01 Oct 2014
No. 1643


ICRISAT Director General honored with Life Time Achievement Award

Dr William Dar receiving the Agriculture Leadership Award 2014 from Hon. PJ Kurien, the Deputy Chair of Rajya Sabha, India, in the presence of Prof MS Swaminathan; Dr MJ Khan, Chief Editor, Agriculture Today (extreme right); Dr Harak Singh Rawat, Uttarakhand Minister (extreme left); and Mrs Betty Dar. Photo: A Pal, ICRISAT

In recognition of his relentless efforts to improve the livelihoods of poor smallholder farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, Dr William D Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, was conferred the prestigious Agriculture Leadership Award 2014 (Life Time Achievements) at the 7th Agriculture Leadership Summit, held in New Delhi on 27 September.

Under the Chairmanship of Prof MS Swaminathan, the Father of India’s Green Revolution, the National Organising Committee of the Agriculture Leadership Awards 2014, conferred the honor on Dr Dar for his exceptional service to society through science with a human face. His pioneering work in dryland agriculture spanning over four decades towards empowering farm and farmers through agricultural research, extension, technology development, partnerships and international cooperation, positively impacted the lives of a large number of farmers in India and beyond.

“The survival of one billion people – the weakest and most vulnerable on the planet, the forgotten poor – will depend upon us finding answers to hunger, poverty and malnutrition. I humbly dedicate this Life Time Achievement Award to the smallholder farmers of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr Dar said after receiving the award. 

Dr Dar, an accomplished researcher, science leader and administrator, now joins an illustrious list of past recipients of the award that includes Dr Verghese Kurien, the Father of India’s White Revolution; Dr RS Paroda, the former Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); Dr RB Singh, Chancellor of the Central Agriculture University; Dr Prem Lal Gautam, Chairperson, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority; and Dr Amrita Patel, Chair, National Dairy Development Board.

Dr Dar’s dynamic and visionary leadership of ICRISAT fostered science with a human face, and, with a global network of partners, the Institute is advancing Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) for the smallholder farmers of the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Africa. ICRISAT’s research agenda is now more focused, decentralized and regionally targeted; projects are more sharply formulated and implemented addressing smallholder farmers concerns, major crop and system issues and opportunities. Dr Dar’s transformational leadership has shaped ICRISAT into a forward looking institution.

“Our shared vision for smallholder farmers is: Empowered, Resilient, Productive and Prosperous,” Dr Dar said.

In April 2010, ICRISAT led by Dr Dar won the CGIAR’s Science Award for Outstanding Partnership together with the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), for improving the lives of women and children in West Africa. In 2008, it had won for the fifth time, the King Baudouin Award, the most prestigious in the CGIAR, along with eight other centers.

In his illustrious career, Dr Dar has received numerous awards and honors, including the Federation of Asian Biotech Associations (FABA) Special Award for Biotechnology and Life Sciences sector 2014, the Excellence in Agricultural Leadership Award by the Association of Agricultural Technology in Southeast Asia (AATSEA), Thailand in November 2013, and the prestigious MS Swaminathan Award for Leadership in Agriculture in June 2013.

The Agriculture Leadership Awards were started in 2008 to recognize the leadership roles played by individuals and institutions which are positively impacting the lives of farmers and rural masses. The Awards are presented in the areas of Policy, Research, Extension, Farming, Industry, Environment, Innovations, Entrepreneurship, CSR, Development, Life Time Achievements and State Leaderships.

back to top Back to top

Making data collection easier with Open Data Kit

Participants and the facilitator during the workshop session. Photo: ICRISAT

Electronic data collection using Android tablets or phones is rapidly gaining ground. Aiding this technology is the Open Data Kit (ODK) ( http://opendatakit.org/ ), a suite of tools developed by computer scientists and engineers at the University of Washington. ODK usage is helping organizations and individuals cut costs and has improved data quality as restrictions in entry options and data validation are in-built in the collection tool. Beyond the immediate benefits within a survey, it supports synchronization of data collection across disciplines and research programs, through sharing of syntaxes.

The suite streamlines data collection in the field by replacing a traditional paper survey, camera, audio recorder, and GPS unit with Android mobile devices and leverages Google’s open source Android platform to allow a single device to capture and store a diverse array of reporting data such as text, video, audio, images, barcodes, and GPS coordinates.

ICRISAT together with the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Research Methods Group, Nairobi recently organized a four-day training workshop on mobile data collection to kick start a new community of practice of mobile data collection techniques. Participants had hands-on experience in developing smart data entry templates using ODK and related facilities like the formhub website https://formhub.org/ (which is used to aggregate the data).

ICRISAT’s Drs Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, Esther Njuguna and Wenda Bauchspies during the training. Photo: ICRISAT

 “The training session helped us understand the use of gadgets to collect data; not only the numbers and the text statements, but also audio, video and pictures. As we roll out gender research in the two CGIAR Research Programs that ICRISAT leads, we see a lot of opportunities for the application,” said  Dr Esther Njuguna, Gender Scientist, Eastern and Southern Africa, ICRISAT.

