16 Oct 2015
No. 1697




Celebrating WORLD FOOD DAY
Pigeonpea – a life changer for Malawi’s drought-stricken farmers

ICRISAT is testing a new nutrient-rich recipe on malnourished children under five years. It is made with locally available pigeonpea, groundnut, finger millet and maize. Photo: A Paul-Bossuet, ICRISAT

In Chambogho in Karonga district in North Malawi, 31-year-old John Msuku and his family insist pigeonpea has transformed their lives. When John first left school, he rushed to the southern city Blantyre to find a ‘proper job’. “My parents wanted me to stay and make a living out of fishing like them. But they had always struggled and I wanted a career where I would not be poor.”

Like so many other young people craving the urban dream, John failed to secure a steady income in town.

He decided to come back home and try his luck at farming. “I had never thought of agriculture having a business potential. I always saw it as being something you did just to survive, not to get rich,” he says. “I am happy to admit now I was wrong. Hard work and making the right choices has meant farming has brought us fortune and a good life.”

It was access to good pigeonpea seeds that got John into farming. Pigeonpea has proved to resist El Nino’s disastrous effects. The drought at the end of 2014 followed by floods has wreaked havoc with crop harvests this year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that cereal harvests have decreased by up to 27% compared to last year and the UN World Food Programme recently announced that 2.8 million people in Malawi will face hunger in coming months due to food shortages. However pigeonpea and beans have seen a slight increase despite the chaotic weather. This stresses the need for greater diversification on farms to boost food security.

ICRISAT has been working with smallholder farmers in Malawi to do just that. In partnership with the Malawi government, their seed production and distribution program has benefited 2.2 million families since it started in 2008.

This story first appeared on the Thomson Reuters Foundation website. Read the full story here

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Celebrating WORLD FOOD DAY
Live Twitter Periscope - Contributing to social protection and agriculture

A woman farmer in West Africa selling her produce. photo: ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s core belief that all people have a right to nutritious food and better livelihoods was emphasized by Dr Esther Mwihaki Njuguna, Scientist - Gender Research, during a discussion on 14 October. The theme was – ICRISAT’s role in contributing to social protection and agriculture: Breaking the cycle of rural poverty.

The discussion dwelt on some of ICRISAT’s key work including

  • How scientists design programs to ensure that the most vulnerable populations in the semi-arid tropics have crops they can grow and are provided access to inputs – seed and knowledge on how to grow crops in the region.
  • The varieties produced by ICRISAT allows smallholder farmers to get a harvest in areas where it would be impossible otherwise, thus creating safety nets
    for them.
  • The crops in ICRISAT’s portfolio are ‘climate smart’ and are nutritious; they can grow in some of the most challenging environments in the world and are the only sources of food for a majority of the households living there. The trait discovery team continues to apply their knowledge and skills to give farmers options for harsher conditions.


Social protection @ICRISAT

Ntchenachena village in northern Malawi is home to widows, orphaned children and those affected by HIV. The seed systems team offered them an opportunity to engage with the groundnut seed systems. They were given certified seed to multiply, taught how to grow the seed, and they were linked to a marketing system.  They now earn enough income to take care of their projects. They have improved groundnut production and are processing oil, peanut butter, biscuits and ground powder for use as relish. The young women who initially preferred to leave the village to look for employment in the town are now willing to stay back, join the farmers group and have a gainful livelihood.

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Exploring partnerships in Nigeria

Dr Motagi, Ms Garba, Ms Otitoju, Ms Thinius and Dr Ignatius. photo: ICRISAT

The intercropping of groundnut with rice to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Nigeria is being explored in partnership with Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit). This initiative is being undertaken under the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) project.

Representatives of WOFAN and GIZ undertook a familiarization visit to ICRISAT-Nigeria. During his welcome address, Dr Babu Motagi, Acting Country Representative, explained that ICRISAT conducts capacity building programs involving demonstration of agro-processing machinery, best-bet agronomic practices, post-harvest activities, etc.

Ms Anna Thinius, Country Director, GIZ-CARI, stated that their organization is also involved in training farmers through the use of demonstration plots which are currently in Kogi, Niger, Kebbi and Jigawa States on rice and selected crops. Their aim is not only to improve the production level, but also the dietary quality and link farmers to an organized market. She said that their organization plans to partner with ICRISAT on their effort to train 990 farmers on groundnut production and processing within the next 16 months, where ICRISAT will be expected to provide technical backstopping and improved seeds.

During the visit on 6 October, Ms Thinius, Ms Oluwatoyin Otitoju, Value Chain Advisor, GIZ-CARI, and Ms Salamatu Garba, Executive Director, WOFAN, met ICRISAT scientists, Dr Motagi and Dr Ignatius Angarawai, Groundnut and Sorghum breeder.

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Pigeonpea hybrids attractive to farmers in Indian state of Maharashtra

Visit to Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation Ltd R&D field at Akola. photo: ICRISAT

Farmers in Maharashtra, India, are switching to pigeonpea hybrids on a large scale.  Traditionally, farmers here grow pigeonpea as an intercrop with soybean or cotton. However, in the recent past farmers incurred heavy losses on their soybean crop due to infestation by Yellow vein mosaic and Shoot fly. On the other hand, pigeonpea gave them good returns.

