June
Issue No: 1760
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Feature stories


Two Non-Profits Bring Smart Food Meals to Schools

With scientific design and tracking of the benefits

A new pilot project is enhancing children’s nutrition and food security in India by bringing Smart Foods to schools through the Akshaya Patra Foundation (APF)—the world’s largest meal provider to the underprivileged, serving 1.7 million free mid-day meals to schoolchildren throughout India each day. While many organizations are introducing healthier school meals, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and APF are employing a detailed scientific approach with their millet-based mid-day meal program. The partners are designing recipes that are easy to cook and that children will enjoy, while maximizing nutrient absorption, measuring health benefits, and more.

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Smart Foods like millets, sorghum, and legumes are being used to target specific nutrient needs of malnourished children. While ICRISAT is leading this analysis, the pilot is also being made possible with support from the State Government of Karnataka and advice from the National Institute of Nutrition. This partnership program comes at a time when food insecuritymalnutrition, obesity, diabetes, and iron deficiency anemia are high in India, impeding good health and livelihoods. According to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 50 percent of adolescent girls in India were anemic. To combat this problem, ICRISAT promotes traditional, micronutrient-dense grains, like millet, which can introduce significantly more iron, zinc, calcium, fiber, and protein into Indian diets.

Photo courtesy of Liam Wright, ICRISAT.

Photo courtesy of Liam Wright, ICRISAT.

The new mid-day meal program will start by serving Smart Food-based meals each school day to 800 schoolchildren in two schools in peri-urban areas, targeting children 11-14 years old—ages of significant cognitive and physical development with high iron requirements, especially for girls.

In a nearby village of Kagalipura, Bhagya Lakshmi complains that her daughter, Shivani, has skipped mid-day meals at school in the past. She hopes that this program will change that.

“Shivani prefers chapati (wheat bread) or dosa (rice pancake), so I pack her lunch every day; I don’t want my child to remain hungry. My sister has been recommending navane(foxtail millet), but I simply don’t know what to do with it. I really hope Shivani likes the taste of millets, and I will stop packing her lunch box!”

Bhagya Lakshmi and her 11-year-old daughter, Shivani. Photo courtesy of Liam Wright, ICRISAT.

Bhagya Lakshmi and her 11-year-old daughter, Shivani. Photo courtesy of Liam Wright, ICRISAT.

ICRISAT’s Smart Food nutritionist and senior scientist, Dr. S. Anitha, told Food Tank that the meals provided to students must meet specific nutrition criteria and provide balanced and easily absorbed sources of micronutrients, including calcium, iron, and zinc. Before serving meals in the lunchroom, the team had them tested in a lab to confirm their nutritional value. As part of the program, ICRISAT will also teach school staff to use cooking methods that will preserve meal nutrients.

To promote the program’s long-term viability, Dr. Anitha says that each meal will be cost-effective and sustainable on a low budget, while also palatable for schoolchildren. Currently, the program aims to serve millet-based sweet and khara pongal (traditionally, a south Indian breakfast dish with rice & lentils), as well as upma (a customizable porridge) and bisi bele bath meals (traditional hot lentil and rice dishes in Karnataka). The mid-day meal program will also evaluate the availability, seasonality, and local varieties of Smart Foods and other meal ingredients in the regions around the schools to effectively utilize local resources. Dr. Anitha explains that ICRISAT will also assess options for “storage, purchasing in different locations, pre-prepared mixes,” and other techniques to maintain efficient meal service.

The final measure for this program is scalability, says Dr. S. Anitha; ICRISAT and APF will review “the ability to take the mid-day meal program across all of India, to other organizations, to other beneficiary groups, and other countries.” The partners will monitor the equipment and time needed for future schools to prepare the meals. ICRISAT is confident that this program can serve as a roadmap for other schools, providing a successful, sustainable, and scalable model to improve child health and school meals with Smart Food nutrition.


Empowered women and an enriched community – the groundnut story of northern Nigeria

Mrs Hadja Talatu Idrissa of Bunkure, near Kano, Nigeria, is the leader of a 25-women group in groundnut production and processing. They began to get involved with the Tropical Legumes III (TL III) project four years ago with a small seed pack of 5 kg each in their community farmland. From the harvest of this crop, they planted in a bigger farm plot the following year.

