26 Sep 2014
No. 1642


ICRISAT commits new significant investments in Africa

Committed to advancing science and research in Africa: Governing Board Chair Dr C Madramootoo (center) with ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar (right) and incoming ICRISAT Director General Dr David Bergvinson. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The Governing Board of ICRISAT has decided to boost its research in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by investing US$ 5 million towards upgrading research infrastructure and building scientific skills in the African continent. This investment will be across SSA where ICRISAT has its offices in Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ethiopia.

The Governing Board has requested the management to devise an investment plan for the next three years. Director General Dr William D Dar will work on this strategic initiative with the incoming Director General Dr David Bergvinson.

“Food security is a major challenge at both the national and the household levels in SSA where many countries are below subsistence levels for calorific and protein intake levels per capita on a world basis. There is an urgent need to identify the best means of harnessing the required resources to further advance the productivity of smallholder agriculture in SSA. This will lead to greater self-reliance and resilience, particularly in light of climate change, and enable increased participation in the market economy,” said ICRISAT Governing Board Chair Dr Chandra Madramootoo.

“On the positive side, GDP growth in many countries in SSA has been quite strong in recent years and there is a new generation of highly motivated and educated young Africans eager to meet the many developmental challenges of the continent. However, the challenge is to motivate youth to contribute to the goal of enhancing agricultural productivity and food and nutrition security. Our focus will also be on empowering women along the value chains,” said ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar, also adding that, “All this work will be undertaken with our underlying approach to making smallholder farming profitable through an Inclusive Market- Oriented Development (IMOD) approach. “

With opportunities opening up in the CGIAR Research Programs and a strong donor focus on Africa, ICRISAT recognizes this as a critical time to step up its research focus in Africa. ICRISAT will leverage its strengths in the application of both basic and applied research, as well as technology transfer and outreach for improved production systems of its mandate crops – pearl millet, sorghum, pigeonpea, groundnut and chickpea. These new investments in science and research will provide opportunities for collaborative research with other CGIAR institutes and national agencies for research and development and extension along the whole value chain.

ICRISAT will strengthen the whole value chain from land and water management to crop improvement and setting up of agri-business ventures. This new investment is built on top of the existing ICRISAT South-South Initiative and will also play an important role in the new investments and developments in Africa.

ICRISAT has strong links with governments, universities, private sector and non-government organizations in the SSA. ICRISAT will facilitate research integration with various international, regional and national organizations, by building synergistic relationships with its partners.

View ICRISAT’s scientific work in Africa at EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT

In West and Central Africa:

In Eastern and Southern Africa: http://exploreit.icrisat.org/page/eastern_and_southern_africa/887

The ICRISAT Governing Board with the Management Group and Research Committee at the 71st Governing Board meeting at the ICRISAT headquarters.. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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IMOD has gained traction – now to take it to the next level

At the release of the ICRISAT IMOD Exemplars Volume-I, case studies from Africa and Asia.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s 2020 strategy was based on an Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach. Two years on, ICRISAT commissioned an external review to assess the success of this approach. With feedback from almost 200 stakeholders and over 30 organizations across national agricultural research systems, private sector and development agencies in Africa and Asia, the expert panel identified that IMOD was recognized among partners as a positive and valuable approach and so now is the time to elevate this framework to global implementation and adoption.

ICRISAT’s focus is to help people grow their way out of poverty. To achieve this, the IMOD approach requires that we must:

Be inclusive: We are the catalysts and bring expertise and enable the local people, communities and organizations to take a lead in developing the solutions. Disadvantaged groups as well like the poorest farmers, women and youth must be included and part of this.

Market-oriented development: Farming must be a profitable business and this means linking poor farmers to markets.

As an approach IMOD has gained traction, the review noted.

“The panel recommends that ICRISAT has now enough initial experience operationalizing IMOD philosophy, and therefore it should come out with a comprehensive document to explain the IMOD brand to outsiders and serve as a guiding document for ICRISAT scientists and partners at all the levels,” said Dr MCS Bantilan, Research Program Director, Markets, Institutions and Policies, while presenting the recommendations and management responses to the report.

The ICRISAT Governing Board has requested the management to work out a Business Plan over a three-year horizon to implement the recommendations.

