23 Oct 2015
No. 1698




Integrating gender across the whole agricultural value chain

These women from a Self-Help Group in Kenya are reintroducing sorghum on farm and looking for opportunities for use in bakery and other products. Photo: J Kane Potaka, ICRISAT

ICRISAT has made efforts to take a holistic approach to solutions which have also included a holistic approach to gender integration. This has meant the integration of gender across every stage along the agricultural value chain.

Click on each section of the value chain to see examples of how gender has been integrated

The holistic approach works from land and water management all the way through to agribusiness and market development. Every stage requires understanding gender needs and empowering women to contribute more.

To learn from some of the approaches, ICRISAT has collated some successes at every stage of the agricultural value chain to see how gender was integrated and women empowered. This became the theme of the recently- released ICRISAT 2014 Annual Report.

For an interactive holistic model with these collated approaches, see: http://annualreport.icrisat.org/#keytext

For the full Annual Report see: http://annualreport.icrisat.org



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Upscaling drought-tolerant and early-maturing pearl millet hybrids in western Rajasthan, India

Dr Stefania Grando, Director, Research Program – Dryland Cereals, ICRISAT, interacting with the women folk of Rajasthan. Photo: SK Gupta

Utilizing the recently-generated genome sequence information in pearl millet to address crop productivity challenges; developing hybrids suitable for regions with less than 400 mm of rainfall per annum and for improving the shelf life of flour, were discussed by scientists from Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agricultural University (SKRAU), Bikaner and ICRISAT.

In view of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, recently approving a project to upscale hybrid technology in western Rajasthan, Dr Govind Singh, Director Research, RAU, Bikaner, suggested that it is the right time for ICRISAT and partner organizations to come together and utilize the recently-generated genome sequence information in pearl millet to address the unresolved challenges in increasing crop productivity. The group which included Dr SK Gupta, Senior Scientist, Pearl Millet Breeding, ICRISAT, decided to design a joint project to move forward on this.

The previous work undertaken by RAU, Bikaner and ICRISAT comprises early-maturing and drought-tolerant pearl millet hybrids identified in the HOPE project that have made visible impact in farmer’s life in western Rajasthan where rains were very meager this year. Scientists from the two institutes, who recently travelled extensively in the districts of Jodhpur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer were told by farmers that the newly identified hybrids yielded reasonably well under rainfed environments or with limited irrigation in comparison to old hybrids. The women folk, however, complained of the low shelf life of pearl millet flour. The drudgery of hand-milling small batches of grain periodically has resulted in decreasing consumption of pearl millet in rural areas.

ICRISAT scientists with Dr HP Yadav, Project Coordinator- AICPMIP and his team at Mandore, Jodhpur. photo: ICRISAT

Addressing the visiting team, Dr HP Yadav, Project Coordinator, All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project (AICPMIP) at Mandore, informed that the efforts of ICRISAT and partner institutions has resulted in seeds of many new hybrids being made available to pearl millet farmers for cultivation in western Rajasthan. While demonstrating the national trial on pearl millet hybrids released for cultivation in India, he emphasized on the need to provide more cultivar options to farmers in the A1 zone of pearl millet cultivation, which receives less than 400 mm of rainfall per annum.


Project title: Pearl millet hybrids for increasing the productivity of western Rajasthan

Project Donor: National Food Security Mission, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India

Project Partners: ICRISAT, AICPMIP, Jodhpur; SKRAU, Bikaner and Shri Karan Narendra College of Agriculture, Jobner

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals

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Zambia releases five new groundnut varieties after seven years

Farmers select the new variety Wamusanga during a farmer participatory variety selection.
Photo: H Charlie, ICRISAT

Five new groundnut varieties were released for commercial production in Zambia (see box). These new releases bring the total number of ICRISAT-bred varieties in Zambia to 12. The new releases were made after a gap of seven years.

The entire process began in 2011 with evaluation with farmers and other stakeholders where a total of 12 promising varieties were introduced in the eastern province of Zambia. Following two seasons of evaluation, outcomes of the participatory varietal selection and field days revealed farmers’ preference on five varieties based on the attributes listed (see box).The new varieties out-yielded the local check by an average 15-25%.