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From 1 hectare we harvested 25 bags of the improved variety SAMNUT 24, against 13 bags of the local variety harvested on the same plot,” says Mrs. Idrissa. After the harvest season, the group earned its first revenue from the haulms of the improved variety SAMNUT 24. “We sold the haulms of the improved variety for up to 30,000 Naira, against 12,000 Naira of the local variety,” explains Mrs. Idrissa. “The improved variety yields more haulms and is most appreciated for animal feeding for its better taste and digestibility.

In 2017, the Bunkure women’s group produced about 3.5 tons of groundnut. As grain was used primarily for family consumption, the group sold groundnut haulms and used the money to start dry season groundnut production in 2018. “We don’t sell our grain produce. We keep it and process part of it into oil and many sub-products, which we sell. Out of the money made from the sale of processed products, individual members contribute 200 Naira each on a weekly basis in a savings box. The weekly savings of about 5,000 Naira is kept in the group bank account.”

From the interest earned on these savings, the group conducted many activities to help the community as a whole, including restoring the community health center and primary school. “We used part of our savings to clean up the community health center as well as to pay for basic products to sustain its regular functioning. Now the hospital is cleaner and offers a healthier working environment to its staff and patients. Earlier, people avoided visiting the hospital when they were sick, because the hospital was in such a bad condition. Nurses refused to stay overnight,” describes Mrs Idrissa. “Now that we have cleaned up the premises, they are no longer afraid to stay long hours in the hospital. In fact, the health center now offers 24-hour service and nurses are ready to attend to patients at any time of the day or night.”

Mrs Idrissa showing the legal document of the creation of the Bunkure women's group in 2008 and a recognition of the Governor of Kano State for their contribution to the development of the community. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

Mrs Idrissa showing the legal document of the creation of the Bunkure women’s group in 2008 and a recognition of the Governor of Kano State for their contribution to the development of the
community. Photo: A Diama, ICRISAT

To offer a full package, the women’s group contributed to repairing the beds in the hospital; this offered a more convenient place for patients, including for pregnant women. Apart from this, the group also contributed to restoring doors and windows of the community’s primary school.

According to Mrs Idrissa, the group has contributed to increasing and improving the education of children within the community of Bunkure. “Earlier, most of our children stopped schooling at primary level. Now, we have children going to universities in capital cities,” she says proudly. At a more personal level, Mrs Idrissa was able to attend the Hadj in Mecca in Saudi Arabia and is proud to see how much progress the women’s group has made from groundnut production and processing, and groundnut haulms. “I have a lawyer, a doctor and even an agricultural extension worker,” she says.

In a country where women’s access to land is still a major issue, Hadja Talatu Idrissa and many other members of the Bunkure women’s group are now the happy owners of their own farmland and of many bulls.

Happiness has different meanings to different people; Mrs Idrissa and the Bunkure women’s group seem to have reached their own goal of accomplishment. The Tropical Legumes project has put a smile on their faces which they gratefully translated into their community in many ways. The group was recognized in 2015 by the State Governor for their substantial contribution to the development of the entire community.

Click here to know more about ICRISAT’s work in Nigeria.

Read about ICRISAT’s work on groundnut here.

Project: Tropical Legumes III

Funders: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
2-zero-hunger 9-reduced-inequalities 17-partnerships-goals 


Giving women their due: Case studies highlight importance of gender inclusiveness in breeding programs

While most crop and animal breeders realize the importance of considering gender differences in breeding programs, they lack actionable evidence and practical tools to help make their programs more gender-responsive. The CGIAR Gender and Breeding Initiative (GBI) recently published The Working Paper 3 State of the Knowledge for Gender in Breeding, a collection of case studies from across sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and China to help breeders develop a conceptual framework for gender analysis.

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Ten case studies, highlighting the importance of giving weightage to women’s priorities in devising breeding plans for acceptable traits in crops/animals, were chosen from two CGIAR-conducted workshops in 2016 and 2017. These case studies illustrate that considering women’s needs, and partnering with them for implementation of programs can positively influence the success rate of the programs.

