04 Dec 2015
No. 1704




Seeing is believing: Showcasing research impacts in Mali

Ms Keita Djeneba Konate, scientific officer, ICRISAT, orients on drought tolerant, aflatoxin resistant groundnut varieties. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Improved varieties of sorghum, groundnut, vegetables, fruit and fodder trees and sustainable production technologies for improving nutrition and incomes captured the attention of visitors at an Open House organized at ICRISAT-Mali.

Prominent visitors included Mr Ajay Kumar Sharma, Indian Ambassador to the Republic of Mali, who toured the demonstration plots and the exhibit stalls that showcased the research impact of The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and ICRISAT.

ICRISAT’s demonstration plots focused on groundnut and sorghum.

Mr Sharma with Dr Tabo and Dr Eva Weltzien. Photo: Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

The groundnut demonstration plots showcased a range of improved varieties that were tolerant to drought; and resistant to aflatoxin and foliar diseases. Varieties suitable for large-scale diffusion in Mali were also on display. The sweet sorghum demonstration plots had novel varieties that combined quality grain for human consumption with high sugar content in the stems. In addition to yielding quality grain and forage for livestock, these varieties can produce sorghum syrup, rich in calcium and vitamin C, and are a more nutritious and economical alternative to sugar.

Sorghum demonstration plots that had hybrids and their parental lines sown side by side, helped visitors to see for themselves the difference in vigor, grain quality and the 30% to 40% yield superiority of hybrids and their profitability over the parental lines and local varieties.

AVRDC demonstration plots displayed improved varieties of vegetables such as tomatoes, okra, green amaranth and amaranth pepper.

ICRAF’s nursery showcased production of seedlings of improved planting materials, food and fruit banks, fodder banks, and sustainable management of these species for intensive forage production in Mali and other countries in the Sahel region.

Dr Baloua Nebie (L) and Fred Rattunde (R) display the produce at the hybrid sorghum demonstration plot.
Photo: K Gwendolin, ICRISAT

ICRISAT exhibit stalls provided information on:

  • Seed cooperatives producing and marketing hybrid seeds;
  • Improved soil and water management options with contour bunds;
  • Essential role of soil phosphorus and legumes in enhancing resilience, sustainability and agricultural biodiversity;
  • Demonstration of the use of drones for identification and quantification of crop growth.

To mark the 2015 ‘Smart Food’ initiative several traditional dishes made from sorghum and pearl millet, including porridge made from whole grain sorghum flour were available for tasting.

The big hits were groundnuts coated with sorghum syrup, baguette (French bread) with sorghum syrup, gingerbread cookies made from millet flour and sorghum syrup.

Farmers share their hopes, concerns, and suggestions during the Open House.
Farmers visit the groundnut demonstration plots. Photos: A Diama, ICRISAT

The recipe for gingerbread cookies was provided by Dr Eva Weltzien, Principal Scientist - Sorghum Breeding and Genetic Resource, ICRISAT, and instructions for preparing sorghum syrup specialties and whole-grain sorghum flour were provided by ICRISAT research assistants Sabina Togola and Abdoulaye Tangara to interested participants.

The Open House provided a forum for farmers to share their aspirations, concerns, and suggestions. A discussion session on ‘How to improve access to seeds of improved varieties by farmers? Experiences of seed cooperatives in Mali’ moderated by Mr Mamourou Sidibé, Scientific Officer, ICRISAT, saw a lively debate between representatives of farmer seed producers’ cooperatives, national and international research and development personnel. The challenges and options for commercially viable and sustainable seed certification were debated, noting that solutions to these issues were vital to agricultural development in Mali.

Mr Sharma with Dr Ramadjita Tabo (right) visiting an exhibit stand. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Videos on integrated soil fertility, Striga management, controlling aflatoxin contamination were screened by ICRISAT. A video on the biological control of millet head miner was launched which generated great interest. Videos on ‘Women of the Sahel and ICRAF’ and ‘How to do a moringa and baobab foodbank?’ were screened by ICRAF.

The 150 visitors to the Open House represented over 50 different organizations, including farmer organizations, seed-producers’ cooperatives, seed companies, national extension services and national research partners, local and international development NGOs, bilateral donor and development organizations, and UN organizations such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) present in Mali. Representatives from the Malian Ministry of Agriculture and local government institutions as well as various diplomatic and European Union representatives in Mali also attended.

