at the headquarters from 5 months to 1 week in addition to saving time of the farmers/respondents. The estimated cost savings are of the order: ₹28,500 (US$ 477) per village per year incurred on printing and transportation of checklists and ₹250,000 (US$ 4,185) per village per year on data entry and related expenses. It will also result in improved data quality compared to the tools currently in use. The CAPI is based on the CSPro software used for data analysis and is an important milestone in the long history of the project.

As part of the project, MIP organized the Annual Review and Computer Assisted Personal Interviews (CAPI) Training Workshop for VDSA Field Investigators at ICRISAT headquarters, Patancheru, India from 9-17 June. ICRISAT Deputy Director General-Research, Dr CLL Gowda, and Dr MCS Bantilan, Program Director, MIP inaugurated the training workshop. They highlighted the importance of field investigators in household surveys, and in ensuring the high quality of the survey data. “Our field investigators are the real gemstones of the jewel, and their contribution is very valuable in making this jewel shine.” said Dr Gowda. Dr Bantilan gave an overview of the importance of digitization and automation of the household survey activities to ensure efficiency and quality of the data surveyed.

Pilot testing of CAPI at JC Agraharam village, Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: Sidhu A, ICRISAT

The CAPI survey tool has been pilot tested in two villages of Andhra Pradesh, India since January 2014. During 2014-15, the system will be tested in six villages after which it will be ready to use in all the 42 villages in the second phase of the project. The CAPI software was developed in-house by Mr Ravi Chand, VDSA Data Officer.

Eighteen field investigators from 18 villages spread over six states of India, and five supervisors participated in the training. The participants were given hands-on training in using the computer software and navigation of the questionnaires coupled with real interview sessions. Similar training will be given to field supervisors and investigators in east India and Bangladesh.

The VDSA project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Atlas of African Agriculture R&D launched

High-quality data and information are essential to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The Atlas of African Agriculture Research and Development published this week by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is an important initiative in this direction.

ICRISAT has contributed to this publication through Dr Lieven Claessens, Principal Scientist, Resilient Dryland Systems, who has written an article ‘Climate Zones for Crop Management’ that is part of the Atlas.

The Atlas highlights the ubiquitous role of smallholder agriculture in Africa; the many factors shaping the location, nature and performance of agricultural enterprises; and the strong interdependencies among farming, natural-resource stocks and flows, and the well-being of the poor.

Organized around 7 themes, the atlas covers more than 30 topics, each providing mapped geospatial data and supporting text that answers four fundamental questions: What is this map telling us? Why is this important? What about the underlying data? Where can I learn more? Each map points to additional resources from many of the partner organizations.
The Atlas is part of a wide-ranging eAtlas initiative that will showcase, through print and online resources, a variety of spatial data and tools generated and maintained by a community of research scientists, development analysts, and practitioners working in and for Africa. It is available online at http://agatlas.org/

The Atlas has been produced in collaboration with a wide range of partners, including experts at a number of CGIAR centers and other research organizations.

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Seed Consortium strengthens postrainy sorghum seed value chain in Maharashtra, India

(Left) Dr Ch Ravinder Reddy, presenting an overview of the seed system. (Right) Mr Umakant Dangat (3rd from right) Commissioner of Agriculture, Govt. of Maharashtra chairing the annual review meeting. Photo: ICRISAT

An innovative seed consortium developed by ICRISAT and its partners has started yielding results in strengthening the sorghum seed value chain.

For 2014 postrainy season around 300 tons of seed enough for 30,000 ha has been made available as a result of the seed production undertaken in 2013. It is proposed to cover 1,000 ha under seed production during 2014 postrainy season which is more than double the area under seed production in 2013. These results were shared at the First Annual Review and Workplan Meeting of the Seed Consortium held on 16 June at Pune, India.

Based on the achievements of the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia project a Seed Consortium was formed in 2013. The consortium developed an innovative seed system model with clearly defined responsibilities and targets for each partner.

The universities identify the seed farmers, train them in seed production and supply the necessary Foundation seed to undertake Certified seed production. The Maharashtra State Seed Certification Agency certifies the seed production plots. The Maharashtra State Seed Development Corporation (Mahabeej) gives a buy-back guarantee and procures the seeds from the farmers. It then processes the seeds and supplies to farmers though its network. This ensures on-time availability of quality seed to the farmers.