Dr Stephania Grando, Chair, Workshop Organizing Committee, and Honorary Fellow, ICRISAT, who co-authored and edited the paper, says, “Without convincing evidence – exemplified by case studies across commodities and countries – our arguments for gender-responsive research fall on deaf ears.”

The compelling cases not only demonstrate that men and women have different trait preferences, access to resources or opportunities, they also explain how breeding programs could address these issues.

In an agricultural science setup, successful and widespread adoption of new crop varieties by smallholder farmers depends on the benefits they provide to the men and women engaged in production, processing, marketing and consumption of the produce. Very often, the priorities of women with respect to the beneficial traits of a particular variety are very different from those of men.

For example, in Mali, when women were involved in post-harvest culinary tests and grain-quality evaluation of sorghum varieties, the results were surprising. As opposed to strictly agronomic qualities such as yield or grain size, the women rated traits such as grain color, loss during decortication, water absorption capacity, time taken to cook, etc. as high. “It became clear that farmers cannot adopt a variety that may have 10–20% more grain if its decortication losses are 10–20% more than those from the local variety,” noted the study. Factors such as storage losses, ‘flour-to-grit’ ratios, etc. also were seen to play a role in the popularity of a variety.

There are similar lessons to be learned from the other case studies involving different commodities, locations and projects. The authors of the paper hope that “Taking into account gender dynamics and sex-disaggregated preferences will make it more likely that farmers will adopt new varieties and breeds that will help strengthen food and nutrition security.”

The GBI is coordinated by the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) and the International Potato Center, with funding support from CGIAR fund donors.

For more information on ICRISAT’s work on gender, click here.


(L–R): Dr Kiran Sharma, Deputy Director General-Research (Acting), ICRISAT; Dr Peter Carberry, Director General (Acting), ICRISAT; Mr NH Shivashankara Reddy, Minister of Agriculture, GoK; and Mr M Maheshwar Rao, Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoK. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

(L–R): Dr Kiran Sharma, Deputy Director General-Research (Acting), ICRISAT; Dr Peter Carberry, Director General (Acting), ICRISAT; Mr NH Shivashankara Reddy, Minister of Agriculture, GoK; and Mr M Maheshwar Rao, Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoK. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Ten years and counting: Karnataka state reinforces ties with ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s long-standing collaboration with the government of Karnataka State, India, has enabled millions of farmers in the state to increase their incomes and improve their lives. Over a decade into this association, the two partners are looking to strengthen this partnership to reach more marginalized smallholder farmers.

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Recalling the success of projects Bhoochetana, Bhoosamruddhi and Sujala, in which ICRISAT’s expertise has proved invaluable, Mr NH Shivashankara Reddy, Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka (GoK), said, “The past ten years have been very constructive towards agricultural development in Karnataka with ICRISAT’s help. We want to continue this beneficial association to combat challenges that many farmers
still face.”

Dr Peter Carberry, Director General (Acting), ICRISAT, cited the work in Karnataka as a perfect example of synergy, from upstream science to delivery of its benefits on the ground. “Based on the success of this, other states are also reaching out to us for similar support,” he said.

Mr M Maheshwar Rao, Principal Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoK, emphasized on digital technology in agriculture. “Geospatial technology and satellite imagery, for instance, could be very helpful in drought monitoring, pest/disease surveillance, climate prediction, and more,” he said.

Areas discussed for possible future collaborations included release and distribution of improved crop varieties (especially groundnut); post-harvest processing and marketing knowledge transfer; simple IT-based applications for farmers; and evaluation of the state agricultural institutions.

Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, ICRISAT Development Center, who has been working closely with the Agriculture Department in Karnataka, mentioned the importance of documentation and accurate impact assessment studies in large projects. “Among other things, one of the biggest contributions of ICRISAT has been agricultural productivity enhancement. We need to now move forward with better strategies for continued assistance to Karnataka farmers,” he said.

Following this visit, new proposals would be considered to strengthen and reinforce the partnership.

