12 Dec 2014
No. 1653


ICRISAT Director General retires after 15 years of transformative leadership in agricultural research

Dr Stein W Bie honoring Dr William Dar and Mrs Betty Dar. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

At the 42nd ICRISAT Annual Day function held at the headquarters on 12 December, Team ICRISAT bid a grand farewell to the Director General Dr William Dar who has served ICRISAT with distinction over the last 15 years. 

Dr Stein W Bie, Former Board Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board, Dr Fortunato A Battad, President Emeritus, CLSU, Philippines and Dr Santiago R Obien, Senior Adviser, DOA, Philippines, were the special guests at the event.

(L-R) Mr SS Sharat Kumar, Drs CLL Gowda, SW Bie, Dar, Fortunato A Battad, Mrs Betty Dar and Dr Santiago R Obien.

ICRISAT honored the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets (HOPE) project partners in South Asia and the Dryland Cereals Research Program – Asia with the Outstanding Partnership Award in recognition of their contribution in enhancing livelihoods of small holder dryland cereal (post rainy season sorghum and drought tolerant pearl millet) farmers.

The Tanzanian NARS and Drs NVPR Ganga Rao, SN Silim and Moses Siambi received the Outstanding Partnership Award in recognition of their outstanding contribution in release and adoption of high yielding and fusarium-wilt resistant improved chickpea varieties in Tanzania.

The Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Nigeria and Drs Hakeem A Ajeigbe, Farid Waliyar and Bonny Ntare were recognized with the Outstanding Partnership Award for their contributions on enhanced adoption of improved groundnut cultivars in Nigeria.

Dr Dar also thanked 13 NARS partners from India for the support they have extended to ICRISAT.

Dr Dar, relinquishes his post on 31 December after three, five-year terms. Dr Dar is leaving behind a legacy benefitting millions of smallholder farmers in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and other dryland regions of the world.

A standing ovation to Dr Dar from Team ICRISAT.
Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

“After 15 years, we have completely transformed ICRISAT into one of the best international agricultural research for development (AR4D) centers in terms of innovative and inclusive research programs, scientific excellence, impact on smallholder farmers, and financial health and stability,” said Dr Dar who assumed the institute’s top position in 2000.

Through his strong and transformative leadership and astute governance, Dr Dar has quadrupled the investments received by ICRISAT from development partners, from US$ 22 million in 2000 to US$ 85 million as of 2014.

This financial stability has resulted in improved capacity and high morale among scientists and staff over the years, translated into unprecedented achievements in the institute’s AR4D programs, and the corresponding impacts on food security and poverty reduction goals.

Over the decades, ICRISAT has grown a pipeline of innovations and impacts that are changing the lives of the dryland poor on a large scale, and showing high returns on social investment. In a 2014 ex-post impact assessment study of ICRISAT’s highly successful breakthrough innovations – which are called ‘Jewels of ICRISAT’ – a return on investment of US$70 on average for each dollar invested in AR4D, and an internal rate of return of 35% was generated. These outstanding economic rates of return to investment illustrate ICRISAT’s core science and impacts.

Restoring strong relations with countries that host ICRISAT in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and forging strategic public-private-people partnerships worldwide, the institute was able to broaden its donor base and to mobilize new resources that are fully compatible with the public-goods orientation of ICRISAT and the CGIAR.

Today, ICRISAT’s three top donors, outside of the CGIAR system, are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, India (the largest of any CGIAR host country), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Gates Foundation is funding three of the institute’s major AR4D initiatives: the HOPE project; the Tropical Legumes II (TL-II) project; and the Village Dynamics in Southeast Asia (VDSA).

By reinvigorating resource mobilization, ICRISAT is now enjoying sound financial health and an energized team of scientists who themselves have become brand ambassadors moving the institute’s resource mobilization engine in the right direction.

With the innovative AR4D programs and the culture of scientific excellence that Dr Dar introduced, ICRISAT continues to attract much-needed investments into the development of climate-smart and sustainable crop cultivars and technologies of the institute’s mandate crops – chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, sorghum and pearl millet – crops that are farmed by millions of smallholder farm families in the drylands of the world.

Other notable achievements of ICRISAT under Dr Dar include:

  • The formulation of a new, more dynamic institutional strategy known as Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) which shifted ICRISAT’s focus towards enabling poor farmers to harness markets for poverty escape;
  • Establishment of Centers of Excellence for genomics, transgenic research, climate change research for plant protection, and information and communications technology (ICT) innovations for agriculture;
  • An inclusive and technology-based entrepreneurship and agribusiness strategy – the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform – through public-private partnerships to bring science-based technologies and products to the market for the benefit of smallholder farmers;
  • Scaling out of a sustainable natural resource management model called Bhoochetana (land rejuvenation), which uses soil analysis as an entry point, that has brought prosperity to resource-poor farmers in India; and
  • Establishment of the ICRISAT Development Center (IDC) to undertake large-scale uptake of science-based technologies for the benefit of smallholder farmers.

