28 Nov 2014
No. 1651


Changing the perception of millets
strategizing for promoting Smart Foods

Foods like millets are critical for addressing malnutrition, as well as for their strong resilience to dry
and hot climates and small water footprint. Photo: ICRISAT

Strategies to capitalize on existing networks and initiatives, and brainstorming ‘game changers’ to alter the image of millets was the main focus of discussion at the recently held Smart Foods workshop. The overall aim was to develop approaches to bring more attention to Smart Foods – foods like millets that are highly nutritious as well as being good for the environment and important for overcoming food insecurity.

Research for development (R4D) funding for millets is extremely low compared to other crops and is primarily directed towards developing the supply system. The funding available for supporting initiatives to create a demand-side pull is meagre. Given this background, workshop participants focused on how to raise awareness as well as build a new image for millets as a modern exciting food.

Communications and product development are key components to achieve this.

Communications specialists from across seven African countries and India along with a wide spectrum of participants from government, NGOs, foundations, universities and research organizations worked together over five days to tackle these challenges. They identified communication channels and initiatives that already existed in their organizations that could be tapped into at minimal cost. This ranged from, for example, training courses, social media, farmer field days, radio shows and newsletters. New initiatives were also brainstormed that could be a game changer for the industry.

ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar addressed the participants stressing the importance of Smart Foods like millets that are critical for addressing malnutrition problems, as well as their strong resilience to dry and hot climates and small water footprint. During a panel discussion on what the media and extension agencies would need from a Smart Foods campaign Dr G M Subba Rao, Assistant Director, Extension & Training, National Institute of Nutrition, shared his experiences. He said, “It is a fallacy to think that malnutrition exists only in rural areas. When we try to make changes on a large scale it doesn’t work. What we have found effective is to do it in pockets of customized areas and then scale up this method.”

Mr G Chandrashekhar, Commodities Editor, The Hindu Business Line, noted the untapped potential of millets in what he calls the four Fs – food, fodder, fuels (biofuels) and fermentation. He also stressed that food habits are changing with rising incomes, international travel, raised awareness levels through media, internet, etc. “We need to capitalize on these to popularize smart foods like millets. The explosion of fast foods is driven by younger people and Western foods have become fashionable. This is difficult to change and influences the rural diet patterns as well. We need to incorporate millets into Western foods as well – bring millets into burgers and pizzas,” he said.

Inputs on opportunities and challenges were received from millet processors. One major issue was differences in the quality of grains from season to season.

This gave rise to problems during processing and manufacturing. They pointed out that more research was needed to increase the shelf-life of the grains and flour since the time period from grain procurement to purchase of manufactured product by the end consumer is typically six months.

As processors they noted that they are confused which millets are best for which type of processing – an area where information gathering and further research could assist. Dr Subba Rao pointed out that a lot of good research is done as part of the PhD requirement of students studying nutrition. This literature needs to be gathered and made available to the industry.

Other feedback from industry included that the only way to attract the customer is through taste – tasty products with the nutrients in it. Participants discussed that although many people know that millets are nutritious they but do not know how to cook them and are also not comfortable using millets in their daily diet. This is a major hindrance.

The workshop concluded with ideas on what can be a game changer for millets and how to capture the imagination of the people.

Representatives from partner research organisations National Institute of Nutrition; industry – Ind-millet Foods, Mathesis Engineers Pvt Ltd, Isa Millets; NGOs – Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and DHAN Foundation; and communications focal points from partner organization of the HOPE project - Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR); National Agricultural Research Organisation (NaSARRI); Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI); Ahmadu Bello University; Selian Agricultural Research Institute (SARI); and Institut de l’Environement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) participated in the workshop held at ICRISAT-India from 10-14 November.

Another little known advantage of millets are the wide variety of ways it can be prepared. Throughout the week the participants sampled these.

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Staying relevant: ICRISAT-ESA deliberates on current and future research in a changing world

Representatives of private firms and partners with ICRISAT senior staff. Photo: ICRISAT

Finding synergies between scientists and research programs working together under ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) framework and addressing the current and future concerns of smallholder farmers was the focus of a recently held ICRISAT Regional Planning Meeting for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) for 2015 meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting was designed to help scientists based in Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and Zimbabwe as well as from ICRISAT-Headquarters work together to reflect on current areas of research and identify any possible gaps that will be important in addressing the food security needs of the poor in the region.