(L-R) Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, ICRISAT Development Center with Mr NH Shivashankara Reddy and other officials at ICRISAT, Hyderabad. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

(L-R) Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, ICRISAT Development Center with Mr NH Shivashankara Reddy and other officials at ICRISAT, Hyderabad. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT


At a time when weather variabilities have become quite common, government interventions to assuage the farmers from price-volatility, apart from climate-risks, have to be at the forefront of policy agenda.

At a time when weather variabilities have become quite common, government interventions to assuage the farmers from price-volatility, apart from climate-risks, have to be at the forefront of policy agenda.

Seeding agricultural growth: Optimal support goes beyond MSP

Reforms on agri-marketing, contract farming, and land leasing apart from an aggressive export policy are what driving agri-growth requires.

In the general Budget this year, the Centre had announced that Minimum Support Prices (MSP) will be fixed to give a profit margin of 50% over the “cost of production” in major kharif crops. With the onset of the southwest monsoon and the sowing of kharif crops having already begun, the Cabinet approval for hiking the MSP for 14 kharif crops could not have been delayed further. In line with the Budget announcement, the increase in the support prices is a welcome move. With the forecast of a good monsoon this year, this could substantially help in raising the incomes of farmers across the country.

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As per the Cabinet decision, the MSP for common grade paddy has been raised by Rs 200 from the existing Rs 1,550 a quintal, which is a 13% hike over that of last year. Similarly, the hike in the case of coarse cereals (consisting of millets, now referred to as nutri-cereals after the April 2018 notification of the Government of India) as well as for cotton has been very significant. In case of finger millet (ragi), jowar (sorghum) and bajra (pearl millet), the increase in MSP is 52.5%, 42% and 37% over last year’s prices of Rs 1,900, Rs 1,725 and Rs 1,425, respectively. With the Centre aiming for the ‘nutritional security’ of citizens, this is indeed a very significant step, more so given it comes in 2018 that has already been declared as the national year of millets. With increasing preference for nutritious food crops from consumers, mostly from urban areas, cultivation of climate-resilient nutri-cereal crops may get a push in the coming years. Among the pulses, moong has seen a quantum jump in its MSP, increasing by Rs1,400 from last year’s price of Rs 5,575 per quintal. The increase in tur (arhar or pigeon pea) and urad MSP has been of Rs 225 and Rs 200, respectively. The new MSP for medium- and long-staple cotton has been raised by Rs 1,130 (for both) from the existing Rs 4,020 and Rs 4,320 per quintal.

To make the MSP mechanism sustainable, and to truly address concerns of the farmers, we list here a few suggestions that may rejuvenate the agriculture sector in India:

  • Let it be placed on record that the price support mechanism for crops alone can’t raise the incomes of farmers. Other farm activities like horticulture, livestock, fisheries, pisciculture, apiary, and agro-forestry hold immense potential, apart from non-farm activities, to enhance the living standards of farmers. It is, therefore, imperative to bring massive investments (public, corporate and farmers) to create agri-infrastructure in the agri-food and allied sectors. Quality and critical infrastructure support for marketing, cold chains, warehousing, food-processing and other activities in the value chain will be in the interest of the entire farm sector. Investments in agricultural research, in tune with demand from farmers’ fields and markets, have to also go up substantially. Engaging the private sector through transparent mechanisms is also desirable.
  • Addressing structural issues in the form of reforms relating to APMC, contract farming and land leasing, will promote the agriculture sector and make it profitable. Besides the critical role of the Centre, the states have to be proactive in bringing changes to necessary legislations; agriculture being a state subject, it is all the more important for them to address these issues contextually.
  • An aggressive farm-export policy for several promising agri-commodities with a stable and consistent initiative will be in the interest of the sector. “Cautious import and proactive export” has often been suggested for the Indian farm sector that is often mired in political vicissitudes. The surplus of Indian agriculture must be integrated with markets elsewhere in the world to tap higher prices for agri-food commodities conforming to global standards.
  • Aggregating farmers through cluster/contract farming and farmers’/producers’ organisations or companies is the need of the hour to develop vertical integration and promote agri-entrepreneurship for increasing farmers’ incomes. Technology will play an immense role to develop inclusive, efficient and sustainable value-chains from farm gates to retail.
  • Climate change has added more uncertainties in the farm sector. Available technologies that reduce the risk of climate change need to be promoted beyond the traditional public extension services. Information and communication technologies must be integrated to the system for accelerated delivery of value-added weather advisories and international best practices must be adopted to cope up with climate change. Digital agriculture offers enormous promise, given the penetration of mobile telephony and other forms of ‘connectedness’ in rural areas.

