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09
Aug

Climate-smart crops for Myanmar’s dry regions

A research study in Myanmar seeks to identify crops with the lowest risk options for intensifying dryland cropping systems. Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one country where vast tracts of rice fields span as far as the eyes can see. The abundance of natural resources and low labor costs favor the agriculture sector, which contributes 45% of the country’s gross domestic product. It comes as no surprise then that this sector is the primary livelihood source to 70% of the country’s population. However, Myanmar’s agriculture depends highly on monsoon rains. The country’s Central Dry Zone (CDZ) area, which makes up about 13% of the total land area, and contributes 20% and 54% to the country’s total rice and pulse production, respectively, receives...
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08
Aug

Reverse engineering innovation for impact

I recently spent a week talking to scientists at ICRISAT about innovation and how ICRISAT and the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organization (CSIRO) could form an alliance to understand how we can get better at it. I saw a number of clusters of work where ICRISAT is doing something different and distinctive and achieving tangible impacts. Surely it is possible to reverse engineer these experiences, extract lessons on how these processes have succeeded and use them to perfect the innovation and impact thing that we are all talking about? But first let me share some of my worries about the global obsession with innovation. Has innovation become the new participation, a normative tyranny where the journey has become more...
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20
Jun

Identifying climate-smart sorghum lines for Mali

I am a PhD student from the Universite des Sciences, des Techniques et des Technologies de Bamako, Mali, working on the integration of crop modelling and crop screening methods to better identify drought-tolerant traits in Malian sorghum genotypes. This will help crop improvement programs develop progenies with highest value in terms of productivity and yield stability in the face of dwindling resources, especially water. To do so, different but complementary objectives were set. As a first step, a crop simulation modelling approach is being used to characterize the sorghum production environment in Mali to identify the major types of stress patterns and the frequency of their occurrence, experienced by two representative genotypes (CSM335 and CSM63E). The model is being allowed...
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20
Jun

On gender and plant breeding

This blog post is one of several in which we aim to tell the story of how plant breeding research and variety development makes a difference to the lives of the rural poor, especially women.  Whilst a majority of the world’s smallholder farmers are women, gender norms often prevent them from being recognized for both their role in and contributions to agriculture. In simple terms, what this means is that women farmers tend to have less rights than men, and thus lack equitable access to resources such as seeds of new varieties, productive land, markets, or even information and networks for agricultural innovation systems. Plant breeding involves many areas of science and technology development, from genetics and bio-informatics to seed...
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06
Jun

Our crops and croplands feed livestock

Can Africa’s growing demand for red meat be met by better utilizing cropland resources and the available feed/forage technologies produced in the mixed crop-livestock systems of the dry Semi-Arid Tropics? The answer came to me when I recently undertook an extended trip in southern Africa  where I visited farmer and National Agricultural Research Systems or NARS collaborators of ICRISAT scientists Martin Moyo in Zimbabwe and  Sabine Homann-Kee Tui in Mozambique. In Jambezi district, Zimbabwe, we were hosted by Chief Shana and farmers, Augustine Sibanda and Phillip Tshuma, in the dry Natural Region V. Here farmers were provided with climate forecasts and sorghum and pearl millet varieties, crops that they had grown in the  past before converting to maize. Chief Shana...
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06
Jun

Small farmers don’t give up on Pendo groundnut in Tanzania

Annual groundnut production in Tanzania doubled from 340,770 tons in 2008 to 810,000 tons in 2012, and smallholder farmers as part of the Tropical Legumes II project largely contributed to this growth. Smallholder farmers hold the key to agriculture all over the world, and it is no different in Tanzania. Here, the Jipe Moyo group (which means ‘don’t give up’) formed in 2011 as a savings and loans group, has discovered the benefits of cultivating groundnut variety Pendo. The group started out with 30 members (13 men and 17 women) and a capital of Tshs 150,000 (US$ 68.19) [(each member contributed Tshs 5000 (US$ 2.27)].  Registering themselves as a savings and loans group, they opened a bank account that qualified...
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26
Apr

Sinking your teeth into sorghum rotis

Evaluating organoleptic qualities of varieties Crop value is determined not just by grain produced per hectare but also by its nutritional content. Improving the nutrient density of staple crops can play a role in stamping out malnourishment that endangers the health and development of subsistent farming communities, especially among women and children in the semi-arid tropics. Recently, the SACSA (System analysis for climate smart agriculture, ICRISAT) team in collaboration with the NutriPlus Knowledge Program (NPK) of AIP-ICRISAT, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and WorldFish established a new research stream dedicated to investigating GxExM (Genotype X Environment X Management) interactions with sorghum grain and stover nutritional profiles. Trials so far reveal that the nutrient profiles of sorghum grains are significantly influenced...
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26
Apr

‘YOU’th are the future of agricultural development

Recently, I had an opportunity to join over 500 delegates at the Third Global Conference of Agricultural Research and Development (GCARD3) in Johannesburg, South Africa.  I was one of 75 youth delegates and social reporters, who had come together from different corners of the world to learn social media tools and join deliberations with researchers on the future of agricultural development. I was part of the six-day social media bootcamp, which included three days of intense 12 hours/day classroom training and three days of live reporting from the global event. It was a great opportunity to learn new social media tools, the art of telling stories through the social media and exchange ideas with delegates from diverse backgrounds – researchers, farmers,...
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26
Apr

What do we mean by ‘women’s crops’?

“Women’s crops” is a familiar feature in writing about smallholder agriculture in Africa south of the Sahara. Although not always easy to define, they generally refer to crops grown by women for home consumption rather than for sale. The growth of domestic and regional markets has opened new opportunities for commercializing these crops. This is good news for women – unless men muscle in and take control of the income, leaving women to do the work. This was the widely reported experience when the commercialization of rice occurred in the Gambia. We wanted to revisit this issue of gender and commercialization. What happens to women’s control when these crops find a market?  The ‘Women’s Crop’ Tool We developed a ‘women’s...
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26
Apr

STARS-One heralds the überization of world agriculture

This post is from the blog maintained by The STARS project In October 2015, the mayor of Sukumba (Koningue commune, Mali) awarded 50 certificates to farmers who led collaborative fertility trials with ICRISAT[1], AMEDD[2], IER[3], MANOBI[4], UCL[5], UdS[6], WUR[7], and other STARS[8] partners. These awards were no ordinary certificates: alongside the usual recipient name and official seal, they featured the boxplot outcome of fertilizer application on crop yield and biomass, AND a map of the crop response as seen from satellite – right inside their individual field. This restitution event, organized on Sukumba’s main square, led to several ‘aha!’ moments when breakout groups associating farmers, extensionists and scientists connected particular crop responses to the actual management decisions made by individual...
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