Partners at the Samanko Research Station, including AVRDC, ICRAF, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), together with ICRISAT organized the event on 17 November. 

The Open House was well covered by national and private television stations.

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Planning science-led double-digit growth in the horticulture sector

A farmer speaks out during the group discussions. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

For increasing the contribution of the horticulture sector to the Primary Sector Mission in Andhra Pradesh, India, government officials, scientists and farmers came together to chalk out action plans for the rabi (postrainy) season.

Participants were divided into four groups to brainstorm the following:

  • Production technologies of high yielding varieties,
  • Shade net and polyhouse,
  • Micro-irrigation,
  • Farmer Producer Organization (FPO).

The production technology team discussed and made recommendations on promotion of crop varieties suitable for export as well as for processing, action plans on how to control pest and diseases for different crops, mechanized tools and implements for farm operations, minimizing losses during post-harvest, marketing and value addition to get higher profits.

The shade net and polyhouse team requested the government to consider polyhouse farmers on par with agricultural farmers and fix power tariffs in line with the agricultural category. Farmers also requested the government to extend 75% assistance to polyhouse farmers as against the current assistance of 50%. Other recommendations included exposure visits to progressive farmers’ plots to learn best production practices, value addition, packing and exports, provision of insurance for self-financed polyhouse owners.

The micro-irrigation team discussed and made recommendations on the finances required for making the existing micro-irrigation system functional. The team provided detailed cost of components and a survey format was prepared accordingly. Also issues pertaining to non-functioning of filters, non-utilization of fertigation unit, leakage of control valves and Head Control Units, and capacity building were discussed by the team. Fertigation scheduling for major crops was discussed and recommendations to start demonstration in farmers’ fields in villages were made.

Recommendations for fertigation included formation of FPOs of micro-irrigation farmers with each FPO consisting of 100 farmers each, engaging one progressive farmer for each FPO as farmer consultant/scientist, creation of separate wing to monitor fertigation, trainings, after-sale service, engaging one horticulture officer on outsourcing basis for each district to monitor fertigation and provide training.

The FPO team’s recommendations included formulating new policies and guidelines for FPO promotion. Recommendations were also made to improve the capacity building of FPOs, exposure visits and training programs for new FPOs, publicity and promotion support for all FPOs and provision of a one-time assistance from the government.

On the final day of the workshop, seminars on different horticulture crops were presented by scientists from Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Dr YSR Horticultural University, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and various other institutes. The workshop ended with each district official presenting the action plan for their respective district.

The workshop, held from 13-14 November is part of the Rythu Kosam (Primary Sector Mission) initiative of the Government of Andhra Pradesh.  A total of 203 participants representing different sectors participated.

ICRISAT, as a consortium leader for Rythu Kosam, organized the workshop. Dr SP Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center (IDC), Dr KV Raju, Assistant Director, IDC, Dr R Srikanth, Dr M Sachin and Dr K Prashanth were involved in organizing the workshop.

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Sudan explores tie-ups with ICRISAT and Indian seed companies

Dr Bergvinson meeting the delegation from Sudan.. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

A high-level delegation from Sudan visited recently to explore opportunities for partnerships with ICRISAT and Indian seed companies.

 “We discussed the difficulties we face in accessing breeding material from ICRISAT-India among other things,” said the delegation’s spokesperson Mr Rabei Abd Elltif Rizgilla Mohamed, Seed Specialist, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Seed Development Project, following a meeting with Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT. He said that they were also planning on a country strategy based on Dr Bergvinson’s suggestion.

During their visit the group visited the National Seeds Corporation and private seed companies. “We have come here to study how seed companies in India function. We see it as an opportunity for partnerships,” said Mr Rabei Mohamed.

Discussing farmer preferred pearl millet varieties for seed production, Mr Rabei Mohamed said farmers are looking for drought-tolerant pearl millet seed as well as seed suited for high rainfall areas due to the climatic differences in various regions of Sudan. Due to climate change, the time period for growing crops has decreased and early maturing varieties are needed. He said farmers are asking for pearl millet with bristles to fend off bears and yellow colored pearl millet is the most-preferred variety. In the case of groundnut, he said aflatoxin and other fungal diseases are major concerns only during the rainy season.

Ms Enaam Lesa Mohamed Ahmed Ali, Director General, Rans for Agricultural Services and Investment Co Ltd, Sudan, said, “It is 10 years since I started my company. I am here to learn about new groundnut technologies and look for avenues for partnerships with seed companies.”