“My lifetime career has been on agriculture. Based on my experiences, my vision is to be able to help nurture an inclusive, science-based, resilient and market-oriented agriculture to help dryland communities worldwide. Sustainability is a key value across these four pillars,” said Dr Dar.
A Philippine national, he is set to return to his country to share his management and technical experience and knowledge with Filipino farmers particularly in transforming rainfed and unproductive farmlands into productive, sustainable and climate-smart farms through an agri-based social movement called Inang Lupa (Motherland).

The social movement aims to enhance the food, nutrition and energy security, increase the productivity and incomes of small, marginal Filipino farmers in through soil rejuvenation, sustainable and integrated natural resource management, use of improved cultivars and hybrids, and advocating for relevant policies and reforms in agriculture.

The ICRISAT Governing Board has appointed Dr David Bergvinson as the next Director General of ICRISAT for a five-year term, effective 1 January 2015 to take ICRISAT to the next level in generating and sharing cutting-edge global scientific innovations, and bring about genuine pro-poor growth and inclusive market-oriented development in the drylands.

Inaugural address by Dr William Dar to ICRISAT staff on 12 Jan 2000 at the ICRISAT headquarters. Photos: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

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ICRISAT investments in agricultural research yield high payoffs for the dryland poor

(L-R) Drs WD Dar, SW Bie and Kizito Mazvimavi, Head, Impact Assessment Office and Country Representative, Zimbabwe, ICRISAT, launching the ‘Economic impact evaluation of the ICRISAT Jewels’. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

A growing pipeline of science-based agricultural innovations and impacts by ICRISAT is impacting the lives of the dryland poor on a large scale, showing high returns on investment in agricultural research for development (AR4D).

In a 2014 impact assessment study of ICRISAT’s highly successful breakthrough innovations – which are called ‘Jewels of ICRISAT’ – a return on investment of US$43 for every dollar invested, with an internal rate of return of 41%, was generated. By including innovations developed spanning four decades, average return on investment is higher, at US$70 per dollar invested, with an internal rate of return of 35%.

“These outstanding economic rates of return to investment in AR4D illustrate ICRISAT’s core science and development impacts,” said Dr William D. Dar, Director General of ICRISAT. The figures, while not representing the institute’s total AR4D investment, are based on ten of its most successful initiatives.

“These ‘Jewels’ represent ICRISAT’s AR4D work in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with our development partners and stakeholders. As ‘international public goods,’ these science-based innovations are made freely available to national partners to help them meet development goals of overcoming poverty and attaining food and nutrition insecurity,” added Dr Dar.

“The (impact assessment) report offers a very well executed analysis of the economic return on investment from 10 crop research programs undertaken by ICRISAT in recent years, with some projections of future benefits in ex-ante analyses of three other programs,” noted Professor William A. Masters of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Department of Economics, Tufts University, USA.

“In my view, the report is clear and complete as it stands. ICRISAT is justifiably proud of these ‘Jewels,’ and is to be commended for continuing to document their impacts,” added Prof Masters.

The high returns on investment reported in the study indicate that even under a pessimistic scenario, ICRISAT’s best initiatives in the ‘Jewels’ have been significantly effective.

The report assessed some of ICRISAT’s best AR4D successes making unparalleled impacts in the drylands, namely: Community-based watershed management in Lucheba, China; Fertilizer microdosing practices in Zimbabwe and Niger; Creation and management of the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC) on pearl millet and sorghum in India; and the Breeding and release of many varieties of crops important to the drylands, specifically drought tolerant groundnuts in India (Anantapur district), Malawi, and Nigeria, extra-early pearl millet hybrid in northwestern India, pigeonpea in northern Tanzania, and fusarium wilt-resistant pigeonpea in India.

Returns on investment of the following three additional ‘Jewels of ICRISAT’ (in which past performance was not yet sufficient for analysis) have also been estimated: Guinea-race sorghum hybrids in Mali; Sweet sorghum in India; and Pigeonpea genome.
ICRISAT’s publicly available research, broad network of partnerships, long experience in AR4D, and scientific excellence have positioned it well to generate science-based solutions for the smallholder farmer .

Download the report at: http://www.icrisat.org/pdf/EconomicImpact_Jewels_Final_Web.pdf

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Philippine President honors William Dar as outstanding overseas Filipino

Dr WD Dar and 32 other overseas Filipino individuals recognized for their contributions in various fields.

ICRISAT Director General Dr William Dar was honored by the Philippine President Benigno S Aquino III for “his exemplary leadership in successfully extending the frontiers of science and technology to ensure food security for all, and for his staunch advocacy of the important role of professional horticulturists in this endeavor.” Dr Dar received a Pamana ng Pilipino (Legacy) Award.

Thirty-two other overseas Filipino individuals and organizations who have either improved the lives of Filipinos worldwide, supported development programs in the country, or excelled in their field or profession, were also honored.