At a time when weather variabilities have become quite common, government interventions to assuage the farmers from price-volatility, apart from climate-risks, have to be at the forefront of policy agenda. Ensuring remunerative prices for marketable farm produce is one of several pathways to achieve the ambitious doubling of farmers’ income (DFI) objective of the Centre by 2022. However, higher MSP alone cannot solve the myriad problems Indian farmers face today. Doable policy initiatives suggested above, coupled with an efficient procurement of the food grains and agri-commodities at declared support prices with the help of technology tools, can make Indian agriculture both profitable and sustainable.

About the authors:

Dr Arabinda Kumar Padhee
Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs
ICRISAT,
 

&
P K Joshi, Director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute


These women in Salima District, Malawi, boil groundnuts athome and carry their tubs to the Siyasiya roadside market. Photo: Swathi Sridharan

These women in Salima District, Malawi, boil groundnuts athome and carry their tubs to the Siyasiya roadside market. Photo: Swathi Sridharan

Who are those people we call farmers?

Agricultural interventions should match household aspirations

Just about six percent of rural households in Kenya, aspire for their children to become farmers. This is highlighted through a recent study that interviewed 624 rural households from Embu and Kitui in eastern Kenya.

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The study found however, that 65% households hoped to increase their farm incomes. Closely linked to a recently published theoretical paper on the importance of aspirations, this publication focuses on household aspirations to understand its link to the potential for technology adoption.

Rural households are diverse and it is essential to carefully differentiate them. When technologies are developed and released, it is important to recognize that not all rural households’ first priority is to increase farm productivity, but that the lived reality is complex. The choice of technologies depends on a household’s potential to invest and also on its long-term aspirations.

Keeping this diversity in mind, labelling all households engaged in some form of farm activity as ‘farmers’ may create a mismatch between demand and technology development.

Rural household diversity and aspirations

It is in this context, that considering non-farm aspirations of rural communities is very important. These aspirations may influence household perceptions of the relative value of agricultural innovations and also their adoption choices.

While only 6% of the households interviewed, hoped for a future in farming for their children, their contrasting personal aspirations and investment plans mostly involve expansion or intensification of farming. Even wealthier households might not have the long-term aspirations needed for investments in certain practices that provide delayed benefits e.g. soil fertility management.

There are also implications for changes in land use patterns currently characterized by high levels of land fragmentation and densely populated areas. If households increasingly step out of farming, would this reverse the trend and enable consolidation of land for the next generation, e.g., through people selling / renting out their land? Or is the cultural attachment to land too strong, hindering land consolidation leading to agricultural areas become even more fragmented into smaller plots, unable to produce excess food for sale to feed a burgeoning population? If the cultural attachment and safety net considerations dominate, then would more comprehensive government safety net programs overcome this and enable land consolidation?

How can research consider the future of smallholder farmers?

What are the implications for agricultural research, global development goals and food security of the nation and its poorest members with limited alternatives?

The approach of looking at agriculture as an engine for growth is not enough. With better understanding of complex rural livelihoods, agricultural research and development can improve the targeting of interventions towards the most appropriate households and support their needs more effectively.

The authors hope that the sector will more actively consider the implications of rural household diversity, especially their aspirations for research and interventions. They recommend listening more closely to the ‘farmers’ to offer solutions that meet their aspirations and realities.

Sadza, made out of maize meal, is a staple food in Zimbabwe Photo: Swathi Sridharan,

Sadza, made out of maize meal, is a staple food in Zimbabwe Photo: Swathi Sridharan,

Findings from this research have been published by Development in Practice, Who are those people we call farmers? Rural Kenyan aspirations and realities

The research was funded by the CGIAR Research Programs – Dryland Systems and Policies, Institutions and Markets, ICRISAT and the Netherlands Junior Professional Officer Programme.