As the variety release procedure in Zambia stipulates, prior to the commercialization of a crop variety, it is tested for distinctness, uniformity and stability (DUS) and for value for cultivation and use (VCU). The test for distinctness is used to establish that the new variety differs from those of common knowledge in at least one characteristic for it to be considered for release. Uniformity establishes that the phenotypic expression of the new variety is the same when it is replicated in an experiment. This implies that the variety would perform uniformly in a farmer’s field. Stability tests whether the new variety is able to maintain its phenotypic expression even after repeated multiplication (across time and space).

In 2013, the materials were submitted to the Seed Control and Certification Institute (SCCI) for evaluation in all the three regions of Zambia: Msekera, and Golden Valley Research Stations (Region 2: 800 – 1,000 mm), Masumba Research Station (Region 1: low altitude, hot and dry), Mansa and Misamfu (Region 3: >1,000 mm; cool and wet).

The new varieties were released in September 2015. The seven varieties released earlier include MGV 4, Chishango, Luena, MGS 2, Katete, Chipego and MGV 5.



Project title: IFINITE - Improving Groundnut Farmer Incomes and Nutrition through Innovation and Technology Enhancement

Primary Investor: USAID

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

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Kenyan farmers embrace sorghum as a multi-use crop to cope with climate change

In Makueni, a county in Kenya, researchers in the Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) project are working to improve production, profitability and utilization of sorghum. This intervention is important given that the maize crop in this area has failed due to unreliable rainfall, changing weather patterns and maize diseases.

“The quantity and frequency of rains is not enough to sustain growth of a maize crop to maturity in Makueni county,” says Mr Nehemiah Mburu, a researcher from Africa Harvest which is a key SMU project implementing partner. The county was selected as a beneficiary for the project interventions as it is characterized by water scarcity, low food production and low resilience to climate change, which have led to increased food insecurity, poor nutrition and poverty.

The SMU program is designed to support farmers in the dry areas to grow sorghum varieties that are suitable for their environment and desired end uses. The project strives to enhance farmers’ access to improved, high-yielding, drought-tolerant sorghum varieties, using various entry points including aggregators and local seed merchants. In addition to this, farmers are trained on how to use these improved varieties using demonstration plots where good agronomic practices are imparted as a catalyst for improvements in quality and quantity of produce at the farm level.

The team is working on promoting diversified use of sorghum-based products for food and feed in Kenya. “The guiding strategy in diversifying use of sorghum in food and feed is anchored on market needs. We have identified and are working with animal feed manufacturers to align their input requirements with production activities in terms of quality and other attributes. We are also training households on preparation of nutritious sorghum-based meals that are palatable and accepted at the community level,” adds Nehemiah.

Sorghum for better household nutrition

A women’s group learning how to prepare pilau using sorghum as
a substitute for rice. photo: C Wangari, ICRISAT

To create a demand pull for sorghum, the team is promoting diversified use of sorghum-based products for food, feed and other industry uses including malting. Sorghum is a traditional crop that was replaced by maize for two generations, and therefore the new generation does not know how to grow or use it. It has therefore become necessary to re-introduce it to the community.

Mbukilye Ngukilye is one of the women groups in Makueni county that was identified and brought on board as a project beneficiary. “They have been trained on production, post-harvest management, utilization and value addition and linked to end-user markets through an aggregator working in the area,” says Ms Doreen Marangu, project manager, Africa Harvest.

Home economics specialists from the Ministry of Agriculture help with the training of trainers who then work with local women groups to demonstrate different ways of cooking a variety of sorghum dishes.

“The group is planning to move to the next level of commercial production of sorghum-based products to increase their incomes,” Doreen adds.

Sorghum for fish feed

Mr Kyalo uses the sorghum to feed his family, his fish and the surplus is then sold in the market.
Photo: C Wangari, ICRISAT

Forty eight-year-old Mr Benson Kyalo Mwengi is one of the early adopters of sorghum innovations introduced by the project team. He has invested largely in sorghum farming and he uses irrigation during off seasons. He still prefers sorghum farming to growing maize. “Sorghum requires less water than maize,” he explained.