ICRISAT IMOD Exemplars Volume-I was released - a set of case studies from Africa and Asia which demonstrate on-the-ground successful initiatives of the value and impact of an IMOD approach. These IMOD exemplars were released by the Governing Board members, the Director General and the incoming Director General.  

The eight case studies – four each from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, presented in the publication illustrate the stimulation of market-oriented development through: 

  • understanding the factors that promote market-oriented agricultural and rural transformation;
  • adopting best practices in engaging small farmers and the rural poor in markets and profitable value chains;
  • rigorously evaluating pro-poor innovations in market institutions;
  • developing knowledge support systems for evidence-based decision-making; and
  • establishing research-to-policy platforms to facilitate pro-poor transformation.

These IMOD exemplars covered various innovations like microdosing and agri-business innovation platforms; and crops such as pigeonpea, chickpea, sorghum and pearl millet grown by smallholder farmers across the crop value chains.

The review panel included Dr SS Acharya (Chair); Dr Amadou Abdoulaye Fall and Ms Grace Ngungi (members); and Ms Reema Nanavaty and Dr Derek Byerlee (key resource persons). They reviewed internal and external literature on value chains, small farmers, and inclusiveness, conducted field visits throughout Africa and Asia, and surveyed staff members and external stakeholders.

The panel made 19 recommendations categorized under five themes -- IMOD execution, capacity building & HR; partnerships, awareness, communication and dissemination, and definitions and studies.

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Field visit to highlight a holistic approach working on the ground

(L-R) Drs WD Dar, C Madramootoo and D Bergvinson welcomed by the Watershed Committee. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

It would have been difficult for the scientists to predict, 15 years ago when they started work in Kothapally a small village in India, that this would be such a successful model that it would be replicated across many states in India by companies as their corporate social responsibility and adopted by governments in India, China, Thailand, Vietnam and now recently the Philippines.

There was severe water scarcity. Originally all 62 open wells were dry for half the year and women had to travel 2-3 km to fetch drinking water during this time. Small farm holders were migrating to the city for livelihood options during the dry season. Low crop yields and poverty were prevalent.

Most critical to the success was not just the technical solutions, but the approach of setting up the consortium of partners and involving the villagers in developing the solutions.

The consortium used a wilt-tolerant, high-yielding pigeonpea cultivar grown on broad bed and furrows (BBF), as an entry point. During the first season itself pigeonpea yield tripled, reaching 600 kg/ha and later 900 kg/ha. This immediate success and economic benefit to smallholder farmers triggered the strong community involvement and collective action.

Subsequently, common activities such as rainwater harvesting structures benefitting the community were facilitated. In 1999, the first earthen check dam near the village was constructed which benefitted the nearby farmers’ wells and provided drinking water to animals.

“The main change is a change in the mindset of the farmers, to be entrepreneurs and move farming from a subsistence focus,” commented Dr Suhas Wani, who led this project and is now the Director of the ICRISAT Development Center, who also added that, “Many micro-enterprises were also established including a milk collection center and a Spent Malt initiative with SAB Miller.”

The Board members along with Director General Dr William D Dar and incoming Director General Dr David Bergvinson visited the village and interacted with farmers.

“This place has become a global learning village for ICRISAT. The partnership that started 15 years ago has gone from strength to strength. I consider myself to be a villager of Kothapally. We are keen to continue this partnership with you. It won’t be easy always, but together we can learn,” Dr Dar said while addressing the villagers.

The team visited the Adarsha watershed, milk collection center, SAB Miller-ICRISAT Spent Malt Initiative and check dams and were briefed on the recharge of open wells, low-cost water harvesting and groundwater recharge, drip irrigation for growing vegetables and decentralized wastewater treatment being practised in the village. Farmers also detailed how vegetable cultivation taken up as a result of increased water availability improved their livelihoods.

“On behalf of the Governing Board of ICRISAT, we congratulate you on your success working with the institute. We thank you for your hospitality,” ICRISAT’s Governing Board Chair, Dr Chandra Madramootoo told the villagers.

Thanking ICRISAT for the continuous support, the President of the Watershed Committee, Mr Narasimha Reddy reiterated the commitment to the partnership saying, “We would like to continue with this partnership for life and welcome the ICRISAT scientists always.”