“How do we feed 9.2 billion people by 2050? How do we deliver on this goal?” ICRISAT Director General, Dr William Dar, asked the participants in his opening address. He then outlined five main areas that could contribute to changing current levels of productivity, profitability, sustainability and food security.

“We need to freeze the carbon footprint of agriculture, grow more on existing farms, use our resources more efficiently, change our diets to more sustainable and healthy options, and reduce postharvest losses and food waste,” he said. “We need to empower farmers, build resilience and increase the productivity of smallholder farmers. We must remember that challenges can be turned into opportunities.”

Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General-Research, encouraged scientists to continue their work that is very much grounded in the region’s farming communities and therefore very relevant. “I would also encourage you to plan ahead. We need to anticipate what will be the need for farming communities five years from now and then we need start developing solutions today,” he said.

During the five technical sessions covering cereals, legumes, the dryland systems, and markets and institutions, which spanned the course of two days, the region’s scientists presented their results and deliberated on their relevance and identified future courses of action.

“The meeting was very successful and allowed us to align our efforts and set up a process of planning that will guide us in our deliberations in Hyderabad early next year,” Dr Moses Siambi, Director, ICRISAT-ESA, said.

The deliberations also included a press conference wherein members of the Kenyan press interacted with Dr Dar and other senior ICRISAT staff. Dr Florence Wambugu, the CEO of Africa Harvest, was also part of the panel. Dr Wambugu highlighted the importance of partnerships in her discussions with the media.

“We need partnerships for success along the value chain,” Dr Wambugu, said. “We need to listen and engage with smallholder farmers and build strategic partnerships that address their needs.” ICRISAT is working with Africa Harvest on the International Fund for Agricultural Developmentfunded project that seeks to develop a Robust Commercially and Sustainable Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) Value Chain in Kenya and Tanzania. The project rationale is to exploit the value chain opportunities and potentials of using sorghum as food, feed and cash income that will contribute to the achievement of food security and poverty reduction.

Other topics covered during the press conference included the issue of aflatoxin prevalence and control, climate change, diversification strategies, and methods of addressing food security needs for Kenya and the region. The press conference attracted around 15 members of the press from a variety of media agencies including The Standard, Voice of America, among others.

The two-day event concluded with a farewell dinner hosted in honor of Drs Dar and Gowda. ICRISAT’s partners from the region such as Dr Dyborn Chibonga, NASFAM CEO; Hon Felix Jumbe, Member of Parliament, Malawi; Dr Stephen Lyimo, Selian Agricultural Research Centre, Tanzania; and Dr Jimmy Smith, Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) who spoke on behalf of the CGIAR Centers located in Nairobi. Others institutes represented included the Egerton University, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute, Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.

The key-note speaker at the event was Dr Wambugu who felicitated and thanked Dr Dar for his stewardship and leadership in the development and adoption of the IMOD strategy. “The IMOD strategy has immense potential to exploit economics of scale, bring crop diversification, integrated farming systems and include the active involvement of women and youth enterprise development.” she said.

Ex-ICRISAT Staff such as Drs Mary Mgonja, Richard Jones, and Said Silim also attended the event.

In pics: ICRISAT Regional Planning Meeting in Nairobi

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Advanced experimental designs, data analysis and management for breeding trials

Continuing its efforts to build the capacity of its partner institutions, ICRISAT organized a six-day training course on "Advanced Experimental Designs, Data Analysis and Management for Breeding Trials."

Participants being trained in use of electronic data capture
methodologies using hand held devices. Photo: ICRISAT

The training focused on the use of advanced statistical analysis methods, bioinformatics and data management software to improve quality of research and reporting. It provided the participants an understanding on several aspects of efficient experimental designing including generation and analysis of replicated, partial replicated and nonreplicated trials, mixed models, data cleaning, curation, appropriate statistical analysis and interpretation. Importance of field variability and its influence in correct analysis of data was also discussed using spatial analysis techniques.

Participants also learnt several clustering methods for handling multivariate data. Various aspects of bioinformatics, good data management practices, management of pedigree, nurseries, and trial data by using GCP-Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP) were also discussed.