Dr Dieudonne Konan, one of the advanced users of ODK from ICRAF, Côte d’Ivoire, added, “Using modern devices for data collection saves a lot of time and effort on data entry and data cleaning and it also makes field research much more attractive to students”.

An online space for future interactions around ODK was set up. The participants noted the need to extend the training to regional hubs of both ICRISAT and ICRAF, to facilitate synchronization of data collection and processing across research locations.

The training was facilitated by Dr Andrew Pinney who has used ODK for large-scale surveys in multiple countries and regions across the world.

back to top Back to top

Climate-smart agriculture takes center stage at CGIAR Development Dialogues 2014

Graphic facilitation on ‘Climate change-resilient agro-ecosystems’ by Ms Julie Stuart.
Photo: C Bejosano, ICRISAT

No dialogue can be more important than on how to produce sufficient and quality food for nine billion people by 2050 under the threat of climate change – a daunting challenge for research and development towards a mission to help achieve food security and nutrition for all.

 “There can be no sustainable development or halting the effects of climate change if we do not pay due attention to the billions of people engaged in agriculture that manage the world’s natural resources and produce the food our ever increasing population demands,” said Dr Frank Rijsberman, Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium. “Agriculture research is the backbone of sustainable development.”

Over 200 experts, policymakers, and donor representatives gathered in New York on 25 September to draw global attention to agriculture’s vital roles in sustainable development. The all-day CGIAR Development Dialogues 2014 came close on the heels of the launch of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture two days earlier at the UN Climate Summit, with CGIAR announcing a commitment of at least 60% of its annual budget to climate-smart agriculture, benefiting half a billion farmers over 15 years.

The Development Dialogues was meant to convince the international community — policymakers in particular — on the need to get smarter about the way the world produces its food.

“We must remember, science on its own without social dimensions can never be science for development,” said Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), one of the key speakers at the opening plenary session.

 “Too many smallholder farmers who work to feed their nations are going hungry themselves. This is a tragic paradox. Poor rural people are not looking for handouts, they are looking for economic opportunities,” he continued.

“We need research that contributes to sustainable agriculture by helping smallholders farmers lift themselves out of poverty. Science will never be a silver bullet but by valuing the social dynamic, it can end poverty and hunger.”

Dr Frank Rijsberman speaking at the event.
Photo: C Bejosano, ICRISAT

Citing his recent visit to the ICRISAT global headquarters in India, Dr Nwanze highlighted: “ICRISAT’s fertilizer microdosing technology has tremendously impacted millions of smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa with dramatic improvements in yields, and without the risk of harming the environment. At its Center of Excellence in Genomics, the work on genome sequencing of crops like pigeonpea has the potential to revolutionize how we improve crops with disease resistance, tolerance to drought and a range of other stresses, and that are higher yielding – exciting tools that hold tremendous potential for the poor smallholder farmers.”

Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, delivered an impassioned plea to governments and the agriculture research community “not to abandon farmers to climate change,” emphasizing the need for research to tackle rural poverty and climate change.

The Minister urged greater support for smallholder and women farmers in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, in adapting to climate change. “There is no doubt at all in my mind that investment in agricultural research has one of the highest rates of return you can think of,” he said in his address. “This is the time for greater support of the CGIAR and its partners.”

 H.E. Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, High-Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union, also emphasized the importance of research.

“The agriculture future we want is a modern and productive agriculture anchored in a solid science and knowledge foundation,” she said.

 “We call on the global agricultural science community in general, and the CGIAR in particular, to buy into this ambitious agenda and partner with Africa’s national, regional and continental research systems to deliver on the agriculture future Africa wants.”

Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, echoed these calls in his closing address:  “Small farmers are going to be extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. I think it would lead to a loss of welfare for human society at large if we did not address this problem. I can’t think of an organization better than the CGIAR system to focus on this as an immediate and a long-term goal.”

Addressing challenges in integrated ways fundamental for the social, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable development, the parallel high-level discussions held focused on pressing issues covered under four themes:

Ms Cristina P Bejosano and Dr Noel Ellis at the CGIAR Development Dialogues 2014. Photo: ICRISAT

Prosperous, food secure and resilient livelihoods: How can staple crops contribute to food security for 9.6 billion in 2050? Healthier, innovative, capable and inclusive communities: Nutrition- and gender-sensitive agriculture and food systems: A foundation for sustainable development New partnerships for development impact: Resilient systems and communities towards sustainable development: Fostering the capacity to innovate Climate-change resilient agro-ecosystems: Integrated landscape approaches for agriculture, forestry and other land uses.