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Kothapally field visit in pictures

Understanding the intricacies of the operation at the milk collection center. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
The visiting ICRISAT team interacting with the villagers of Kothapally.Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
DG WD Dar briefs Dr D Bergvinson on the Institute’s contributions to the village. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
The President of the Watershed Committee, Mr Narasimha Reddy expresses his gratitude.
Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT
‘We would like to continue this partnership for life,’ Kothapally villagers told the visiting ICRISAT team.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Gender and partnerships high on the agenda

The 71st Board meeting in session. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The 71st meeting of the ICRISAT Governing Board held at the headquarters from 22-25 September renewed and revitalized the Institute’s commitment to inclusiveness of smallholder farmers and partners especially women as the way forward to achieve food and nutritional security. Core to this is building stronger and more dynamic agricultural research-for-development partnerships.

Strengthening gender

ICRISAT recognizes that the gender focus requires both and internal culture that supports strong women engagement as well as applying this throughout the research and development work.

The Governing Board noted the strong participation of women in the Institute’s capacity building programs, sometimes even greater than 50%. The Board examined the gender integration into research of ICRISAT and the CGIAR Research Programs, how ICRISAT is ensuring women in scientific and senior positions and the support and encouragement to women staff for their professional development. This is a priority for ICRISAT and the Board regularly reviews performance indicators and approaches for further strengthening the implementation. Members of the Board also suggested extending support to the pool of gender experts in the CGIAR Research Programs.

ICRISAT made 2014 its International Year of Gender. We also launched a special gender web section (http://www.icrisat.org/icrisat-gender-approach.htm) with lessons learnt, stories, news and gender-specific resources. Two extra gender specialists were also employed to be based in Africa, in Mali and Nairobi. The gender research of ICRISAT is profiled at ICRISAT’s scientific site EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT (http://exploreit.icrisat.org/page/gender/660)

Building stronger and more dynamic partnerships

ICRISAT undertakes its work through partnerships and can only be successful especially by working with people on the ground. The Governing Board has emphasized the need to continually escalate linkages with partners – NGOs, policy makers, private sector, extension departments and universities. This was also highlighted as a key focus area in the IMOD review.

Some of the ways identified to elevate the relationships and partnerships included:

  • document lessons learnt for partnerships and engagement;
  • profile NGO partners on how their skills can be more engaged and create an action plan;
    look for the best ways to recognize partners in all the work we do;
  • continue to develop an internal culture on how we can work better with partners;
  • build capacity internally and externally with partners, on how to implement an IMOD approach; and
  • analyze new and better ways to partner.
Dr Paco Sereme examining the diverse pearl millet hybrid parents along with Drs S Grando and SK Gupta. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Dr G Dileepkumar briefing Dr Nigel Kerby on the workings of GreenPHABLET powered by the GreenSIM.Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Dr R Varshney explaining the ‘1000 pulses genome sequencing for connecting genes to traits’ to Dr Rachel Chikwamba. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Dr Rachel Chikwamba with the MIP team discussing the rural labor dynamics and its implications on agriculture. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Other highlights

  • With regards to the CGIAR Research Programs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals, the Board expressed that the Institute was on the right track and needs to elevate the game in Phase 2. Updates on ICRISAT’s work in its Research Programs--Dryland Cereals and Resilient Dryland Systems, and Knowledge Sharing and Innovation, were well recognized by the Board. Presenting the details of the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform’s (AIP) activities in SSA, Dr KK Sharma, CEO, AIP said, “ICRISAT’s agribusiness work is about creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurship in Africa.”

  • The Governing Board has decided to extend the term of Dr Oluwande Muoyo on the Board by three years from 1 July 2015. Dr PK Mohanty will be replaced by Dr Rajiv Sharma in both the Program and Audit Committees of the Board. Dr Gry Synnevag will be the Chair of the Nominations Committee to replace Dr Meryl J Williams. Dr Nigel Wells Kerby will now be part of the Nominations Committee.