About the authors

Simone Verkaart – Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) Manager for the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP). This research was conducted during her time as JPO with ICRISAT Nairobi.

Kai Mausch – Senior Economist at the Worldagroforestry Centre and previously Senior Scientist at ICRISAT Nairobi

Dave Harris – Honorary Fellow at ICRISAT, Senior Research Fellow at Bangor University, previously Senior Advisor to the Research Methods Group at the World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi

Media Release


(L-R) Smt Sunanda Shinde; Smt Ahilyabai Shinde; Dr Peter Carberry,Director General (Acting), ICRISAT; Sri Madan Rao Shinde; Prof AS Dhawan, Vice Chancellor, VNMKV; and Dr DP Waskar, Director of Research, VNMKV. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

(L-R) Smt Sunanda Shinde; Smt Ahilyabai Shinde; Dr Peter Carberry,Director General (Acting), ICRISAT; Sri Madan Rao Shinde; Prof AS Dhawan, Vice Chancellor, VNMKV; and Dr DP Waskar, Director of Research, VNMKV. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

India gets its first biofortified sorghum

Moving towards better nutrition with crop improvement

India’s first biofortified sorghum (jowar), with significantly higher iron and zinc than regular sorghum, was formally launched today. Developed by ICRISAT it was released for cultivation by Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth (VNMKV), Maharashtra. The improved variety ICSR 14001, released as ‘Parbhani Shakti’ by VNMKV, offers a cost-effective and sustainable solution to address micronutrient deficiency. An MoU was signed today between ICRISAT and VNMKV for large-scale seed production and dissemination.

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Speaking at the program to celebrate the launch, Prof A S Dhawan, Vice Chancellor, VNMKV, said, “We are glad to partner in this important initiative that offers a solution to a major concern like high anemia rates among women and children in India. Extensive studies on Parbhani Shakti were carried out on our research fields and we are happy to partner in efforts that will have a bigger impact.”

Dr Peter Carberry, Director General (Acting), ICRISAT, said, “Our belief statement emphasizes that all people have a right to nutritious food. Biofortification is an important approach we take as it is cost-effective and sustainable. It addresses hidden hunger with no additional cost to its regular consumers and often sorghum is the cheapest cereal available in the market.”

Talking of the many advantages of the new variety, Dr Ashok Kumar, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT, said, “Parbhani Shakti developed through several years of work through conventional breeding has an average grain Iron concentration of 45 ppm and Zinc 32 ppm. This is considerably higher than varieties that are currently being cultivated in India (Approx 30 ppm Iron and 20 ppm Zinc). Besides, it has higher protein (11.9%) and low phytate content (4.14 mg/100 g) compared to 10% protein and 7.0 mg/100 g phytate content in most sorghum cultivars. Low-phytate means increased bioavailability of nutrients. We are very happy that this kind of breakthrough has been achieved in India.”

This improved sorghum variety was developed by ICRISAT under the HarvestPlus sorghum biofortification project and was tested as PVK 1009 in Maharashtra state and in All India Co-ordinated Sorghum Improvement Project (AICSIP) Trials. It was released as a rainy season variety (Kharif) but it can be grown in post-rainy (Rabi) and summer seasons. The yield levels are higher (>5.0 t ha-1) in post-rainy and summer seasons with irrigation. When grown in summer season, it can tolerate higher temperatures (41°C) at flowering and seed setting but the flowering may be delayed (80 days).

Farmers Smt Sunanda Shinde and Ahilyabai Shinde from Manoli village, Manvat TQ, Parbhani Dist, who were part of the participatory field trials, said, “We got a higher yield of 10-15% and it also has the preferred market traits. This makes it an attractive option and we are happy we are among the first farmers to use it.”

