14 Aug 2014
No. 1636


IFAD President elevates partnership with ICRISAT for making smallholder farming a profitable business

Dr Kanayo Nwanze (right) receiving a Special Award on behalf of IFAD, from ICRISAT DG
Dr William Dar. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

With 75% of the world’s extremely poor people living in the rural areas and dependent on agriculture, Dr Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) underscored the crucial need for rural transformation and gender empowerment to sustainably reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and to drive inclusive agricultural growth in developing countries.

Dr Nwanze was on a visit to the ICRISAT global headquarters in Hyderabad, India, where he held discussions with the management and several key scientists on how to elevate the IFAD-ICRISAT partnership to make farming a profitable business in the marginalized regions of the world.

“About 80% of the food consumed in developing countries is produced by smallholder farmers, who ironically comprise 75% of the world’s poorest people, 90% of whom are women. If we are to eradicate hunger and poverty, we need to level the playing field by economically empowering small producers, particularly the rural women,” Dr Kanayo said.

“To have economically viable and vibrant rural economies complementary to sustainable cities, we must address the centrality of smallholder producers, put massive investment in rural infrastructures, and change our mindsets to think that agriculture is a business that feeds the people, generates incomes and creates jobs.”

“Investing in rural women is investing in the community. When women are economically empowered, they make sure their children are fed, get proper nutrition, and stay in school, which in effect can reverse the migration trend from rural to urban areas among the youth,” Dr Kanayo continued.

Dr William Dar, ICRISAT Director General, highlighted the importance of the IFAD-ICRISAT partnership. “We share similar goals. IFAD and ICRISAT both aim to eliminate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and to raise productivity and incomes of poor marginal farmers particularly in the drylands,” he said.

“In over 40 years, the CGIAR system has shown that for every US$1 dollar invested in agricultural research for development (AR4D), US$9 worth value is returned on the investment, clearly showing the importance of scientific innovations in coping with food security and rural development challenges,” Dr Dar emphasized. ICRISAT is a member of the CGIAR Consortium, a global agricultural research partnership for a food-secure world.

Dr Nwanze interacting with Mrs B Lakshmi (extreme left), leader of a women’s selfhelp group, and other members, at the Adarsha watershed in Kothapally, India. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

During the visit, ICRISAT scientists gave the IFAD President an insight into the Institute’s work and facilities integrating AR4D across the whole value chain – high-end sciences using genomics and phenotyping, insect rearing and bioassay, community watershed management and crop improvement field experiments, through to village level studies to understand on-the-ground realities of the rural poor, ICT innovations in agriculture, and agribusiness and innovation platform. These areas complement each other as part of ICRISAT’s efforts to provide holistic science-based agricultural solutions to alleviate the plight of smallholder farmers in the drylands.

As a highlight of the visit, ICRISAT honored Dr Nwanze with a Special Award as “an outstanding scientist, a global leader in agricultural research for development, and a global champion for smallholder agriculture.” The recognition, which was conferred by Dr Dar, was received by Dr Nwanze on behalf of IFAD at a dinner reception celebrating his fruitful and memorable return to the ICRISAT headquarters in India where he worked as a scientist.

Dr Nwanze joined ICRISAT in 1979 as Principal Cereal Entomologist in Ouagadougou, which was the beginning of an 18-year career with the Institute which spanned assignments in Niger for 5 years and at the headquarters in Hyderabad for 10 years. He left Hyderabad in September 1996 to take up the position of Director-General of the Africa Rice Centre which he held until 2006 before joining IFAD.

“ICRISAT is the foundation of my professional career globally, and I am humbled by this award. As a former scientist, I have seen with my own eyes what we can achieve when research is people-centered and responds to the needs of smallholders and poor rural communities,” he said in accepting the award.

IFAD has supported ICRISAT, since its inception, with more than 22 large grants contributing some US$20 million to the research programs and initiatives of the Institute and its partners.

IFAD, a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established as an international financial institution to finance agricultural development projects for food production in the developing countries.

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IFAD President’s visit: In pictures


Dr Suhas P Wani, Assistant Research Program Director, Resilient Dryland Systems, explains the work of ICRISAT and its partners in Kothapally – a community-based watershed management model on sustainable soil and water resources management and establishment of livelihood enterprises at the village level, with a strong component for women.


On the Kothapally community-based watershed: “Thanks for the opportunity to personally experience this evolutionary process and ICRISAT’s people-oriented, pro-poor science with a human face.” Kanayo F Nwanze, IFAD President (Part of the message Dr Nwanze wrote on the Kothapally guest book).
Photos: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

Presenting ICRISAT’s four decades of village level studies that has generated valuable insights on understanding people and on-the-ground realities, particularly gender and nutritional issues, and the impacts of different policies and developments on the livelihoods of the rural poor. “This important set of data is fascinating, as while we know the poverty trends and movements in income, we are missing the analytical data, such as the proof of what is causing these attributes,” said Dr Nwanze. Presenting the work here is Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director – Markets, Institutions and Policies. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT


Showing what genetic markers arrayed on glass slide (DArT markers) look like and explaining to Dr Nwanze and IFAD staff the full integration of genomics into ICRISAT’s crop improvement programs to speed up the development of superior varieties with traits important to smallholder farmers. Presenting is Dr Rajeev Varshney, Director, Centre of Excellence in Genomics (CEG).