“It is a humbling experience, and I dedicate the award to all Filipino farmers. I look forward to serving them again when I return next year,” said Dr Dar, who concludes a 15-year term on 31 December, as ICRISAT Director General.

To date, Dr Dar is the only Filipino who has served as head of a global agricultural research institute. He leaves behind a legacy benefitting millions of farmers in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and other dryland countries in the world, including the Philippines.

Dr WD Dar with Mr Benigno S Aquino III, President of the Philippines.

Dr Dar has transformed ICRISAT into one of the best agricultural research institutes in the world in terms of innovative research programs, impact to smallholder farmers, and financial stability.

ICRISAT has been partnering with the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture, through the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR), in sharing modern sustainable farming technologies and cultivars of sorghum, peanut, chickpea and pigeonpea to
farmers in the country.

ICRISAT’s Bhoochetana (land rejuvenation) approach is now being adopted in three pilot regions in the Philippines covering 30,000 ha, with the goal to enhance the food, nutrition and energy security and improve the livelihoods of resource poor farmers in the country’s rainfed areas through sustainable and integrated natural resource management.

Hundreds of scientists, researchers and research managers from the Philippines have also benefitted from in-service trainings, fellowships and technical missions at ICRISAT.

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A tribute to ICRISAT DG by Dr Chandra Madramootoo

Dear Team ICRISAT,

Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

I regret that I am unable to be with you physically, due to commitments at work. However, please allow me to say a few words of thanks and appreciation to Director General Dr William Dar, as he retires from ICRISAT on 31 December.

Dr Dar's transformational leadership, vision, and his ability to move from vision to action are all self-evident when one examines the ICRISAT of today, compared to 15 years ago.

Few institutions have witnessed such transformational change, or have benefitted from such a dynamic and purposeful leader. ICRISAT was fortunate to be guided by Dr Dar. He was dedicated to the cause of ICRISAT. He was rigorous in the pursuit of his duties and oversaw the highest quality of science. Willie was a trend setter. He was one of the first DGs in the CGIAR, to bring the private sector closer to the work of ICRISAT, he was the first to bring an agri-food incubation hub to a CG center, and he was the driver of the IMOD vision and strategy, which is now a pillar of the ICRISAT research program.

There is no doubt that Willie’s contributions to ICRISAT, have gone well beyond the physical and geographical boundaries of the institution. ICRISAT is today one of the respected flagship centers of the CGIAR Consortium. Few in the world have made such a contribution or difference.

It has been a privilege for me to know Willie, to work with him, and to see him in action. He will always stand out in my mind as one of the best science communicators in the world. He always had a message of hope, and he knew how to convey that message whether it be to farmer, bureaucrat, politician, scientist, or to a common villager. Willie has a heart for the poor and the downtrodden, and this respectful disposition will remain a hallmark of his personality, and exemplifies why he has taken on the mission of improving the life of the worlds’ poorest.

Willie’s mission is not over. He remains a person of ideas, energy, passion and vitality. While he has completed an outstanding 15-year term as Director General of ICRISAT, he has much more to contribute in the years ahead. Dr William Dollente Dar will continue to transform lives in his future endeavours.

I close by personally thanking Willie for his 15 years of transformational leadership in agricultural research for development, directing ICRISAT. Willie, my dear friend, as a board member, and as Chair of the Board, it has a privilege to work with you.

On behalf of the Board, thank you for being a visionary and transformative leader. May God continue to bless you and Betty and your family in the years ahead. May you see your dream for a more food secure and resilient world come true.

Yours truly,
Dr Chandra Madramootoo
Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board

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ICRISAT bids farewell to CLL Gowda


Team ICRISAT honored the outgoing Deputy Director General-Research, Dr CLL Gowda, for his 39 years of service to ICRISAT in a farewell event organized on 11 December. Dr Gowda also served the Institute as the Global Leader of Crop Improvement Program, and Director of the Grain Legumes Research Program.

A book on Dr CLL Gowda “Delivering smiles to smallholder farmers--The Scintillating Journey of
Dr C L Laxmipathi Gowda” was also released by the distinguished guests.

CL is a man of hard work, devotion, dedication and perseverance. For CL, success came only through sacrifice and hard work. There is no substitute, and Dr. Gowda has demonstrated the qualities and traits that characterize success. CL is regarded as a trustworthy and reliable friend to the Board members.

Dr Chandra Madramootoo
Governing Board Chair

He has always been absolutely loyal to ICRISAT. It is unusual to find such people on the international agriculture scene. At a time when it has been very difficult globally to find good young scientists who want to go into the challenging field of science, Dr Gowda’s vast knowledge has helped identify talent for ICRISAT.

Dr Stein W Bie
Former Governing Board Chair

Dr Gowda has been the mainstay of ICRISAT with his solid science background and management acumen. When I joined ICRISAT I found in him a partner to help me in my mission to help smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Dr William Dar

The smile of a farmer will always be my deepest satisfaction.

 Dr CLL Gowda

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