A field visit to the Melkassa Agricultural Research Center, Ethiopia, was organized for participants to understand the practical aspects of experimental design. The principles of experimental design, such as blocking, randomization, replication and other practical field aspects such as field gradient control, controlling border effect were explained. Participants were also trained to use electronic data capture methodologies and data recording mechanism using hand held devices.

Twenty-seven scientists, technicians and research scholars representing 13 countries including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe took part in the event organized from 3-8 November, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Drs Stefania Grando, Research Program Director, Dryland Cereals; Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director, Grain Legumes; KPC Rao, Country Representative, ICRISAT- Ethiopia and Abhishek Rathore, Course Coordinator briefed the participants on various topics.

Drs Abhishek Rathore, Abdalla Mohamed Hassan, Ms Roma Rani Das, Mr T Praveen Reddy and Mr Ravi Kumar Dasari, (ICRISAT-India), Dr Murari Singh (ICARDA, Morocco) and Dr Sanjeev Panwar (IASRI, New Delhi) were the resource persons for the program.

The training program was organized by ICRISAT’s Breeding Informatics Unit (BIU) and was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Programs on Grain Legumes and on Dryland Systems.

Scientists, technicians and research scholars representing 13 countries took part in the
training program. Photo: ICRISAT

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Fostering partnerships in agricultural research for development

During the meeting at ICRISAT. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

ICRISAT is one of the most important partners that the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/ WECARD) cherishes, said Dr Ernest Asiedu, Staple Crops Programme Manager, CORAF/WECARD. Dr Asiedu visited the ICRISAT Regional Hub in Samanko, Mali, on 27 October, along with Ms Safouratou Adaripare, Director of Corporate Services and Dr Paul Senghor, Seed policy advisory services. Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Director, West and Central Africa briefed the visitors on the activities in the region.

The visit aimed at exploring synergies and partnership opportunities between both organizations. Dr Asiedu presented an overview of the CORAF/WECARD revised strategic plan which focuses on staple crops (sorghum, groundnut, millet), natural resources management and knowledge sharing.

“We can learn from each other to create synergies and there are things we can do together. We are here to deepen our partnerships as ICRISAT will have contribution in most of our projects,” Dr Asiedu added.

During the meeting, linkages and areas of partnering with projects such as Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE) Project, the West African Seed Project (WASP), Might Night Foundation Seed Project, the Farmers Seed Managed Enterprises (FARMSEM) as well technology diffusion and marketing strategies were discussed.

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Developing Inclusive Value Chains for Rainfed Agriculture

A workshop cum training program on ‘Development of Inclusive Value Chains for Rainfed Agriculture’ was organized at ICRISAT-India, from 5-7 November by Mr M Srinivas Rao and P Parthasarathy Rao, from the Research Program - Markets Institutions and Policies.

Dr Noel Ellis, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes, chaired the inaugural session. Mr Rajesh Agrawal, Assistant Director General, Financial Services, ICRISAT, highlighted the need to be ‘inclusive’ governed by the market realities. Dr RS Deshpande, Fellow Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR), Former Director, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) in his Inaugural Address gave an overview of ‘Why inclusiveness is critical in the context of rainfed agriculture’.

More than 30 participants from partners institutions from across India and Laos working in the area of agriculture value chains, small holder farmer incomes and livelihoods, ICT for Development (ICT4D) attended this workshop. The workshop covered, concepts of the development of Inclusive value chains, aggregation models, ICT models and tools, creation and management of SHGs and FPOs, financing of small farmer value chains, seed systems, community based initiatives for large scale impact and village based value addition opportunities.

Participants of the workshop. Photo: PS Rao ICRISAT

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ICRISAT scientists honored

Dr Upadhyaya (center) with Drs William Dar and CLL Gowda.

