31 Oct 2014
No. 1647


Working with Asian Paints for their corporate social responsibility

Dr A Sharat (extreme right) and Mr Manish Choksi (2nd from right), launching the project in the presence of Dr SP Wani, other senior ICRISAT staff and village officials of Bhanur.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Understanding the need to strengthen ecosystem services through natural resource management in dryland areas, ICRISAT in collaboration with Asian Paints Limited launched a project ‘Improved Livelihoods through Integrated Water Resources Management in Community Watershed in Medak’ at Bhanur village, Telangana, India, on 21 October.   

“Untimely rains and land degradation has hit agricultural productivity hard. In recent years, we suffered huge losses due to low yields. Many families from the village moved away in search of daily-wage jobs,” says Ms Motae Narasamma from Bhanur village. She cultivates sorghum, chickpea, paddy, maize, cotton, and vegetables.

Water availability for agriculture is fast declining in her village with increasing intra-sectorial demands, population pressure and changing food preferences. The surface and groundwater resources in the region are at their lowest levels in the past two decades.

“We need help in several areas. Firstly water management and thereafter on how to protect the crops,” Ms Narasamma told the ICRISAT team.   

The initiative is aimed at increasing agricultural productivity by enhancing the impact of integrated watershed management programs. This initiative is being taken up in six selected villages in Telangana state. Over the next five years the efforts will help enhance the water availability (surface and groundwater), water productivity, income and livelihood in the villages.
Ms Koran Lakshmamma from Ghanapur village has been growing sorghum, pigeonpea, maize, vegetables for over three decades now. Her expectations from the project are that of increasing productivity with proper land, water and nutrient management interventions.

“We are looking forward to new technologies from the scientists. We wish to experience more profits from agriculture so that we can utilize them for the education of the young and healthcare of the aged in the families,” she adds.

Dr Suhas P Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center, while interacting with the farmers assured them that by using the latest technologies, the old dried-up wells in the villages will be recharged, enabling additional water for agriculture.

“Through this project ICRISAT and partners will bring latest technologies and science to the farmers’ fields. The project will adopt a participatory research for development approach. We wish to transform the villages into model villages, not just in the state but in the entire country,” Dr Wani said.

Dr Wani explained how in the nearby Kothapally village with similar technologies the village was transformed into a prosperous village and has become a beacon for science-based rural development.

Two major factors have contributed to this development: (i) increased cropping intensity using high value crops, including vegetables; and (ii) the increased productivity of rainfed crops as a result of enhanced water availability.

Stating that the project was an unique opportunity, Mr Manish Choksi, President of Home Improvement, Supply Chain and IT, Asian Paints, said, “We want to return to the environment the water we take from it. The three pillars of the corporate social responsibility policy of our organization are education, health and water management. We wish to see the project become self-sustainable.”  

Launching the project in Bhanur, Dr A Sharat, Joint Collector, Medak district, assured support from the district administration. 

Mr D Venkateswarlu, Commissioner, Rural Development, Telangana, in his address to the villagers emphasized on water conservation and management at all levels. He urged farmers to choose appropriate crops to experience surplus yields. “There is a need for collective action. Let us work towards saving every drop of water even in our own homes and focus on efficient use of water,” he said.

More than 200 farmers including women from all six villages, senior officials from Asian Paints Limited and ICRISAT attended the launch.

For more information on natural resource management see ICRISAT’s scientific information site EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT http://exploreit.icrisat.org/page/natural_resource_management/899

Dr A Sharat addressing the villagers. Also seen are Mr D Venkateswarlu (left) and Mr M Choksi (right).
At the ground breaking ceremony of a check dam. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

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Contributing to next generation open access initiatives

Dr William Dar inaugurating the Open Access Booth at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Committed to promoting Open Access and to encourage and educate the research community about its potential, ICRISAT organized an Open Access Week on 27 October at the headquarters.

The new digital opportunities for collecting, storing, manipulating and transmitting data and knowledge outputs have opened up new avenues for sharing and disseminating the voluminous data and knowledge outputs produced by agriculture research.

One such digital opportunity is the Open Access (OA) platform providing Internet access to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. Theses, scholarly monographs and book chapters are also increasingly openly accessible.

“Open Access benefits the whole world of science. It enables the free flow of research information, helping research to progress much more effectively,” ICRISAT Director General Dr William D Dar said.

Open access to data and information for agriculture research is progressing swiftly across the globe and ICRISAT wants to make all of its data and research outputs open and harvestable, with the Open Access mandate and data management policies being in place. The event was part of the global Open Access Week 2014.