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Governing Board honors Director General WD Dar

Dr Dar (center) addressing Team ICRISAT in the presence of (L-R) Dr C Madramootoo, Mrs Betty Dar, Dr M Williams and Dr S Ayyappan. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr William D Dar made the most outstanding contribution to ICRISAT to help bring it to where it is today. We thank him very much for the legendary leadership that he provided to the Institute. It has been a pleasure to work with this distinguished individual; it is indeed a great honor, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair, Dr Chandra Madramootoo said in honor of ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar.

The Governing Board honored Dr Dar for championing the cause of smallholder farmers across the world and for his immense contributions to the Institute over the past 15 years. His inspiring leadership brought the Institute to a new level of performance, achievements and visibility and created a vibrant institution, leading to laudable scientific breakthroughs.

“For the past 15 years, I have been on a journey with ICRISAT to serve the interests of the smallholder farmers of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa using science with a human face. Without the strategic guidance of the Board the journey would have not been so smooth,” said Dr Dar thanking the Board for the strong, continuous and unqualified support. 

"For the past 15 years, I have been on a journey with ICRISAT to serve the interests of the smallholder farmers of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa using science with a human face" – Dr WD Dar
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
In his address, he emphasized that the strategic framework of Inclusive Market-Oriented Development will spell the future and success of smallholder farmers in the world.

Dr Dar joined ICRISAT in the year 2000, when the institute had been hard hit by the declining priority of agricultural research and development within international assistance agencies, necessitating large budget cuts and morale-sapping staff reductions. Under his transformational leadership, ICRISAT turned around and today is a leading institution in basic as well as applied agricultural research. Over the past 15 years, he has been recognized and awarded for his work, both nationally and internationally.

The ICRISAT Governing Board presented a replica of the ICRISAT Ganesha idol to Dr Dar in recognition of his services to the Institute. Engraved on the plaque of the idol is “William D Dar, Director General from January 2000 to December 2014, whose dynamic and visionary leadership of ICRISAT fostered science with a human face, and through its network of partners, advanced inclusive market-oriented development for the poor of the semi-arid tropics”.

“He is one of the most extraordinary leaders, very efficient, and incredibly responsive. His vision helped ICRISAT though the difficult times and helped the Institute achieve an unbelievable turnaround,” said Governing Board Member, Dr Meryl Williams. Dr Williams along with the Board Chair thanked Mrs Betty Dar for her support to Dr Dar’s journey.

Bringing the replica of the ICRISAT Ganesha idol in a traditional manner. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Drs D Delmer, C Madramootoo and WD Dar presenting a token of recognition to Dr CLL Gowda.Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Speaking of Dr Dar and his contributions, Dr S Ayyappan, Director General, ICAR said: “He brought new hope not only to ICRISAT but for the entire dryland agriculture. He built bridges between Asia and Africa. He has a great vision and an eye for the minutest of details. He is a person with great commitment. He provided good science and good sense to agriculture in both Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. His contributions and achievements are immense and cannot be captured in a few words.”

Naming ‘Team ICRISAT’ as the “strength of the Institute”, Dr Dar earned a distinguished place of honor in the annals of ICRISAT’s history, and especially in the hearts of all those who have worked with him.

Dr David Bergvinson will replace Dr Dar as the Director General of ICRISAT for a five-year term, starting January 2015.

Ex-officio member of the Governing Board Mr PK Mohanty (right) being honored by Dr C Madramootoo. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

The Governing Board also honored Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General-Research, for his 39 years of service to ICRISAT. Dr Gowda also served the Institute as the Global Leader of Crop Improvement Program, and Director of the Grain Legumes Research Program.

“Dr Gowda is a man who put the Institute above himself and that is a testimony to his character. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr Gowda. He is a true inspiration to young scientists. He represents the highest caliber of human quality,” Dr Madramootoo said. .

As the Cereals and Legumes Asia Network Coordinator, Dr Gowda has strengthened R & D capacity of 13 countries in Asia. He was also one of the pioneers who initiated the Public-Private Partnership for Hybrid Parents Research Consortium at ICRISAT.

“We are grateful to your services and contributions and the encyclopedic knowledge you possess on agriculture and ICRISAT,” Governing Board member Dr Deborah Delmer told Dr Gowda.

The author of more than 320 publications, Dr Gowda has received more than 33 awards and recognitions from various professional societies and institutions across the world.

“The smile of a farmer will always be my deepest satisfaction,” Dr Gowda said.