Dr Hari D Upadhyaya, Director, Genebank, ICRISAT was awarded the 2014 International Service in Crop Science Award by the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) on 3 November in Long Beach, California, USA. The International Service in Crop Science Award recognizes creativity and innovation in bringing about specific changes in practices, products and programs in the crops area at the international level. Dr Upadhyaya is a practical plant breeder and has developed a large number of early-maturing, high-yielding, drought tolerant, and diseases and aflatoxin contamination resistant groundnut breeding lines. Till date, 31 such breeding lines have been released as 44 cultivars in 22 countries, contributing to food and nutritional security in these countries, where these are cultivated in large areas benefiting farmers immensely. ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar congratulated Dr Upadhyaya and said “The recognition of your high quality science and your contributions globally are making us proud”. Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General-Research, ICRISAT and Dr Sanjaya Rajaram, the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate, also congratulated Dr Upadhyaya on receiving the honor. “With this award Dr Upadhyaya is one of the most decorated scientists in the CGIAR system, having been awarded the Fellow of American Society of Agronomy (2008) and Crop Science Society of America (2009), and Frank N Meyer Medal and Crop Science Research Award in 2013,” Dr Gowda said.

Dr Ch R Reddy (left) with Dr Y Chengguang. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Ch Ravinder Reddy, Senior Scientist - Technology Exchange, Research Program - Dryland Cereals, received the Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award from Dr Yao Chengguang, the President of Liaoning Academy of Agriculture Sciences, PR China. Dr Reddy was honored for his contribution to two projects in China, ‘Grain sorghum value chain for poultry feed’ and ‘Sweet sorghum ethanol value chain for production of ethanol’. Both projects established market linkages between small-scale farmers and industry and input supply chain management to enhance production and productivity.

Dr MG Mula with Mr Lakshman Kumar Palata Singh (left), Deputy Director of Agriculture, Kalahandi, Odisha.

Dr Myer G Mula, Scientist - Seed Systems, Research Program - Grain Legumes was recognized for his contributions in pigeonpea seed system improvement, at the Special Felicitation Function that was organized by the local NGO, LOKESEBAK, held at Bhawanipatna, Odisha, India. Dr Mula was presented with the Plaque of Recognition by the Chief Guest, Mr Lakshman Kumar Palata Singh, Deputy Director of Agriculture, Kalahandi District, Odisha. The four year project ‘Introduction and Expansion of Improved Pigeonpea (Arhar) Production Technology in Rainfed Upland Ecosystems of Odisha’ focused on the concept of seed system in order to sustain the availability of quality seeds to farmers. Pigeonpea is mainly grown on rainfed upland areas and is one of the most important pulse crops.

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Training on hybrid pigeonpea technology

Officers of the Govt of Maharashtra, progressive farmers and entrepreneurs with ICRISAT staff.

A two-day training program on hybrid pigeonpea technology was held at ICRISAT headquarters on 11-12 November, bringing together government officers, progressive farmers and entrepreneurs from Maharashtra, India. Over 20 senior officers from Department of Agriculture (DoA), Maharashtra and 12 progressive farmers including staff from Krishi Vigyan Kendras participated in this important training program.

During 2014 cropping season, the Government of Maharashtra promoted pigeonpea hybrid on 6000 ha through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) scheme in collaboration with ICRISAT.

Despite the challenges such as climate change and soil degradation farmers cultivating the ICRISAT hybrids reported significant increase in pigeonpea yields.

A medium-duration hybrid, ICPH 2740 demonstrated 30-35% higher yields than other local varieties. Considering the performance and the increasing area of pigeonpea hybrids in Maharashtra, the StateGovernment requested ICRISAT to conduct training for their officers in hybrid technology for effective monitoring of OFTs and seed production fields.

Participants visited pigeonpea breeding fields, and seed production plots on the ICRISAT campus.

Field visits were also organized to pigeonpea fields in Tandur district, where participants got the opportunity to witness OFTs of hybrid pigeonpea. This activity was undertaken as a part of the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes.

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Philippines delegation visits Addakal ICT4D Experimental hub

The delegation at the Addakal ICT4D Experimental hub. Photo: ICRISAT

A 16-member delegation from Philippines including media representatives and Legume project scientists of Department of Agricultural Research from Los Banos/Laguna recently visited the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) experimental hub in Addakal, Telangana, India. The visiting team interacted with 20 women farmers from Adarsha Mahila Samaikhya.

The farmers briefed the delegates on how ICRISAT’s recently implemented ICT technologies like Krishi Vani (KV) and Krishi Gyan Sagar (KGS) have been aiding them.