Coming home. Dr Nwanze with Dr HC Sharma, Principal Scientist (Entomology) at the insect rearing and bioassay facility that helps research on entomology, crop improvement and biotechnology. Dr Nwanze worked as Principal Cereal Entomologist at ICRISAT from 1979 to 1996, 10 years of which he spent at this Entomology section at the headquarters with Dr Sharma. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT


Appreciating the Green SIM-powered phablet (phone + tablet), part of an ICT-mediated extension system (mobile and web apps, voice advisory services, participatory video extension methods) designed especially for smallholder farmers. Photos: J Kane-Potaka, PS Rao, ICRISAT


Latest technologies being developed was presented by Dr Rosanna Mula and team from the ICRISAT Center of Excellence (COE) in ICT Innovations for Agriculture, focusing on solutions that link farmers with other agricultural stakeholders.


Explaining ICRISAT’s lysimeter facility for phenotyping, particularly the LeasyScan Phenotyping Platform acquired recently. The technology takes 3D scans of plants as they grow, measuring leaf area quicker so as to access the dynamics of leaf development and leaf conductance – traits that are the focus for plant drought adaptation. The insights were given by Dr Vincent Vadez, Assistant Research Program Director – Dryland Cereals.

  Viewing newly developed food samples made with
millets such as the Smart Brkfast, a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal made from sorghum and pearl millet flakes and sorghum pops. These and the 11 years of experience in developing agribusiness incubators and providing support to agribusinesses were presented by Dr Kiran K Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP).
Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr Kanayo and Dr Dar with ICRISAT senior scientists in a wrap-up discussion on working together to drive inclusive agricultural development. “To further elevate our partnership, ICRISAT’s focus on inclusive market-oriented development is the key. By giving smallholders and poor rural communities access to technologies and connecting them to markets, they will have options for a more profitable and resilient agriculture,” Dr Kanayo said.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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ICRISAT to assist in transforming agriculture in Andhra Pradesh, India

The Chief Minister in a discussion with Drs Dar and SP Wani (extreme right). Photo: AP CM Office

ICRISAT will assist the Government of Andhra Pradesh, India, to achieve food security, water security, and improved livelihoods for the farmers; drought-proof the state; and transform it to be the country’s leader in agriculture. A time-bound plan and strategy to be implemented over the next five years, will be drawn up by ICRISAT in close collaboration with the government.

This was agreed between the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Nara Chandrababu Naidu and ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar during their meeting on 13 August.

Dr William D Dar presenting a copy of his book ‘Feeding the Forgotten Poor’ to Mr N Chandrababu Naidu. Photo: AP CM Office

“ICRISAT is the best international organization to address the issues of agriculture in the state and we would like to capitalize on the technologies and approaches of ICRISAT to the benefit of farmers,” Mr Naidu said.  

The collaboration between ICRISAT and Government of Andhra Pradesh, to be formalized soon, will adopt a science-led integrated approach for transforming rainfed as well as irrigated agriculture in the state.

“Scientific agriculture needs to be strengthened and popularized by adopting a mission mode approach through the principle of convergence, capacity building and collective action,” Dr Dar said.

At the meeting, Dr Dar also briefed Mr Naidu on the Bhoochetana (land rejuvenation) initiative, implemented across Karnataka. Under the project, using soil analysis as an entry point to a holistic value chain approach, soil nutrient recommendations were developed, demonstrated, and scaled-out to cover 5.5 million ha. 

Responding to the Chief Minister’s query on the soil health mapping initiative, Dr Suhas P Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center, explained ICRISAT’s stratified soil sampling method.

The Chief Minister requested ICRISAT to complete the soil health mapping in all 13 districts of the state at the earliest. He also proposed to bring in land-use planning, based on the land capability and the availability of resources, appropriate cropping systems and increase livelihood opportunities.

Mr Naidu has assured continuous support to ICRISAT from his government by enabling policies, mobilizing institutional support resources and with strong political commitment.

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3rd Gender Forum meeting
CARE USA shares lessons on gender mainstreaming and integration

Drs Miruka (left) and Njunga-Mungai at the meeting. Photo: ICRISAT

Gender dialogues are avenues to identify ‘gender exploitative’ practices in rural communities, and are critical while tackling issues like land access, labor sharing, participation in markets and sharing of benefits. The dialogues help move gender relations from exploitative to accommodative and finally to transformative.

Dr Maureen Miruka, Team Leader of the PATHWAYs program at CARE USA, as the guest speaker at the 3rd Gender Forum Meeting held at ICRISAT-Kenya on 30 July, shared experiences in integrating gender into development work.