Dr G Dileepkumar making a presentation on ‘Open Access to Data & Knowledge: A CGIAR Center Perspective’ at the Workshop on ‘Open Access to Agricultural Knowledge for Inclusive Growth and Development’, at the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management, Hyderabad, on 29 October. Photo: ICRISAT

Open access repository for publications
In 2009, ICRISAT formally adopted the open access mandate and established its OA institutional repository. Today, this repository houses more than 8,300 research documents, which include peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers, thesis, monographs, etc. produced by ICRISAT scientists.  

This repository has considerably enhanced the visibility of research done at ICRISAT. From May 2011 to October 2014, the repository has witnessed more than 626,000 downloads from more than 125 countries.  The repository counts more than 6,000 unique visitors every month and on an average 300 downloads every day. 

This repository acts as a digital showcase of knowledge products of ICRISAT and provides an easy interface for all curious minds to use them and build on.

Access to all ICRISAT’s scientific material
A major advancement in making all ICRISAT’s scientific material more accessible through one location was launched in September 2014 – EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT.

Not only have we given easier access to over 40 years of all of ICRISAT’s scientific research through EXPLOREit, but we have achieved this through a new revolutionary way of making information accessible called the multi-Profiler concept.

ICRISAT’s new multi-Profiler concept provides information through multiple navigations and creates easy-to-scan profiles on the subject areas.

Information can be found on topics (such as nutrition or climate change); specific crops; geographic locations; type of farming systems;  or resource types such as publications, data, projects, videos, and other forms of media.

Internal change and support
“We have experienced several challenges along the open access highway,” Dr Dar added citing the foremost of these as:

  1. Effecting cultural change to encourage and motivate scientists to share datasets and knowledge outputs;
  2. Crafting institutional policies and strategies that foster availability of quality-controlled research results (in the form of research papers and other outputs) for the broadest possible range of users, and maximizing their visibility, accessibility and scientific impact; and
  3. Developing clear incentive mechanisms and exposure to new approaches, methods and tools. 

Participating virtually, Dr Medha Devare, Data and Knowledge Manager, CGIAR Consortium Office presented on “Moving CGIAR Towards Open Access”. She detailed CGIAR efforts on promoting open data and knowledge to achieve impacts and discussed about the CGIAR open data policies.

She stated that the platform was essential to enhance cross-regional, cross-disciplinary learning within the CGIAR centers, partners, countries, hubs, for value addition through data reuse, to facilitate internal/external monitoring and evaluation, to cement institutional memory and to live up to the donor and public expectations.

“The knowledge outputs and research data are very valuable as International Public Goods (IPGs) and can be seen as long-term assets of the institute. Making knowledge outputs and research data available to their intended end users is essential. This helps us share research outputs with the stakeholders including the smallholder farmers, National Agricultural Research Systems, NGOs, private agricultural companies, food processors, and all those who are interested in utilizing these knowledge outputs,” Dr Dileepkumar Guntuku, Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation, ICRISAT, said.  

Ms Praveena Sridhar, country coordinator- FrankWater, shared her experiences on the challenges with openly accessible data and knowledge and metadata standards with special emphasis on impacts of the open access in the rural communities.

An Open Access Booth was also inaugurated by Dr Dar on the campus to allow all scientists to deposit their publications, datasets and knowledge products. This received good response from the research community and several research articles and datasets were received to be uploaded into the respective repositories.

ICRISAT’s Open Access Repository for publication is http://oar.icrisat.org/

For all ICRISAT’s scientific information and data see http://EXPLOREit.ICRISAT.org 

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ICRISAT creates agribusiness opportunities for farmer producer organizations

Dr William Dar inaugurating the Open Access Booth at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Farmer producer organizations (FPOs) from six states of India are benefiting from the agribusiness facilitation of ICRISAT that will enable them to operate as businesses and make their farm operations sustainable and profitable.

At a recent Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) Summit, smallholder producers convened to explore agribusiness opportunities in the areas of technology penetration, improving productivity and access to inputs and services, and increasing incomes for a sustainable agriculture-based livelihood.

Organized by the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of ICRISAT, on 27 October the one-day summit was attended by over 100 smallholder producers from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Of the 100 participants, 12 have shown interest in Seed Business Incubation and Seed Production of Cereals (sorghum, millet) and Legumes (groundnut, pigeonpea, chickpea), five for Business Incubation Support, 14 for Food Business Incubation support and six for Seed and Food Processing incubation.