“Mr Kyalo was identified as a potential initial adopter of the technologies the project is promoting. He agreed to set aside an acre of his land to be used as a demonstration plot and for participatory selection of SMU varieties and hybrids from where other farmers within the area could get to know about the technologies, learn and hopefully adopt on their individual farms. The arrangement worked well and he has embraced sorghum farming,” Doreen explained.

Mr Kyalo uses the sorghum to feed his family, his fish and the surplus is then sold in the market. He says that he got the idea of using sorghum for fish feed from his interaction with the SMU team. He then sought advice from the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries on how to produce the fish feed by substituting maize or rice bran with sorghum. “Maize and rice bran is not easily available and is too expensive for us,” he says.


Project title: Sorghum for Multiple Uses

Investors: European Commission and IFAD.

Implementing partners: Africa Harvest, Ministry of Agriculture, Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and ICRISAT among others.

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals

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Drought mitigation strategies for Indian state of Karnataka

With low rainfall affecting the kharif (rainy season) crop in the Indian state of Karnataka the emphasis was on drought mitigation strategies at the Bhoochetana and Bhoosamruddhi planning workshop held at ICRISAT recently.

The drought-proofing methods that have been planned for the rabi (postrainy) season for districts implementing Bhoochetana are as follows:

  • Adoption of zero tillage planting
  • Minimum tillage during crop growth
  • Propagating cultivation of pulses like chickpea, black gram, lentil, etc, in the current rabi season
  • Using simple technologies to enhance production such as:
    • Seed treatment with molybdenum
    • Dry seeding
    • Bio-fertilizer treatment
    • Balanced nutrient management

Supplementary action plans were prepared and presented for the Bhoosamruddhi districts keeping in view the drought-like situation in the state. The Bhoosamruddhi pilot project which was started in four districts has been upscaled this year to eight districts – Bidar, Chikballapur, Chikkamagaluru, Dharwad, Raichur, Tumkur, Udupi and, Vijayapura.

The workshop held on 9 October had 100 participants representing dignitaries from the Department of Agriculture including Mr Manjunath Prasad, Principal Secretary (Agriculture), Mr Rajiv Chawla, Principal Secretary (Horticulture), Dr Kaushik Mukherjee, Chief Secretary, Ms Latha Krishna Rau, Additional Chief Secretary and Development Commissioner and State Agricultural Universities, Chief Executive Officers from the districts, and scientists from CGIAR institutes and ICRISAT.


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Efforts to hasten work on perennial grain crops to reverse land degradation

At Flola village participants interact with Dr Birhanu Zemadim Birhanu, Scientist - Land and Water Management, ICRISAT, as he explains the contour bund technology. photo: ICRISAT

New perennial grain germplasm and perennial forms of traditional crops such as sorghum, pigeonpea, and rice are poised to play a critical role in reversing land degradation and sustaining agriculture in the future. While rice is ready for on-farm testing, additional research is needed for pigeonpea and sorghum. Scientific updates on the above crops and the modalities for speeding up the process of taking research to farmers’ fields in Africa were discussed at a recent workshop in Mali.

Developing perennial grain crops could provide a means of producing food for a growing human population while maintaining the planets’ productive capacity for future generations. Natural ecosystems are typified by perennial plants that not only protect the soil, but also build up soil tilth and nutrient status. Perennial plants in natural ecosystems have 50% of their biomass in roots compared to 15% in typical annual crops. Most agricultural systems are based on annual crops that need to be replanted every year, the frequent plowing and cultivation, leads to major loss of soil organic matter (27-60% losses of organic C), a key ingredient for soil tilth and nutrition, said Dr Tim Crews, Director of Research, The Land Institute. 

Plant breeders, cropping systems agronomists and other participants shared experiences from Africa, Asia and the USA and looked at the unique challenges and opportunities within Africa and specifically Mali for applying perennial crop research and the adoption of new cropping systems specifically in the context of reversing soil degradation.
Ms Fatouma Seid, Representative of FAO in Mali, urged the participants to hasten the process of taking research to the field in collaboration with farmers and farmers’ associations.