“We have developed a clear theory of change identifying five key change levers: capacity, access, productivity, household influence and an enabling environment, against which development activities are designed. Translating the theory of change into activities has involved reaching a common understanding of the definitions of ‘gender’ and ‘space for gender relations’ with rural communities,” Dr Miruka said.

In discussing gender integration different communities used different analogies. In Mali communities identified ‘gender and gender relations’ as the fulcrum of the wheelbarrow that causes livelihood activities to move; while in Tanzania they were represented as chain of the bicycle that enables other parts of the bicycle move. The other parts of the wheelbarrow or the bicycle were identified as key ‘levers of change’ for attaining development outcomes.

The Women’s Empowerment Framework of CARE defines empowerment as the sum total of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights – the interplay of changes in Agency: her own aspirations and capabilities, Structure: the environment that surrounds and conditions her choices, and Relations: the power relations through which she negotiates her path. Most significantly, this framework entails challenging norms (considered as structures) and not just building individual skills and capacity; it recognizes gender as relational, and recognizes institutions (structures) as gendered.

The Pathways program also developed a toolkit that includes a set of gender tools to facilitate specific dialogues. This toolkit is a work in progress but available for practitioners such as ICRISAT that wish to implement gender dialogues. Since gender and gender relations differ from country to country, the tools are contextualized as such. The Program has a robust M&E framework with indicators around gender and uses both quantitative and qualitative methods for data collection and analysis. 

Dr Esther Njunga-Mungai, Gender Specialist for the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes based in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) urged the scientists to identify the comparative advantage ICRISAT gender research can focus on.

Dr Alastair Orr, Assistant Director, ESA, led the discussions on ‘what would be the role of ICRISAT, which is a research organization, in this process of transformative gender approaches?’ and ‘how ICRISAT could integrate gender in the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development process?’

The event also highlighted the role of strategic gender research to enable larger development outcomes and the need for a clear women empowerment framework.

The ICRISAT Gender Forum seeks to integrate gender in agricultural research leading to more effective development outcomes and impacts. The Forum focuses 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.

The activity is part of ICRISAT’s commitment towards integrating a gender transformative approach in agricultural research. ICRISAT is celebrating 2014 as ICRISAT’s International Year of Gender and has set up a gender webpage with stories and resources. See www.icrisat.org/icrisat-gender-approach.htm.

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Fiji reaches out to ICRISAT for science-led development

A high-level government delegation from the Republic of Fiji has requested ICRISAT to provide scientific inputs to make their agricultural industries globally competitive and profitable.

Members of the delegation at ICRISAT-India. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“This was a very enlightening tour of your activities. We have identified many areas for collaboration. Capacity building will be key to support all investments and possibly starting off in agribusiness will help empower the farmers further,” said Mr Ropate Ligairi, Permanent Secretary of Agriculture.

Malnutrition or ‘hidden hunger’ was a major concern for Fiji along with climate change, which was badly affecting its agriculture, for which scientific approaches and solutions are needed.

Other urgent needs included land use characterization and soil health improvement which Dr Ravi Joshi, consultant for the Ministry of Agriculture, noted were critical for Fiji to intensify their agriculture. The delegation also requested ICRISAT’s support for integrated crop management training including insect control and land management.

“A major challenge of small countries like ours are that we have very few experts and the few we have are required to cover all related areas. So we need training and also expertise to advise us and to help build the best policies to support development,” explained Ms Milliakere Nawaikula, Director of Research, Ministry of Agriculture, Fiji.

“From this mission we would like to see our people able to come here for future training and experience and to share knowledge,” noted Mr Sakeasi Waikere. “Going into partnership with ICRISAT, we can learn from each other.”

During a ceremony to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of Fiji and ICRISAT, Dr William D Dar, Director General of ICRISAT noted that the next steps would be for the Fiji mission to prioritize its needs. Then ICRISAT can collaborate with the government to raise funds to build Fiji’s rural economy; help smallholder farmers make agriculture a viable business and overcome hidden hunger.

“ICRISAT is here to help and partner with you. We have collaborated in the past providing pigeonpea and groundnut germplasm exchange. Let’s now take this further to a more holistic and market-led approach to rural development,” Dr Dar said.

The delegation visiting ICRISAT on 11 August also included Mr Epeli Dugucagi, Principal Agriculture Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Fiji.

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Bureau of Agricultural Research, Philippines, honors Dr Dar

Presenting the plaque of appreciation are (L-R) BAR Asst. Director Dr Teodoro S Solsoloy, BAR Director Dr Nicomedes P Eleazar, Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning and concurrent Bureau of Agricultural Statistics Director Romeo S. Recide, and First District of Sorsogon Representative Hon. Evelina G Escudero. Photo: BAR/R Bernardo

The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), Philippines, honored ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar for his continued commitment and dedication to improve and contribute to the development and progress of agriculture. 

Dr Dar was the guest speaker at the 10th Agriculture and Fisheries Technology Forum and Product Exhibition held on 8 August in Mandaluyong city. ICRISAT was also honored with a plaque of recognition as one of the international partner organizations of BAR.

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