The group interacted with scientists from the Research Program on Dryland Cereals and scientists working on groundnut improvement and also visited the gene bank. A request for setting up a regional office in Sudan was made by the delegation.

The Sudan Seed Development Project organized the trip of the 15-member delegation that comprised Director Generals and top officials from various departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Agricultural Research Corporation and heads of various private agricultural enterprises. The group visited ICRISAT from 16-20 November.

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To show solidarity with colleagues who were present at the Global Planning Meeting (GPM), staff signed the culture and values banner, at a ceremony in Nairobi on 13 February.
On his visit to Malawi, Dr David Bergvinson, met Mr Saulos Chilima, Vice President of Malawi.
Irish Ambassador Ms Áine Hearns and Dr Bergvinson jointly launched an Irish Aid-funded seed warehouse and a seed management information system at the Chitedze Agricultural Research Station, Lilongwe, Malawi.
Dr Joseph Made, Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Government of Zimbabwe, and Dr Bergvinson.
Dr Bergvinson met the Honorable Chief Shana of Jambezi village, Zimbabwe to discuss the need to improve farmers’ access to seeds of new varieties of sorghum and pearl millet.
Ms Sicily Kanini Kariuki, Principal Secretary, State Department of Agriculture, Kenya, discusses the State’s agricultural priorities with Dr Bergvinson and Dr Siambi.

72nd Governing Board Meeting, Ethiopia

Members of the ICRISAT Governing Board.
Dr Wondirad Mandefro, State Minister of Agriculture, in a meeting with Dr Madramootoo and Dr Bergvinson.
Dr Fentahun Mengistu, Director General of EIAR and Dr Bergvinson.
Tef (Eragrostis tef) has joined the list of ICRISAT’s research crops.
The first-ever African Agribusiness Incubation Conference was organized from 28-30 September at Nairobi, Kenya, under the umbrella of African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN).
Five new groundnut varieties were released for commercial production in Zambia after a gap of seven years.
An agribusiness incubator, Afri Banana Products Ltd., that promotes young entrepreneurs in the banana value chain and other sub-sectors was launched in Uganda. It is mentored by ICRISAT’s Agri-Business Incubation Program.
A sorghum Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC) has been formed in Kenya by the Seed Traders Association of Kenya (STAK) and ICRISAT. This is the first HPRC in Kenya.

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Partnering with the media for promoting sorghum and millets

Dr Siambi presenting ICRISAT’s Smart Food initiative in Nairobi.. Photo: ICRISAT

To promote climate smart and nutritive crops like millets and sorghum, 60 science journalists from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were invited for an interaction to learn about these ‘smart foods’.

Dr Moses Siambi, Regional Director, ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa, briefed the journalists on ICRISAT’s Smart Food initiative. “It’s time to bring traditional foods back on the dining table,” he emphasized, urging the participants to join hands with ICRISAT to raise awareness and create demand for smart food in the region which will benefit the farmers, consumers and the planet.

ICRISAT has embarked on efforts in Kenya to develop the entire value chains of four crops – sorghum, millets, pigeonpea and groundnut – from seed to consumption. This is under the ‘Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development Program’ which seeks to improve household nutrition by diversifying diets and increasing household incomes from marketable surplus.

Given the role of mass media in informing, influencing, and motivating individuals, institutions, and communities, the project team will work closely with the media in the country to raise awareness about the health benefits of dryland cereals and legumes in Kenya.

Participants said the interaction was an ‘eye opener’.

The group of journalists was attending the Kenya Science Journalists Congress in Nairobi, organized by the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA), a professional association whose objective is to create forums for networking and collaboration between scientists, journalists and government for better communication


Project title: Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development Program

Investor: USAID Feed the Future

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals and Grain Legumes

Partners: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Potato Center (CIP), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Egerton University, Ministry of Agriculture

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Capacity building of farmers for quality seed production

Mr SK Tripathy providing training in Mayurbhanj district. Photo: PM Gaur, ICRISAT

Seed availability at the local level is key to enhancing seed replacement rate (SRR) and the adoption of improved cultivars. This requires quality seeds to be available in adequate quantities, at the right time and at a cost affordable by farmers. To achieve this and to train farmers in production of chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut seeds, training programs were held in multiple locations across the state of Odisha, India.