The workshop provided a venue for regional actors including researchers, policy makers and project managers to discuss their ongoing activities and opportunities for collaboration. The participants explored ways to best share perennial materials for specific agroecologies and continue development of perennial crops and cropping systems, especially targeting specific African production systems.

Participants also considered the way forward regarding jointly publishing results, seeking funding support to build on the materials and progress made to date. Working groups were established to elaborate recommendations.

At the ICRISAT-Samanko station participants observed the first trial in Africa of perennial tetraploid sorghum that had survived the eight-month dry season. Apart from various presentations, a field trip to Samanko village was organized to see the sorghum, maize and cowpea seed production plots.

Participants visit ICRISAT-Samanko fields.
photo:A Diama, ICRISAT

The workshop concluded with a visit to Flola village (in Bougouni district) where the Africa RISING project has been working for the past three years. Ms Mary Ollenburger, PhD student at Wageningen University, organized a visit to the Africa Rising Technology Park and held discussions with farmers on specific production system issues.

Scientists from Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada and the USA gathered in Bamako, Mali from 1-5 September to exchange ideas and experiences about perennial crops and opportunities for their use for enhancing agricultural sustainability in Africa. ICRISAT staff Dr Peter Carberry, Deputy Director General – Research and Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Director, West and Central Africa, attended the workshop that was led by Dr Eva W Rattunde, Principal Scientist - Sorghum Breeding and Genetic Resources (Dryland Cereals).

Pre-workshop meeting on climate-resilient sorghum

Researchers exploring options for targeted use of sorghum germplasm for adaptation to drought, application of genomic tools for facilitating the transfer of traits related to water use efficiency and drought tolerance into sorghum breeding materials, attended a pre-workshop meeting of the USAID-funded Feed the Future ‘Innovation Laboratory for Climate Resilient Sorghum project’.

Project partners include Ethiopian and South African universities, Land Institute-USA and ICRISAT. ICRISAT’s contribution to the Innovation Lab is being coordinated by Dr Santosh Deshpande, Scientist - Molecular Breeding, ICRISAT. Participants visited ICRISAT’s Samanko research station and the backcross nested association mapping (BCNAM) progenies under development for study of traits and molecular tools for enhancing adaptation to the Sahelian zone. The project coordinated by Dr Andrew Paterson of the University of Georgia, was held on 30 August and 1 September.


Workshop title: Putting perennial crops to work in practice: Pigeonpea, sorghum and other options CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals

Co-organizers: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Michigan State University, The Innovation Lab for Climate Resilient Sorghum managed by University of Georgia, and ICRISAT

Donors: United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Global Environment Facility (for FAO).

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ICRISAT receives ASSOCHAM India-Africa Champion in Biz Awards 2015

SM Karuppanchetty, COO of ABI Program receives the award for Exemplary Contribution in Agriculture for ICRISAT from Mr Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, Hon’ble Minister for Railways, Government of India. photo: ICRISAT

The Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) was recognized in the category ‘Exemplary Contribution in Agriculture’ at the India-Africa Champion in Biz Awards 2015 that was organized by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) on 19 October.

The award recognized the efforts made by ICRISAT through AIP in promoting agribusiness and agribusiness incubation ecosystem in Africa. This includes handholding partners under the Universities, Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UniBRAIN) project of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) wherein six agribusiness incubators were set up in five countries in Africa. ICRISAT is also the implementing agency for the Food Processing Business Incubation Centres project of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), Government of India under the India-Africa Forum Summit II; these five centers are being set up in Mali, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon and Angola.

Dr Eva and Dr Fred Weltzien-Rattunde receive Justus-von-Liebig Award for World Nutrition 2015

Dr Eva and Dr Fred Weltzien-Rattunde receiving the Justus-von- Liebig Award for World Nutrition 2015. photo: ICRISAT

For their work on improving the nutritional qualities of sorghum for human consumption and for fodder and improving the cereal’s resistance to drought, diseases and pests, ICRISAT scientists Dr Eva Weltzien and Dr Fred Rattunde received the Justus-von-Liebig Award for World Nutrition 2015.