Farmers in the region are happy with the performance of hybrid pigeonpea developed by ICRISAT due its vigor and resistance to diseases. It has yielded a maximum of 3.5 tons per ha in farmers’ field with an average yield of 2 tons per ha as compared to other varieties. ICRISAT has promoted hybrid technology to farmers on more than 15,000 ha since 2014 cropping season with support from Department of Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra, through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) scheme.

More than 800 ha of cropland has been planted with hybrid pigeonpea in the region with support from Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), Wardha, during 2015. Other districts of Maharashtra like Solapur, Buldhana and Amravati have also demonstrated hybrid pigeonpea on over 600 ha through ATMA during the 2015 cropping season.

At a training-cum-field day more than 100 farmers including 30 women farmers participated in the event. It was organized at Talegaon, Wardha district, Maharashtra on 7 October in collaboration with ATMA, Wardha, and Department of Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra.

The Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation Ltd (MAHABEEJ) has taken up this hybrid for field trials in larger areas across different locations. The corporation also aims to commercialize large-scale seed production in the coming season.

ICRISAT has also shared super-early pigeonpea lines with MAHABEEJ. The super-early lines maturing in 90 days give an average yield of 1 ton per ha and can be grown in the off-season due to photo and thermo insensitivity. This widens the scope of growing pigeonpea in new niches like rice-wheat cropping system. Also with the price of pigeonpea dal rising to US$3 per kg farmers are interested to grow pigeonpea in postrainy season.

MAHABEEJ will also collaborate with ICRISAT for developing pigeonpea varieties and hybrids resistant to Fusarium wilt and Sterility mosaic and also in releasing new high yielding disease resistant hybrids. The ICRISAT team comprised
Dr Anupama Hingane, Special Project Scientist, Pigeonpea Breeding and Mr R Vijaykumar, Senior Manager.


Project: Promotion of hybrid pigeonpea under production program under RKVY

Investor: Department of Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

Partners: Department of Agriculture, Government of Maharashtra, Maharashtra State Seeds Corporation Ltd, Agricultural Technology Management Agency and private seed companies.

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Identifying opportunities for enabling adoption of water and energy efficient technologies in agriculture

Encouraging and upscaling of solar technology with government support was one of the issues discussed at the symposium. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

The urgent need for listing, prioritizing and mainstreaming of proven water and energy efficient technologies specific to regions and crops was pointed out during the World Café and panel discussions at a recent symposium at ICRISAT.

The discussions focused on increased investments for community-based institutions for managing water scarcity, linking with financial institutions for increased investments, rejuvenating common property resources, introducing drought management conservation technologies, weather-based crop and livestock insurance and using information and communication technology tools for creating awareness and outreach.

Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director, Markets, Institutions and Policies speaking at the inaugural session. photo: ICRISAT

The need for innovative methodologies for assessment of adoption and impact of new water and energy efficient technologies was emphasized in order to assess the synergies and trade-offs in system level outcomes. The methodologies discussed included integrated modeling approach for assessing impact which includes all components like socio-economic, ecological systems, biophysical, crop and climate aspects; application of discrete choice experiments to assess the willingness of farmers to pay for perceived benefits, remote sensing tools to track adoption of various natural resource management components on a large scale in a cost-effective manner; and crop switching for meeting food security and farmers revenue goals while reducing water consumption in a targeted location.

Experts also called for scaling up of successful governance models that enable adoption of efficient irrigation technologies and promote rational pricing of both water and energy.

The technical sessions focused on specific themes under water and energy efficient agriculture which included emerging trends and drivers of change, constraints and opportunities of best practice technologies and management, methodological challenges in assessing and enabling technology adoption, and policy and governance alternatives.

“The symposium was successful in creating an excellent opportunity for researchers and practitioners from participating institutions to exchange experiences, identify knowledge and policy gaps in energy and water efficient agriculture and strategies to address the gaps,” said Dr Srinivasa Reddy Srigiri, Scientist - Natural Resource Economics, ICRISAT. 

The two-day symposium on ‘Enabling adoption of water and energy efficient technologies in agriculture – constraints, opportunities, strategies and policies’ was held at ICRISAT India from 29-30 September.


Activity title: Enabling Conditions for Adoption of Water and Energy Efficient Technologies in Agriculture – A Synthesis Review

CGIAR Research Program and Investor: Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM)

Participants: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), World Bank, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies (SaciWATERs), Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW Germany), Water and Land Management Training and Research Institute, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Jain Irrigation, and Lindsay Corporation.

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Changing agricultural patterns in eastern India

Rice is an important food crop in Jharkhand. It is also brewed to make a local drink. photo: ICRISAT

A study in the eastern region of India reveals changing cropping patterns and a gradual move towards farm mechanization, particularly in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand. However, the pace of change is slow and farmers have not been able to shift from low value to high value crops thus restricting the growth in household income. More needs to be done, if this region is to benefit from the growth that is taking place in other regions of India particularly in growing cash crops.