Sixteen training programs were organized in different districts in October and November. These included seven on pigeonpea in Sonepur, Ganjam and Gajapati districts; six on chickpea in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts and three on groundnut in Kalahandi, Nuapada and Ganjam districts. The major activities included promotion of improved cultivars and production technologies, development of a sustainable and effective seed system, and capacity building of farmers. 

These programs brought together 1,267 farmers of which 125 were women. The resource persons for the training programs included officers from the Department of Agriculture and Seed Certification Agency and District Coordinators working under these projects and ICRISAT staff – Dr Pooran Gaur, Principal Scientist, Chickpea Breeding; Mr R Vijaykumar, Manager Field Operations, Pigeonpea Breeding; Mr SK Tripathy (State Coordinator for Odisha projects).


Projects: (i) Introduction and expansion of improved pigeonpea production technology in rainfed upland ecosystems of Odisha.

(ii) Promotion of improved chickpea varieties in rice-based cropping systems of small holder farmers of Odisha.

(iii) Scaling-up of improved groundnut varieties through established seed system in various cropping systems of smallholder farmers in Odisha.

Investor: Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Department of Agriculture, Government of Odisha, India.

Partners: Department of Agriculture, Government of Odisha; Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology; and Orissa State Seeds Corporation Limited

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

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An exercise in demand-driven research: HPRC consultation meeting

Participants at the consultation meet. Photo:PS Rao, ICRISAT

Identifying research priorities based on feedback and identifying opportunities to utilize modern research tools, especially genomics and phenomics, to elevate  genetic gains was the focus at a recent consultation meeting with members of the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC).

Based on presentations made by experts and inputs from participants during group discussions on present cultivar trends and trait preferences of the said crops in India, emerging researchable issues were identified. Some of the issues are:


  • Hybrids suited for postrainy season
  • Shoot fly resistance and grain mold tolerance
  • End-product specific cultivars
  • Developing plant ideotype that can accommodate larger plant population and facilitate mechanical harvesting
  • High biomass, sugars and higher digestibility in sweet sorghum

Pearl millet

  • Blast disease resistance
  • Lodging resistance
  • Heat tolerance
  • Cytoplasmic diversification


  • Improved pigeonpea hybrids and their seed production
  • New plant type concept on improvement of erect varieties and parental lines
  • Expansion and promotion of super-early pigeonpea genotypes in new niches

Ms Gitu Grace from African Seeds Trade Association (ASTA) presented the activities of ASTA and how they can help seed companies establish their business in African countries. Presentation on adopting new tools for crop improvement for increasing genetic gain was made by
Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director (Grain Legumes) and Director, Centre of Excellence in Genomics. Dr Vincent Vadez, Assistant Research Program Director (Dryland Cereals) and Principal Scientist - Plant Physiology, spoke on high-throughput phenotyping methods. Participants provided inputs in crop-specific group meetings which centered on prioritization of research and on developing an action plan to meet newly identified researchable issues.

The meeting held on 26 November at ICRISAT, Patancheru, involved 44 scientists from the 21 partner seed companies in HPRC, representatives from the Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR), All India Coordinated Pearl Millet Improvement Project (AICPMIP) and several State Agricultural Universities, along with 36 ICRISAT scientists.

Mr Nageswar Rao, Acting Director IIMR, Mr HP Yadav, Project Coordinator, AICPMIP and scientists from state agricultural universities played a key role. A new Advisory Committee of HPRC for 2016-2017 was constituted. 

Mr Brijendra Pal from Bio-Seeds, Mr AK Singh from Bayer Crop Sciences, Mr SK Gupta from Hi-tech Seeds,  Mr A Satyanarayana from NRI Agri-Tech Private Limited, and Mr AK Jayalekha from Bayer Crop Sciences were unanimously elected as new members from the private sector.

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VDSA project: Insights into rural poverty dynamics and policy implications

VDSA major phase concludes after four decades of ‘Raising the Voices of the Poor’

A village-level group discussion. Photo: ICRISAT

How did villagers cope with persistent drought over a decade and come out of poverty; how can incomes of rural households in Bangladesh and India be increased; does rainfall insurance in India deal with risks in dryland farming; is feminization in agriculture a myth or reality. Insights to questions such as these and many more were revealed in the recently concluded Village Dynamics in South Asia (VDSA) project.