At the summit, ABI-ICRISAT provided the participants with extensive knowledge and information, as well as networking support in setting-up and promoting FPOs. The participants were composed of aspiring entrepreneurs, progressive farmers, members of self-help groups, and representatives from farmers’ welfare and rural livelihood development organizations.

“The FPO approach is an intervention owned, managed and executed by smallholder farmers themselves. We need to scale up and increase the number of FPOs through agribusiness incubators so that we can bring in more stakeholders in making agriculture more sustainable and profitable,”  Dr William Dar, Director General, ICRISAT, said.

“In India, 35% of farmers do not have access to organized credit. With significant movement of rural labor from farm to non-farm activities, labor scarcity has emerged as one of the biggest constraints to agricultural production in the country. Mechanization of agriculture is the only solution to improve farming,” said Mr CVR Rajendran, Chairman and Managing Director of Andhra Bank.

According to Mr Ramakrishnaiah Duvvuri, Team Leader, Management Support Group - Farmer Producer Organizations (MSG-FPO), Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), “FPOs are essential for the empowerment, poverty alleviation and advancement of farmers and the rural poor. The Ministry of Agriculture has declared the year 2014 as the Year of the Farmer Producer Organizations. Through better marketing of agricultural products and bargaining for lower interest rates from the banks, smallholder farmers will be able to expand their employment opportunities and increase their rural incomes.”

“We have made progress in promoting and organizing farmers to become FPOs, but much work is still needed to make these organizations scalable and sustainable. Today’s summit aims to provide the participants with information on how to access markets and secure finance, and to identify the role of agribusiness incubators in taking the FPO initiative forward,” said Mr SM Karuppanchetty, COO, ABI-ICRISAT.

At the summit, participants gained a better understanding of the gaps and opportunities for FPOs in agribusiness, initiatives by the government through various schemes, capital and funding schemes, and networking opportunities for FPO developers and funding agencies. Mr Poomurugesan, Executive Director of the Kazhi Kadmadai Farmers Federation, an ABI-ICRISAT supported FPO in Tamil Nadu, presented his success story.

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CLL Gowda receives Japan’s Niigata International Food Award

Dr William Dar inaugurating the Open Access Booth at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Dr CL Laxmipathi Gowda, Deputy Director General - Research,  ICRISAT, received the 2014 Sano Touzaburo Special Prize from Japan’s Niigata International Food Award Foundation, at award ceremony held in Toki Messe International Conference Hall, Niigata, Japan on 29 October. 

The prestigious award is in recognition of Dr Gowda’s contributions in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the dryland areas of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in his nearly 40 years of scientific research work at ICRISAT.

“I am delighted to receive this award towards the completion of my four decades of career with ICRISAT serving smallholder farmers in the drylands, and I am taking this opportunity to re-dedicate myself to help them in their fight against poverty and hunger,” said Dr Gowda in accepting the award.

 “I would also like to thank our Director General, Dr William Dar, and the ICRISAT Governing Board for providing me the opportunity to serve the rural farming communities in the dryland tropics,” he continued.

The Niigata International Food Awards, considered as Asia’s version of the World Food Prize, honor outstanding individuals whose achievements greatly contribute to the peace and well-being of the world by improving the supply of quality food, or by improving peoples’ understanding of the role food plays in their health.

Dr Gowda is known for his significant contribution in developing improved chickpea (both desi and kabuli) cultivars with high yield and resistance to diseases and pests.

Shared as international public goods (IPGs) with scientists and national programs globally, 70 high-yielding chickpea cultivars from these improved breeding lines have been selected, tested and released in 30 countries globally.

Several of these chickpea cultivars have had significant impacts in smallholder farmers’ fields, and have contributed in the attainment of national food security and increased farmers’ incomes in many developing countries like Myanmar, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Tanzania.

The adoption of improved chickpea cultivars from ICRISAT-bred lines has resulted in more than 80% chickpea area covered with improved varieties in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India.

In the last decade the area has increased four-fold and production nine-fold, due to the nearly three-fold increase in yield per hectare.

Dr Gowda is also known internationally, particularly in ICRISAT’s focus regions (Asia, West and Central Africa, and East and Southern Africa) for his nurturing, scientific leadership in the areas of breeding, pathology, entomology, and physiology.
As Coordinator of the Cereals and Legumes Asia Network (CLAN), he has been assisting and guiding national legumes improvement programs in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam, and Thailand.

He is an International Member of the Chinese National Groundnut Research Committee, and International Adviser to the Peanut Research Institute, Qingdao, China.

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