ICRISAT, a member of the CGIAR Consortium, took part in the event, represented by Dr Noel Ellis Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes who actively participated in the high-level discussions, and Ms Cristina P Bejosano of the Strategic Marketing and Communication who was a member of the event’s social media reporting team. ICRISAT’s key messages on the challenges and solutions to address sustainable development goals particularly in the drylands were prominently featured in the event’s poster exhibits and displays.

back to top Back to top

Strengthening seed systems in grain legumes in Eastern and Southern Africa

Participants observing superior chickpea genotypes. Photo: G Mutai, ICRISAT

Pigeonpea and chickpea, the two legumes grown widely in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) have experienced good production gains in the past two decades.  In Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda, which are major pigeonpea producers, the area (935,900 ha) and production (691,500 t) of pigeonpea has increased dramatically. Productivity, however, still hovers at 800 kg/ha, much lower than the realizable yield potential. Chickpea is grown on about 493,000 ha in the region, with Ethiopia and Tanzania taking away a chunk of 73% of the total area. Farmers in Malawi, Kenya, Eritrea and Sudan and Uganda also cultivate the crop.

While the gains have largely been due to the introduction of new varieties, integrated crop management, and effective seed systems, the huge gaps between realizable and actual yields are partly due to limited availability of quality seed to farmers and challenges posed at various levels of seed production and delivery along the value chain.

To address these issues and challenges, ICRISAT organized a training program on ‘Pigeonpea and Chickpea Seed Production and Delivery in ESA’ recently in Nairobi, aiming at enhancing the capacity of partners and private seed industry involved in quality seed production and delivery.

The training emphasized on seed systems in grain legumes, varietal release process and seed regulations, agronomic management, principles and standards of seed production and certification, and post-harvest handling of seeds, among other topics.

Dr Moses Siambi, Regional director, ICRISAT-ESA in his opening remarks, emphasized the need to foster strategic partnerships among the stakeholders and spoke on how sharing experiences and information among those in the seed industry would lead to a sustainable seed system in the region. He reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to all the collaborating organizations to nurture seed systems operations in various target countries and agro-ecologies. 

Dr NVPR Ganga Rao, Senior scientist-Breeding (Grain legumes), ICRISAT, stressed the importance of enhancing knowledge and skills in quality seed production and effective seed delivery.

Examining chickpea varietal attributes. Photo: G Mutai, ICRISAT

Dr Emmanuel Monyo, Project Coordinator - Tropical Legumes II project, led the discussion on seed systems in grain legumes, and duly emphasized on partnerships, production of quality seed in sufficient volumes and technology dissemination for greater impact with farmers. The successful model employed for maize seed research, technical support to partners and field management of maize seed production as elucidated by Dr Regasa Mosisa, maize Seed Systems Specialist, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), exposed the participants to a different system that could be employed for legumes seed production.

Dr Evans Sikinyi, Director, Seed Trade Association of Kenya (STAK), explained the harmonization of seed regulations in COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) member countries and their efforts to reduce varietal testing time from three years to only two seasons, if these varieties are tested and released in other member countries. Mr David Karanja, Beans coordinator- Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), shared experiences and lessons from beans seed system in ESA.

Participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Ethiopia, representatives from East African Seed Company Ltd and Dryland seed, deliberated on achievements, challenges and opportunities to develop most effective pigeonpea and chickpea seed systems in their respective countries. Resource persons included experts from ICRISAT’s Research Program on Grain Legumes, STAK, Kenyan certifying agency, KALRO, CIMMYT and East African Seed Company.

The training also included a field visit to ICRISAT chickpea and pigeonpea fields in Nairobi. Participants were exposed to on-station field management and were allowed to select good chickpea lines for their respective cropping systems.

“The chickpea varieties I have seen in your breeding pipeline outperform the current released varieties in the region. I see a window of opportunity to register and release more high-yielding chickpea varieties which are fairly tolerant to both biotic and abiotic stresses,” said Mr Bernard Towett, Agronomist, Egerton University.

Dr NVPR Ganga Rao presented an overview of the research and development efforts in pigeonpea and chickpea in ESA.

The activity was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

back to top Back to top

“Theme Park will be a showcase for modern-day agricultural technologies”

Mr Ramoji Rao with Drs WD Dar and D Bergvinson. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

The Agriculture Theme Park to be set up in Ramoji Film City in collaboration with ICRISAT will be a good opportunity for the public to experience modern-day agricultural technologies and farming practices, said Mr Ramoji Rao, head of Ramoji Group, thanking ICRISAT for its support.

Mr Rao, who was interacting with the ICRISAT team led by Director General Dr William Dar at Ramoji Film City on 28 September, reiterated his commitment to smallholder agriculture and acknowledged the efforts of the ICRISAT research community towards agriculture development in Asia and Africa.

“It is important to spread the message of sustainable agriculture. In this direction, this strategic collaboration aims to sensitize the masses on the benefits of nutritious dryland crops, effective irrigation facilities and sustainable development through various means,” Dr Dar said during the interaction.

“The collaboration will serve as an important milestone,” he added, thanking Mr Rao.

The Director General was accompanied to Ramoji Film City by incoming ICRISAT Director General Dr David Bergvinson; Hon Ruth R Padilla, Provincial Governor, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines; Hon Carlos Padilla, Congressman, House of Representatives, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines and senior ICRISAT staff.

back to top Back to top