Farmers in these two states are still largely dependent on growing crops for self-consumption, mainly rice, maize and wheat, but there has been some increase in the cultivation of pulse crops, largely due to the fluctuation in rainfall between 2010 and 2014.

At the same time labor patterns are changing with a sharp decline in the use of human and animal labor and a concomitant increase in the use of tractors, threshers and diesel pumps. According to Dr Ranjit Kumar, Principal Scientist Economics, RP-MIP, ICRISAT, there are two factors influencing this trend: The increase in labor wage rates and the emergence of the custom hiring market, where large farmers or third parties are purchasing capital intensive machines like tractors and harvesters and the smallholder farmers are hiring this equipment for specific tasks and periods of time during the crop season.

In Jharkhand, the VDSA survey was conducted in Ranchi and Dumka districts  across 2010 to 2014 with 160 households participating in the survey. In Bihar, the two districts involved were Patna and Darbhanga districts, with the survey period and sample size the same.

Shift in cropping pattern

Cultivation of pulse crops has gradually increased over the survey period. There was also an increase in the cultivation of vegetables and other cash crops in Ranchi district, which is close to the state capital and offers a market.  On the other hand in Dumka district, away from big city markets, farmers continue to grow staple food crops like rice and maize which are largely for self-consumption.  
“Where you don’t have access to ready markets for cash crops farmers are reluctant to grow these crops as they may face a glut in the market during harvest season,” said Dr Ranjit Kumar.  The availability of alternative employment in the non-farm sector is also a factor that needs to be addressed to increase household incomes and capture growth. 

However, lower rainfall periods triggered a more significant diversion of crop area to pulses and potatoes during this time, though this was a temporary trend. These villages still largely cultivated rice and wheat for self-consumption.

Increasing farm mechanization

In Bihar the survey revealed a marked increase in the use of machinery across the period and a corresponding drop in the use of human and animal labor for ploughing, etc. This trend was higher in the more prosperous villages closer of Patna district which were closer to the state capital, compared to Darbhanga district. This was likely due to the increased availability of machinery closer to the bigger cities and the comparative lack of infrastructure particularly roads in outlying districts such as Darbhanga.

Share of different crops in gross cropped area (Jharkhand state).
Per hectare use of human, machine and animal labor in VDSA villages, Bihar.

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New publication

Global millets improvement and its relevance to India and developing world

Authors: Ashok Kumar A, Reddy BVS and Grando S

Published: 2015. Millets: Promotion for Food, Feed, Fodder, Nutritional and Environment Security, Proceedings of Global Consultation on Millets Promotion for Health & Nutritional Security. Society for Millets Research, ICAR Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad, pp. 154-172.

Abstract: Sorghum and millets are important food and fodder crops in semi-arid regions that are gaining importance in a world that is increasingly becoming populous, malnourished and facing large climatic uncertainties. These crops are adapted to a range of temperatures, moisture-regimes and input conditions supplying food and feed to millions of dryland farmers, particularly in the developing world. Besides, they are also important raw material for potable alcohol and starch production in industrialized countries. Among these crops, sorghum is the world’s fifth most important cereal, in terms of both production and area planted. Millet, a general category for several species of small-grained cereal crops, is the world’s seventh most important cereal grain (FAO, 1995). Roughly 90% of the world’s sorghum area and 95% of the world’s millet area lie in the developing countries, mainly in Africa and Asia. These crops are primarily grown in agroecologies subjected to low rainfall and drought. Most such areas are unsuitable for the production of other grains unless irrigated. Sorghum is widely grown both for food and as a feed grain, while millet is produced almost entirely for food. These crops are also moving to new niches like rice-fallow sorghum in India.(http://oar.icrisat.org/8794/)

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ICRISAT receives Asian CSR Leadership Award

Dr Suhas Wani (right), Director ICRISAT Development Center, accepting the CSR leadership award. photo: ICRISAT

ICRISAT Development Center (IDC)  was recognized in the category ‘Best environmental friendly project’ at a the Asian CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Leadership Awards ceremony held on 7 October at Dubai.

The Asian Leadership Awards recognizes remarkable business leaders and organizations in Asia for their continuing commitment to excellence, developing best practices and innovative strategies that contribute towards the region’s economic development.

ICRISAT and SAB Miller receive ‘Good Practice’ recognition for CSR work

Lakshmi Pillai (middle), Senior Donor Intelligence Officer, accepting the Good Practice CSR award. photo: ICRISAT

ICRISAT and SAB Miller received a ‘Special Mention’ Certificate of Good Practice Recognition for the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) case study ‘ICRISAT - SABMiller @ Medak’. This initiative is based on the ICRISAT Development Center (IDC) project - Improved Livelihoods through Community Water Resources Management in Community Watersheds. The award was given at the India CSR Summit 2015, held on 7-8 October at Bangalore.

The event was jointly organized by Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs under the aegis of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and NGOBox. The objective was to share good practices and publicize the efforts undertaken by various companies and NGOs towards Corporate Social Responsibility.

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