The representatives were further explained by farmers on how they were protecting their crops, upgrading themselves and coping with the current market scenarios with the help of virtual knowledge sessions, which bridges experts with the farmers.

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Legume Scholars Program launched

The CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Labs for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (Legume Innovation Lab) and Peanut Productivity and Mycotoxin Control (Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab) announces a Graduate Fellowship from the Legume Scholars Program.

This new program is specifically targeting promising young scientists from developing countries committed to pursuing research careers involving legume crops.

Accepted students will conduct research at major US and other international universities in key areas, including agriculture economics, crop physiology, food science, gender studies, nutrition, plant breeding and genetics, plant protection, soil science, and the social sciences.

For more details visit http://grainlegumes.cgiar.org/ legume-scholars-programlaunched/ or scan the QR code.

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IMOD Exemplars Volume 1

To integrate, mainstream and showcase the Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) framework, ICRISAT has brought out Inclusive Market-Oriented Development: Action towards benefiting the poor. ICRISAT IMOD Exemplars – Volume I. This volume exemplifies a set of case studies, which demonstrate the impact of research for development at ICRISAT through its interventions, and highlights some of IMOD initiatives across the regions. It includes eight case studies, four each from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

These exemplars cover various innovations like micro-dosing and agri-businesses, and ICRISAT mandate crops grown by smallholder farmers across the crop value chains. This publication demonstrates how inclusive and market-oriented approaches can sustainably transform the lives of small and disadvantaged farmers in the semi-arid tropics.

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Knowledge sharing among ICRISAT-Niger scientific community

(Left to right) ICRISAT scientists Drs Patrice Savadogo, Fatondji Dougbedji and Malick Ba at the seminar. Photo: ICRISAT

In continuation of its research seminar series, ICRISAT-Niger organized the fourth seminar on 5 November in Sadoré, Niger. The objective of the seminar series is to enhance communication and share knowledge among scientists.

In the first presentation Dr Ba Niango Malick, Senior Scientist – Entomology, ICRISAT, discussed the findings of efforts to control millet head miner (MHM) which was investigated in Burkina Faso during the period 2011 to 2012 and in Niger in 2012. The findings indicate that 7 cm × 10 cm jute bags containing 50 g of millet grains, 30 g of millet flour, 25 Corcyra cephalonica larvae and two mated H. hebetor females are the most effective option for on-farm delivery of the parasitoid. The parasitoid progeny started emerging from the bags eight days after confinement and 57 to 71 parasitoid adults emerged from each bag. This method could control over 90% parasitism of MHM larvae. The implications of these findings for a large-scale extension of MHM biocontrol program were discussed.

The second topic of the seminar was on “Water use, transpiration efficiency and yield in peanut and cowpea for adaptation to drought stress under different vapour pressure deficit (VPD) conditions”. “Genotypic variation in crops response to drought depends on agronomic, environmental and genetic factors and so far only limited work has attempted to compare crop species response to water limitation,” said Mr Halilou Oumarou, a PhD student who presented the progress of work done under the co-supervision of Dr Falalou Hamidou, Scientist, Crop Physiology, ICRISAT.

Twenty peanut and 20 cowpea contrasting genotypes were tested in lysimeters under well-watered (WW) and water stress (WS) conditions during post-rainy season (high evapotranspiration) and rainy season (low evapotranspiration) for assessing variation in the agronomic response to water stress within and between the species across the seasons. The water requirement of the two crops in each season and the water stress effect on harvest index (HI), transpiration efficiency (TE), pods yield and haulm yield were investigated. No significant variation in water use and TE of peanut was observed in the rainy season. Cowpea revealed low water requirement and efficient water use under post rainy season. Mr Halilou concluded that cowpea was more resilient to water limited conditions and higher evapotranspiration than peanut.

Following both presentations, discussions focused on issues like biological control, parasitoids mass rearing, jute bags, insect resistance varieties, why comparison between cowpea and peanut in the study, drought stress, efficiency water use etc.

Dr. Hamidou Falalou, Regional Scientist-Physiology and Head, Regional Genebank and Biotech Lab, led the seminar on behalf of Dr. Jupiter Ndjeunga, Chairman of the seminar series. The seminar was attended by scientists, scientific officers, research assistants, research scholars and interns.

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