The other partners in the consortium are: Indian national agricultural research system, public sector seed agencies, Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), community based organizations (CBOs) and farmers. The objective of the consortium is to strengthen the postrainy sorghum seed systems for enhanced sustainability of interventions.

Dr Ch Ravinder Reddy, Senior Scientist, Technology Exchange, ICRISAT, presented a brief overview of the existing seed systems in postrainy sorghum in Maharashtra, seed availability, access by the farmers and the work done on implementation of the seed system model.

Mr SR Gadakh, Senior Sorghum Breeder, Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, pointed out that through the HOPE project more than 42,000 farmers benefited directly by enhancing their grain yields by 39% and stover yields by 30% in the last five years.

Dr N Nagaraj, Principal Scientist-Economics, ICRISAT indicated that the HOPE interventions enhanced technology adoption rates, reduced the yield gaps by 30%, increased productivity and gave higher returns to farmers (35-44%).

Mr Umakant Dangat, Commissioner of Agriculture, Govt. of Maharashtra, indicated that the Department would adopt all recommendations. Further, he indicated that HOPE interventions should continue in Maharashtra and that the Department would be able to fund the interventions so that maximum number of farmers can be reached.

This activity was undertaken under the CGIAR Research Program Dryland Cereals. The HOPE project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Improving the resilience of dryland agricultural systems

Participants of the South Asia Flagship meeting. Photo: ICRISAT

The need for proactively integrating available options to combat rural poverty, improve food security, nutrition and health, improve resilience and sustainably manage natural resources was highlighted at a meeting of the South Asia Flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.

Crosscutting issues of gender, monitoring and evaluation, integration, scaling-up and changes expected over the coming decade were also discussed at length. The Bhoochetana model was cited as a scalable example to enhance yields, resilience and benefits. (for video http://tinyurl.com/bhoochetana)

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), while the South Asia Flagship is led by ICRISAT.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director - Resilient Dryland Systems, ICRISAT, emphasized on household resilience to understand scalability and stressed on cross-regional synthesis.

Of the seven activity clusters under the program, three – agro-pastoral systems, intensive rainfed systems and tree-based systems – are in South Asia.

The participants deliberated on consolidating several overlapping activities into six major activities (baseline, technologies, gender inclusive capacity building, institutions and policy, monitoring and evaluation and out-scaling) across the three activity clusters. Operational guidelines were also formulated for four action sites in India and Pakistan.

The meeting was organized by ICRISAT in Dubai recently to review the progress made during 2013 and draw up an action plan for 2014. Partners from South Asia Flagship representing CGIAR institutions and national agricultural research system from India and Pakistan took part in the meeting.

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Dr CLL Gowda wins Sano Tozaburo Special Prize

Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General-Research, has been awarded the Sano Tozaburo Special Prize instituted by the Niigata International Food Award Foundation, Japan. He has been conferred this award for his achievements for the development and diffusion of cultivation technology of chickpea. The award is given for notable work done for improvement of food production.

Dr Gowda has worked with scientists in 30 countries to develop and assist in the release of 68 high-yielding chickpea varieties that have made significant impacts on the lives of smallholder farmers.

As Coordinator of the Cereals and Legumes Asia Network (CLAN), he has strengthened agriculture research and development capacity of 12 national programs in Asia. He pioneered the public-private partnership for Hybrid Parents Research Consortium at ICRISAT, which is a model for other national programs in India, and for CGIAR Centers.

For his achievements, he has received more than 30 awards, honors and recognitions from various countries, institutions and professional bodies across the world. Recently, he received the Doreen Mashler Award for Lifetime Achievement for Excellence in Science and the 2012 International Service in Crop Science Award.

Dr Gowda has more than 320 publications, including 140 journal articles, 21 books and 43 book chapters, 28 research bulletins and manuals, and 90 conference papers. He is the Editor of Journal of Food Security, Journal of Crop Science and Biotechnology and International Journal of Crop Production; and Editor-in-Chief of Asian Agri-History Journal.
Team ICRISAT congratulates Dr Gowda on receiving this honor.

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