11 Jul 2014
No. 1631


Tata Group and ICRISAT
Partnering to fight poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity in rural India

Dr WD Dar presenting a concept note on food and nutrition security to Mr Tata. Also seen in the picture are Drs SP Wani, S Grando and Mr R Venkataramanan, Executive Trustee, Tata Trust (extreme right). Photo: C Bejosano, ICRISAT

With poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity persisting as the greatest challenges facing  India today and in the coming decades, a momentous meeting between Mr Ratan Tata, India’s top philanthropist-industrialist and Chair Emeritus of the Mumbai-based Tata Group, and an ICRISAT delegation headed by Director General Dr William D Dar has opened limitless opportunities for science-based innovations and partnership to address these concerns.

“We propose the adoption of a holistic approach in achieving science-led development by scaling up innovations targeted to achieve food, nutrition, income and environmental security,” Dr Dar said during the meeting. “Vital to this approach is a multi-stakeholder partnership in pursuing in a big  way – holistic components such as integrated watershed management, and the development and promotion of highly nutritious crops such as nutri-cereals like pearl and finger millets and sorghum, as well as grain legumes, particularly among India’s indigenous, smallholder farmers.”

“Making smallholder farmers economically better off is vital in achieving food and nutritional security. Increasing their productivity through water-use efficiency, and making available to them nutritious and resilient crops to grow will significantly improve the well-being of poor farming communities,” said Mr Tata.

Briefing Mr Tata on ICRISAT’s activities. Photo: C Bejosano, ICRISAT

The Tata Group and ICRISAT have a long history of science-led development partnership in areas such as sustainable natural resources management and health and nutrition. The meeting will elevate this partnership to a new level for a more sustainable and wider impact, particularly in view of the widespread malnutrition problem in India mostly affecting women and children, despite the country’s strong economic growth over the past 20 years. The meeting was held at the Tata Group’s office in Mumbai on 10 July.

Dr Suhas Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center (IDC), expounded on how a “science-led scaling-up model” can unleash the power of science to benefit smallholder farmers with income, nutrition and food security, particularly in the tribal areas.

“Through our Bhoochetana (land rejuvenation) program with the Government of Karnataka, on-farm improvements through soil health mapping, water-use efficiency, diversifying cropping patterns, introduction of nutritious and resilient crops, and capacity building among local partners and farmers’ groups have resulted in an estimated net economic gain of around US$ 230 million in the state, transforming the lives of poor, smallholder farmers,” said Dr Wani.

Dr Stefania Grando, ICRISAT’s Research Program Director – Dryland Cereals, discussed about the Institute’s Smart Foods campaign. “We believe that millets and sorghum are critical for both farmers and consumers because of their high nutritional value, resilience under extreme weather conditions, importance in diversity in both diet and on-farm, multiple uses, large scope for further development, and appropriateness for fighting poverty and food insecurity.”

At the meeting, Mr Tata expressed his commitment to further work with ICRISAT in up-scaling innovations for a holistic solution to fight poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity in India’s smallholder farming communities. Upon Dr Dar’s invitation, he indicated his intention to visit the ICRISAT campus to move the partnership forward.

“I thank Dr Dar for all the good things he has done to ICRISAT and for his contributions to the science-led development of India’s agriculture in the last 15 years,” said Mr Tata as he was presented the book “Feeding the Forgotten Poor” by Dr Dar.

Dr Dar presenting a copy of ‘Feeding the Forgotten Poor’ to Mr Tata.
Mr Tata reading ICRISAT’s Smart Foods flyer. Photos : C Bejosano, ICRISAT

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Caux Dialogue on Land and Security 2014
Science-led strategies vital for minimizing land degradation in drylands

Dr Dar delivering his address at the event. Photo: IofC

The Caux Dialogue on Land and Security 2014 explored the human connections between poverty, conflict and environmental degradation, with the central theme “Mitigating Risk; Responding to Threat”.

A range of stakeholders from grassroots activists to world leaders, big businesses to top scientists contemplated on new strategies for restoring dry and degraded land. ICRISAT was the only CGIAR center to have taken part in the dialogue.

Participants of the event prescribed several simple, effective, inexpensive and proven ways of restoring land to its full capacity to grow food, retain water and act as a natural buffer against extreme weather. This approach directly supports the most poor and vulnerable, helping them find income and employment on their own land.

“Science-led strategies and sustainable land management are vital to harness the untapped potential of drylands,” said ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar in his address at the event.

While discussing strategies for minimizing land degradation, Dr Dar cited examples from Africa where pigeonpea has been cultivated on 1 million ha in Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda and Kenya through the initiatives of ICRISAT and its partners. This helped in arresting soil degradation as well as providing food and nutrition security.

Ms Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General of the International Organization of Migration, addressed the topic of migration and mobility and stressed on the need for convergence, awareness and transparency on land degradation and security.

During the inaugural plenary session Dr Dar highlighted the scaling-up approach for impact by illustrating the work under the ‘Bhoochetana’ project which is helping millions of smallholder farmers prosper in dryland areas in India. The project has been successful in bridging the yield gap between farmers’ yields and achievable potential yields.

In another session, Dr Ian Johnson, ex-Chair of CGIAR, stressed on the importance of addressing issues of water scarcity, climate change, land quality and ownership along with the economic framework. He also lauded the contributions of Dr Dar to smallholder agriculture.

Dr Wani making a presentation. Photo: IofC

A session on ‘Food Production Potential in the Drylands’ was organized by Dr Suhas P Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center along with  Mr GVK Rau, Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner, Government of Karnataka. The session highlighted the importance  of holistic farmer-centric watershed management as an entry point for improving livelihoods and minimizing land degradation.

Dr Rau also stressed on the importance of enabling policies and institutions for scaling-up science-led development initiatives. Session participants showed keen interest on the scaling-up initiatives and capacity building of researchers and policy makers.

Drs Dar and Wani also interacted with DryNet, a network of 15 civil society organizations. The value of evidence-based advocacy for policy change was discussed along with ways for initiating collaborations between ICRISAT and DryNet. Further collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on Economics of Land Degradation was also discussed wherein ICRISAT can contribute its learning and case studies. A Global Forum for Land and Lives has been proposed for sustainable development in the developing world.

As part of the Smart Foods campaign being spearheaded by ICRISAT, a ‘Dryland Dinner’ was organized by ICRISAT. The dinner highlighted the importance of nutri-cereals like pearl millet, finger millet and sorghum and recipes prepared out of nutri-cereals were served at the dinner. This helped enhance awareness amongst the participants on nutri-cereals, which are nutrient dense, gluten free and have a low glycemic index.

The dialogue was organized in Caux, Switzerland, from 30 June-4 July by the Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace (ILLP), a program of Initiatives of Change International (IofC) along with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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Project management training workshop held

Fourteen scientists and managers were trained in PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environment version 2) at a workshop organized at ICRISAT headquarters in Patancheru, India, from 8-10 July. Inaugurating the program ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar said, “For effective implementation of research projects it is necessary to use a common project management terminology. This will foster better understanding of the project processes and effective coordination among project stakeholders.”

Participants of the training workshop. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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