The Weltzien-Rattunde couple, jointly with their diverse project partners, made important contributions in the collection, evaluation and use of genetic diversity of local landraces for breeding purposes, the analysis of genotype by environment interactions as a prerequisite for the development of locally well-adapted base-populations, the improvement of plant nutrient acquisition and use efficiency, the development of new sorghum varieties with superior and stable yielding ability as well as resistance to the devastating parasitic weed Striga, the improvement of micronutrient concentrations in the grain to help reduce malnutrition, and the development of local seed systems.

Their work was predominantly embedded in holistic, interdisciplinary programs in collaboration with partners from research institutes in developed countries as well as research and development.

In the area of participatory plant breeding, the couple is considered to be among the pioneers. The couple has more than 60 publications in international, peer-reviewed journals and books. The recipients of this prize are also recognized for their unusual engagement and resilience despite the threats from civil unrest and epidemics in West Africa. They have dedicated their entire careers to fight against hunger and poverty of smallholder farmers of West Africa and India. They are working together at ICRISAT, Mali, West Africa, as sorghum breeders since 1997.

The independent council of the Foundation unanimously awarded this prize to the Weltzien-Rattunde couple for their outstanding achievements in the agricultural and nutritional sciences, which contribute to improving world nutrition. They received the award, endowed with 25,000 Euro, during the World Food Day colloquium at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart on 16 October.

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New publication

Irrigation and Land Use Change in Tamil Nadu

Published: Land processes distributed active archive center (LP DAAC). June 25, 2015

Synopsis: Monsoons and groundwater irrigation are the primary sources of water for the rice, millets and pulses crops for the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. Identification of water-stressed areas where there is below average rainfall is one of the first steps toward minimizing harm for the region’s crop production. In Gumma et al, 2015, the study is performed at the river basin level, as it is impacted by rainfall throughout the study area. Remote sensing products and analysis techniques are used in this study to determine areas that are susceptible to water-stress. The authors found that alternative cropping patterns, water management practices and encouraging varieties of drought-tolerant crops can help promote better food security and sustain livelihoods.
Full paper on: https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/user_resources/data_in_action/irrigation_

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Readers’ comments

Greening the desert is a commendable initiative of ICRISAT making farmers increase their productivity and incomes, especially by empowering women to attain self-sufficiency of their households in Rajasthan. Strengthening the SHGs, use of rainwater harvesting, rearing livestock, intercropping legumes with fruit trees and medicinal plants and the new initiatives such as farm trials for seed potato production for the benefit of the farming community are inspiring examples for farmers and women in other states of India.

– Chander Mohan
Senior Executive Editor
Agriculture World and Krishi Jagran group of Publications

There are about 30 points with regard to the Biggest Gaps for reaching the Global Goals, where in my opinion the planners need to frame suitable solutions to overcome the gaps. I am explaining the 1/30 point.

In India, roughly 780 million people are dependent on agriculture out of which only 130 million are land-holding farmers. Nearly 92% of these 130 million farmers own less than 2 ha of land and 68% of these farmers practice rainfed agriculture. The rest 650 million are landless farm labor who work seasonally for these farmers. Some of these landless farmhands take land from land-owning farmers on lease and cultivate on that land. These tenant farmers take the risk involved in agriculture and take debts to cultivate crops. 90% of suicides in Telangana are by these tenant/asset-less farmers. If the crop is good, the land-owning farmer makes tax free income and if something goes wrong the tenant farmers commit suicides and other farmhands suffer poverty and hunger.

Please let me know if ICRISAT has any plan for these 650 million farmhands and few tenant farmers.

There are 29 more points like this which need first to be tabled, brainstormed and solutions evolved for any meaningful success in attaining Global Goals. My studies have indicated that more number of women work in agriculture than men! My definition of Human Equality or Gender Equality is only achieved by ensuring equality in bank balances. The rest is all frivolous.

– DSK Rao
Founder & Director,
Gyantech Information Systems (P) Ltd

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