Selected media coverage:

  1. Bringing traditional grains back in vogue: Biofortified sorghum debuts in India
  2. TOI: ICRISAT to release India’s first biofortified jowar with more iron, zinc
  3. https://www.nutraingredients-asia.com/Article/2018/07/24/Bio-fortification-Has-India-found-a-new-solution-to-help-tackle-its-double-burden-of-malnutrition

For more information, please contact:

Jayashree Balasubramanian at +91 9840050444 or B (dot) Jayashree (at) cgiar (dot) org

Workshops


Dr R Vijayalakshmi of KVK, Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu, making a point at a recent workshop on systems modeling. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Dr R Vijayalakshmi of KVK, Virudhunagar, Tamil Nadu, making a point at a recent workshop on systems modeling. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Bolstering NARS partners with systems modeling training

The use of systems modeling tools and decision support systems can be of great advantage to farmers by helping them plan their farming activities based on weather predictions. ICRISAT has been actively involved in building up the capacities of its NARS partners in this area. Workshops, hands-on training sessions, and information exchange programs conducted by ICRISAT’s Innovation Systems for the Drylands (ISD) team increase awareness and use of these technologies among extension agents and subsequently, the farmers.

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The ISD team, while developing, validating and piloting ‘whole-farm’ models, also aims to deploy the models in at least three different farming systems in the fragile semi-arid South India. This modeling technology is highly useful in evaluating climate-smart interventions and providing pathways to double farmers’ incomes. For this, extension agencies need to be trained to make efficient use of systems modelling tools and future decision support systems. With such training, they can then build farmers’ resilience to climate-related shocks.

The ISD team will be working with Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) of the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana over the next one year to parameterize the farming systems and develop possible scenarios for each of these locations for integrating appropriate interventions.

For more information on ICRISAT’s work in the area of climate-smart agriculture, click here.

Project: Integrating systems modelling tools enabling informed decisions for upscaling climate smart agriculture

Partners: Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI), Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs)

Funders: ICAR, CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)

CGIAR Research Program: GLDC

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
8-industry-innovation 13-climate-action 17-partnerships-goals 


Mr Maheshwar Rao, (in blue) Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka; along with Dr Sreenath Dixit (to his right), Head, ICRISAT Development Center, ICRISAT at the meeting in Bengaluru in June 2018. Photo: Dept of Agriculture, Karnataka.

Mr Maheshwar Rao, (in blue) Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka; along with Dr Sreenath Dixit (to his right), Head, ICRISAT Development Center, ICRISAT at the meeting in Bengaluru in June 2018. Photo: Dept of Agriculture, Karnataka.

Proposal for improved groundnut seed systems in Karnataka

The groundnut seed system in Karnataka is set to receive a boost with the Department of Agriculture, Government  of Karnataka, looking for an integrated, science-backed solution to encourage the use of improved groundnut seeds in the state. In a recent meeting, Mr M Maheshwar Rao, Principal Secretary, DoA, GoK, expressed interest in partnering with ICRISAT to develop viable, holistic seed systems for groundnut, so that agricultural value chain stakeholders, especially farmers, in the state can benefit. Noting the substantial positive impacts of the rural intervention projects – Sujala, Bhoochetana and Bhoosamruddhi – in increasing incomes and enhancing lives of millions of Karnataka farmers, he hoped that further collaboration with ICRISAT would yield significant impacts in the future too.

Photo feature


The visitors are all ears as they learn about low-cost soil and rainwater conservation and groundwater recharge systems. Photo: DS Prasad Rao, ICRISAT

The visitors are all ears as they learn about low-cost soil and rainwater conservation and groundwater recharge systems. Photo: DS Prasad Rao, ICRISAT

Australian farmers learn about demand-driven rural interventions

A group of 17 farmers from Australia visited ICRISAT and a few other sites on 9 July 2018 to better understand the science-led interventions that are changing the face of agriculture in the region. They also visited the Adarsha Watershed project in Kothapally and spent time interacting with the farmers and women’s self-help group members.

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The farmers there informed them how increased water availability had helped them achieve higher crop yields and diversify into high value crops like vegetables and flowers.

Benefits of watershed projects displayed via posters in Kothapally.

Benefits of watershed projects displayed via posters in Kothapally.