The VDSA project, funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helped ‘raise the voices of the poor’ through the collection and dissemination of high quality longitudinal micro (village and household) and meso (district and state) level data from 42 study villages located in nine states (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Bihar and Odisha) of India and 11 districts in Bangladesh. It started off in May 1975 as the Village Level Studies (VLS) project in six villages of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

VDSA insights revealed that factors such as land ownership, technology adoption, accumulation of farm and non-farm capital; access to financial capital, adoption of modern agricultural technologies (modern varieties, supplementary irrigation); livestock farming; educational achievement of household members, all contributed positively towards increase in income and reduction in the levels of poverty in the study villages of Telangana and Maharashtra. Poverty levels reduced from 99.6% in 1975-76 to 13.9% in 2012-13. Income inequality has also reduced from 0.425 in 1975-76 to 0.384 in 2012-13.

Multiple pathways for moving out of poverty were observed: (i) Intensification of agriculture through adoption of modern varieties, changes in cropping pattern, (ii) Diversification of agriculture (cultivation of high value crops, non-crop farming activities, integration of crop-livestock) and engagement in non-farm activities, (iii) Migration (seasonal and temporary) for increased employment and earning, (iv) Access to markets through better connectivity and road infrastructure and (v) Social safety net programs such as employment guarantee schemes and subsidized foodgrain distribution.

These pathways also helped farming households cope with droughts and to escape poverty. One of the VDSA villages – Dokur in Telangana, India – experienced persistent drought over a decade. Despite the adversity many households were able to escape the poverty trap by adopting a combination of the above mentioned pathways.

A surprising finding was a rise in reverse tenancy. Contrary to the widely-held belief that ‘tenants’ are small farmers or landless laborers being exploited by landlords with large holdings, the study revealed that large farmers leased in, while landless (owning land up to 0.5 ha) and small farmers leased out their land. This was observed in all villages of Telangana and Maharashtra except one (Kinkhed in Akola district of Maharashtra). Production risks played critical role in tenancy among rural households in the study villages. Reduction of production risks by promoting risk reducing technologies (drought-resistant varieties, supplementary irrigation) and availability of critical inputs (for example, bullock for intercultural operations) helped reduce reverse tenancy.

Pilot testing of Computer Assisted Personal Interview tool for village surveys.
Students involved in VDSA surveys bring new insights.

VDSA data revealed that social safety nets like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has provided a credible wage floor, pushing up wages at the lower end and thus contributing to poverty alleviation of the poorer sections represented by unskilled farm workers. However, the study found no impact on the gender wage gap for farm work.

Although rainfall insurance started in 2007, VDSA reveals that it failed to benefit the farmer. Underlying reasons are:  (i) important crops grown by farmers are not included in the scheme, (iii) compensation (<50% of loss) is not very attractive to the farmers, (iv) computing methodologies for payouts are not transparent, (v) price and liquidity constraints among poor farmers, and (vi) lack of trust between farmers and insurance provider.

The long-term panel data collected from Maharashtra and Telangana villages from 1975 clearly points to a progressive feminization of agriculture in the rural areas, although the extent varies across regions.

The VDSA insights also give rise to a number of policy implications some of which are:

  • Develop drought tolerant technologies and cultivars which will provide higher profit.
  • Support integration of crop-livestock farming.
  • Per capita income of farm households can be increased through development and promotion of high yielding (modern) varieties, supporting accumulation of farm equipment and livestock resources by the households, supporting education in villages, building better infrastructure and road networks in villages, building a strong and inclusive financial infrastructure to provide necessary credit support to the smallholder farmers.
  • Food-based approaches addressing malnutrition are most likely to be helpful because they target multiple micronutrient deficiencies simultaneously.

Instead of merely focusing on cereals, policies should address the changing consumption and production basket.

The VDSA project ran from May 2009 to September 2015. Data and village insights generated through the project have been incorporated in important policy documents including the World Bank India Country Report 2014 and Fifth Five Year Plan of Bangladesh. All datasets are available under the VDSA Knowledge Bank at: http://vdsakb.icrisat.in and http://vdsa.icrisat.in

For an overview of the 40 years of work under the VDSA efforts see (Timeline flyer)


Project: Tracking Change of Rural Poverty in Household and Village Economies in South Asia (popularly known as VDSA)

Investor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Partners: University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, Karnataka; Junagadh Agricultural University, Junagadh, Gujarat; Dr Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola, Maharashtra; Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh; Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, Hyderabad, Telangana; Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University, Hyderabad, Telangana; Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad, Gujarat; Indian Council of Agricultural Research – Research Complex for Eastern Region (ICAR-RCER), Patna, Bihar; Indian Council of Agricultural Research – Indian Institute of Water
Management (ICAR-IIWM), Bhubaneswar, Odisha; Indian Council of Agricultural Research – National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, Bangladesh, SocioConsult Ltd, Dhaka.