Drs C Madramootoo, WD Dar and S Ayyappan presenting a token of recognition to outgoing Board member Dr M Williams.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The Board also honored Mr Prasanna Kumar Mohanty, who served ICRISAT as the ex-officio member of the Governing Board from June 2013 to May 2014. Mr Mohanty held several important positions in the Government of India and Andhra Pradesh. In his last posting, he worked as the Chief Secretary to the Government of Andhra Pradesh.

“The Board extends a special thanks to Mr Mohanty for helping strengthen the relationship between ICRISAT and Andhra Pradesh,” Dr Madramootoo said.

Mr Mohanty thanked the ICRISAT Director General, and the Board members for their support to him as well as to the State of Andhra Pradesh.

Dr Gowda and Mr Mohanty were also presented with tokens of recognition by the Board at the Governing Board Dinner on 24 September.

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ICRISAT collaborates with Ramoji Film City to set up
First-of-its-kind Agriculture Theme Park

Mr Rajeev Jalnapurkar, CEO of Ramoji Film City (left) exchanging the MoA with Dr WD Dar in the presence of Governing Board Chair Dr C Madramootoo. PS Rao, ICRISAT

A sustainable environment is the need of the hour. The surge of global warming and more recently the drought witnessed in some parts of the country and abroad calls for immediate steps to mitigate the effects of drought and create a more sustainable future.

To achieve this, ICRISAT and Ramoji Film City will be joining hands to create a better environment to live in.

ICRISAT and Ramoji Film City signed a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) on Sustainable Management of Water Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Development through the establishment of an Agriculture Theme Park at Ramoji Film City, Hyderabad, India.

“It is an individual’s responsibility to contribute to the environment they are living in. This collaboration between Ramoji Film City and ICRISAT creates scope for developing a sustainable environment. I would personally consider it to be the first step towards sustainability. The battle is not won, but just started,”  said Mr Rajeev Jalnapurkar, CEO of Ramoji Film City.  

“We are very pleased to collaborate with Ramoji Film City and are excited about this venture. This partnership will help us take the excellence of knowledge to millions of smallholder farmers across the world,” ICRISAT Governing Board Chair,
Dr Chandra Madramootoo said.

“The theme park will highlight the importance of agriculture in dryland areas as well as irrigated farming systems. We are focused on disseminating highly relevant technologies for Indian agriculture and make an impact,” ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar, said. “It is also important to engage with youth through various means to spread the message of sustainable agriculture, efficient water use and sustainable development. The Agriculture Theme Park in collaboration with Ramoji Film City is one such initiative to reach out and spread the importance of these ideas,” he added.

Joining hands to create a better environment. Photo: ICRISAT

Working together on the way forward will be:

  • ICRISAT and Ramoji Film City collaboration to develop the sites of learning for farmers as well as by sharing the experiences and providing technical guidance through a multi-disciplinary team of scientists.
  • ICRISAT providing technical support for planning the Agriculture Theme Park and develop the plan to be undertaken in a phased manner to address various facets of science and agriculture through the theme park.
  • The use of Ramoji Group’s media outlets to reach farmers with the latest technologies and practices. The Ramoji Group has a reach to millions of people not only through the film city but also through the different forms of media including TV and print. Giving ICRISAT access to this media will help farmers get better access to world class scientific developments.
The partnership was formalized with the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between Ramoji Group and ICRISAT, at an event at the ICRISAT headquarters on 24 September.

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Country profiles added to EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT

Profiles of the countries where ICRISAT has undertaken major research work have now been included in EXPLOREit@ICRISAT. The profiles provide access to the rich collection of scientific materials and agricultural achievements and challenges in these countries.

Last year, ICRISAT moved from one main corporate website to two
– so that one site could be dedicated to over 40 years of scientific
information ICRISAT has generated and continues to create. This is
EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT which covers profiles of all the topics, crops,
systems and geographic areas ICRISAT has worked in over the
decades. This site has expanded to include 19 country profiles – 7
country profiles in Eastern and Southern Africa, 5 in West and Central
Africa and 7 country profiles in Asia. All have a rich collection of the
challenges and achievements, publications, research projects, stories,
videos and data sources of these countries.


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