Generating interest to boost South-South cooperation in agriculture
The African Development Bank Group held its 52nd Annual Meetings this year at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India from 22-26 May. Over 3500 top business leaders, government officials, NGO representatives, academics and civil society members attended the high-profile event. High-level meetings were focused on the central theme of “Transforming Agriculture for Wealth Creation in Africa.” Apart from these, there were several symposia, seminars and expositions held on the sidelines, one of which was ‘India and Africa: Partners in Growth. An Exposition on Opportunities and Collaborations’ .
ICRISAT’s stall at the exposition drew a lot of visitors from different backgrounds and interests. From farmers to researchers, politicians to entrepreneurs, and government employees to business owners; they all came with questions, comments and suggestions.
Expectedly, we had some African citizens visiting our stall to know how to set up agribusinesses in their home countries; they wanted guidance and inputs from ICRISAT, including seeds, technology, handholding of farmers, financial assistance in setting up businesses and market development. However, it was interesting to see that there were several Indian citizens who had business interests in many countries across Africa. While some wanted to invest in quinoa, some were fascinated with commercial drumstick farming, and yet some others just wanted to market their agricultural products in Africa!
An erstwhile farmer from Punjab, who now works as a tractor marketer, shared an interesting story about his struggles related to farming. Traditionally, his family had been growing rice and wheat in their fields for decades. Nevertheless, encouraged by recent inputs from the government about the benefits of diversifying into other crops such as pulses and groundnut, he started sowing pigeonpea. However, his was the only field with pigeonpea when others all around were growing rice or wheat. Therefore, birds and other pests which fed on pigeonpea concentrated on his ready crop and wreaked havoc on it. The farmer’s take was that when one (or just a few farmers) sow a different crop, pests concentrate on their farms rather than on the others growing similar crops.
A young Deputy Regional Economic Counselor from the Government of France stopped by to talk (in his charming accent) about partnership opportunities in value chain development. He said they were focusing attention on the cold storage sector.
Another gentleman, a soft-spoken but articulate salesperson, came over and patiently heard about what ICRISAT does. Describing his company’s profile, he went on to explain how they manufacture farm machinery and could customize the implements to suit users’ needs.
What also drew the attention of visitors at the stall and is an indicator of the growing trend to eat smart, were the food products – muffins, cookies, savories made from ICRISAT’s mandate crops – prepared by the institute’s Food Services unit. The muffins offered for tasting were greatly appreciated. There were repeated queries whether the products were for sale, and if yes, where they could buy them from. Many were eager to know the recipes so that they could try them out at home. This generated a lot of interest in millets and sorghum, the demand pull that is a good sign for farmers producing them. People were also curious about the local names of proso millet, kodo millet and other grains; some of them ventured to try naming them and in the process, taught us something!
ICRISAT received several invitations to attend conferences and agri-fairs in India and abroad.
All in all, the Expo was a great opportunity for ICRISAT to increase its visibility and showcase its technologies and its work in the field of agricultural research in the dryland tropics.
About the author:
Rajani Kumar, Communication Officer, Strategic Marketing & Communication, ICRISAT.