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Training program for NABARD’s Producer Organization Promoting Institutions

(L to R) Dr Carberry with NABARD officials Mr Satyanarayana, Ms Toolika Pankaj, General Manager and Ms Priyanka Saini, Manager. photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

To create a strong cadre of well-informed Producer Organization Promoting Institutions (POPI) staff, a training program was conducted recently.

The program aimed at training trainers so that POPI staff and managers can effectively promote Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs); generate additional income and employment; strengthen management of FPOs and create better channels of communication between themselves and the Board of Directors and between FPOs and their members.

As part of the training, participants visited Mulukanoor Cooperative Rural Bank & Marketing Society Limited in Karimnagar District. They visited the business centers of the bank, seed processing unit, cotton and paddy processing unit and warehouse.

The training is part of ICRISAT’s commitment to act as a state-level Resource Support Agency to train and strengthen the capacities of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development’s (NABARD) POPIs in Telangana, India.

The training was inaugurated by Mr VVV Satyanarayana, Chief General Manager, NABARD Telangana. Mr AR Khan, Deputy General Manager, Business Initiatives Department (BID), NABARD Head Office, touched upon various aspects of FPOs promotion – background of the program, experiences across the country, appropriate legal form, institutional design, need to translate agriculture into viable business and governance. Mr US Shevde, Deputy General Manager BID, NABARD Telangana, spoke on the challenge of shifting the orientation from watershed to FPO. Mr Madhu Murthy, Consultant, made a presentation on key issues that emerged out of the five-day discussions.

The five-day training, held from 26-30 October at ICRISAT headquarters, had 30 participants. The Agri-Business Incubator Program of ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform is involved in the capacity building.

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Journalists speak out how to communicate better

Communicating agricultural research information to farmers as well as policy makers is a major challenge. Print and electronic media can help bridge this gap between scientists and their target audience. During a recent visit of a group of journalists from the north-eastern state of Tripura Mr Showkat Nabi Rather, Media Liaison Officer, spoke to them about the challenges of communicating science stories.

"We see that there is a gap between what the agricultural officers say and what farmers do in the field and we are unable to reconcile the two. There remains a communication gap between the two. Only when this communication gap is bridged then the efforts will bear fruit. Reducing this communication gap is the most important task and this can be done through panchayat, spreading the message though all people, and sensitizing school children."

Ms Nandita Datta
Anchor/Announcer Doordarshan,
All India Radio, Agartala

"Scientists should provide as much information as possible to farmers; providing enough knowledge on better agricultural practices will enable farmers to produce more. While dealing with scientific community in northeast states, I find it challenging to interact as they are not trained well to communicate science."

Mr Arindam Dev
Photo Journalist,
Agence France-Presse (AFP)

"There is a communication gap or mismatch of mindset between agricultural experts and journalists. Due to this gap, farmers are not informed well and there are many good initiatives taken by Government, which farmers are not aware of. Scientists should be encouraged to provide more knowledge to journalists, communicate the ground reality and not just the impact and numbers. The other side of the story must be also communicated."

Mr Jaydip Chakrabarthi
Press Information Bureau (PIB) and Freelance Journalist

The visit was coordinated by the Press and Information Bureau, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.

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New publications

Crop Improvement, Adoption, and Impact of Improved Varieties in Food Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa

Edited by: Thomas S Walker and Jeffrey Alwang

Published: 2015. CGIAR and Centre for Biosciences and Agriculture International.

Abstract: Crop Improvement, Adoption, and Impact of Improved Varieties in Food Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa provides the most comprehensive, accurate and informative view of the spread of improved crop Varieties in Sub-Saharan Africa that has ever been produced. The coverage and quality of the data go well beyond anything available until now, and the attention given to verifying and improving data collection methods sets a new standard in establishing the credibility of diffusion estimates. The studies in the book demonstrate that access to better seeds should remain a core concern for farmers, donors and governments. The book’s nuanced analysis also clearly illustrates the complexity of the story.

Chapters by ICRISAT scientists:

Chapter 7: Assessing the Effectiveness of Agricultural R&D for Groundnut, Pearl Millet, Pigeonpea and Sorghum in West and Central Africa and East and Southern Africa

Authors: Ndjeunga J, Mausch K and Simtowe F

Chapter 14: Analysing Scientific Strength and Varietal Generation, Adoption and Turnover in Peninsular India: The Case of Sorghum, Pearl Millet, Chickpea, Pigeonpea and Groundnut

Authors: Kumara Charyulu D, Bantilan MCS, Raja Laxmi A and Shyam Moses D

Chapter 18: Varietal Generation and Output

Authors: Walker TS, Alene A, Ndjuenga J, Labarta R, Yigezu Y, Diagne A, Andrade R, Muthoni Andriatsitohaina R, De Groote H, Mausch K, Yirga C, Simtowe F, Katungi E, Jogo W, Jaleta M, Pandey S and Kumara Charyulu D

Chapter 19: Varietal Adoption, Outcomes and Impact

Authors: Walker TS, Alwang J, Alene A, Ndjuenga J, Labarta R, Yigezu Y, Diagne A, Andrade R, Muthoni Andriatsitohaina R, De Groote H, Mausch K, Yirga C, Simtowe F, Katungi E, Jogo W, Jaleta M, Pandey S and Kumara Charyulu D


Truncated Access to Institutional Agricultural Credit as a Major Constraint for Rural Transformation: Insights from Longitudinal Village Studies

Authors: Kumar R, Surjit V, Bantilan C and Lagesh M A and Yadav US

Published: 2015. Agricultural Economics Research Review, 28. pp. 137-150. 

Abstract: The study has examined the trend of formal credit growth and its influence on rural transformation in terms of accelerating growth in household income levels. It has also identified the factors influencing the access to formal agricultural credit in the study regions, viz. eastern and semi-arid tropics (SAT) of India. The longitudinal household level data of about 1200 households in three states each in these two regions have been analysed for the period 2010 to 2013. The study has observed that the poor access to formal credit has compelled these households to take loan from informal sources who sometimes charge interest @ 60 to 120 per cent per annum, threatening the livelihoods of these smallholders and poor households. During the study period 2010–2013, no change in situation was visible in these villages and the access to formal sources of agricultural credit seems to remain truncated. The main reasons for this disturbing trend is the lack of institutional framework to provide cheap and subsidized credit to these marginal and landless households, who take land on lease for cultivation. The study has highlighted the need of building a strong and inclusive financial infrastructure to provide necessary credit support to the smallholder farmers in the eastern and SAT regions for bringing a rapid rural transformation.


Characterization of ICRISAT-bred Pearl Millet Restorer Parents

Authors: Gupta SK, Rai KN, Atkari DG and Ghouse SKC

Published: 2015.ICRISAT, Patancheru, Telangana, India.

Abstract: Pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L) R. Br.], primarily grown for grain production on more than 26 m ha in the arid and semi-arid tropical (SAT) regions of Asia and Africa, is a highly nutritious cereal crop with wide agroecological adaptation. India, the largest producer of this crop at the global level, cultivates pearl millet on about >9 million ha contributing to more than 90% area of the crop in the Asian region. It is a highly cross pollinated crop, and single-cross hybrids generally give 20-30% more yield than open pollinated varieties (Rai et al. 2006). With the availability of commercially exploitable cytoplasmic-nuclear male sterility (CMS) systems in pearl millet, the national agricultural research system (NARS) and the private seed sector in India focused their breeding programs on hybrid development. This led to the development and adoption of a diverse range and large number of hybrids (> 80 in 2011) and now occupying > 4.5 m ha area, which is about half the total pearl millet area being cultivated in India (Rai et al. 2006).


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Reader’s comment

I must appreciate the initiative to plant Shankhpushpi and Jeevanti as intercrops and also involving Dabur for buyback arrangement . In the times of scarcity of medicinal herbs like Jeevanti , this conscious effort has not only boosted the income of womenfolks of the drylands in Rajasthan; but also has created an example of providing accurate species to the Ayurvedic manufacturers. A couple of years ago we had selected Shankhapushpi for our trial medicine from Rajasthan area because it was of best quality. Selection of locally available medicinal species is one more remarkable aspect of this initiative, which can be copied in other agro-climatic zones in India. Intercropping of medicinal plants would be a new model of value addition for farmers and women farmers in particular.

Dr Asmita Wele
Dean, Faculty of Ayurveda
Head, Department of Ayurveda Pharmacology
Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, Pune

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