 
Benefits of watershed projects displayed via posters in Kothapally. Photo: DS Prasad Rao, ICRISAT

Benefits of watershed projects displayed via posters in Kothapally. Photo: DS Prasad Rao, ICRISAT

Visiting farmers listen to Ms Joana Kane-Potaka, Asst. Director General, talk about ICRISAT’s mission for smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Visiting farmers listen to Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Asst. Director General, talk about ICRISAT’s mission for smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Announcements


Dr Said N Silim

Dr Said N Silim

Former ICRISAT Regional Director is now a Senior Fellow

Dr Said N Silim, eminent crop physiologist and agricultural development specialist from Tanzania, has recently been appointed an ICRISAT Fellow.

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Dr Silim was with ICRISAT from 1990 to 2013, in various capacities – from Principal Scientist (Cereals and legumes), through Country Representative (Kenya), to Director, Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA).

He was deeply involved in the Pigeonpea Improvement Project in ESA, which was instrumental in substantially increasing the area of pigeonpea cultivation, productivity and popularity as a major export crop in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Dr Silim was part of the team that won two CGIAR King Baudouin Awards – in 1998 for pigeonpea improvement, and in 2002 for chickpea development. After leaving ICRISAT in 2013, Dr Silim was the Coordinator, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Regional Program at ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas).

Dr Silim is known for his resource mobilization, management and coordination skills that help projects to develop and deliver science-backed solutions to help smallholder farmers in the drylands of Africa.

Through ICRISAT’s honorary Fellowships, experienced scientists, in a mentoring role, share their valuable knowledge and skills with others at ICRISAT. The Fellowships, generally of one year’s duration, are awarded by the Director General.


Photo: University of Reading

Photo: University of Reading

Former DDG honoured

Professor John DH (Dyno) Keatinge MBE, former Deputy Director General-Research (DDG-R), ICRISAT, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science (DSc) on 4 July 2018 by the University of Reading, UK.

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Dr Keatinge worked as a Professor of Agricultural & Rural Systems and Management at the University of Reading between 1993 and 1999. He was DDG-R at ICRISAT from 21 Oct 2002 to 31 May 2008.

Currently the CEO of Tropical Agricultural Development Advisory Services, United Kingdom, Dr Keatinge has over 45 years of experience in agriculture, agronomy, horticulture and more. After leaving ICRISAT, Dr Keatinge worked at The World Vegetable Center as its Director General.

Dedicated to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), Dr Keatinge’s work has focused on reduction of malnutrition by way of promotion of nutritious crops and vegetables. The honorary DSc was awarded to him for his efforts in alleviating poverty and malnutrition around the world in various capacities. On this occasion, he said, “I was very honored and delighted to be recognized by the University of Reading, which has an outstanding international agricultural research pedigree. It was most gratifying to see the continued success and positive contributions made to agriculture worldwide by my old friends, colleagues and mentees at Reading.”

Prior to this, Dr Keatinge had been made an honorary Life Fellow of the International Society of Horticultural Science in 2016 and awarded an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to the alleviation of global poverty and overcoming human malnutrition in 2017.

We congratulate Dr Keatinge on this prestigious award and wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

In the media


Testing accessions for viability at ICRISAT. Photo: S Ghosh

Testing accessions for viability at ICRISAT. Photo: S Ghosh

Saving the seed: A bank that secures the future of agriculture

Stashed away in earthquake proof and environment-controlled vaults in south India, are thousands of stockpiles of seeds of crops important to semi-arid tropics covering Asia, much of southern and eastern Africa, and a few locations in Latin America.

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This fortified archive at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) headquarters at Patancheru near Hyderabad in Telangana, is home to one of the largest plant genebanks in the world – a safehouse with rows of neatly labelled cans and vacuum sealed aluminum foil packs containing seeds.

And for over four decades, the R.S. Paroda genebank at ICRISAT has been working quietly to preserve bounties of crop diversity watched over by expert genebank managers.

The collection of raw genetic material is needed to breed diverse crops to ensure food security, as environmental degradation, climate change and desertification in dryland areas threaten food production and security.

The genebank hosts 126,830 accessions (samples of a particular plant population stored as seeds) collected and assembled from 144 countries, including the world’s largest genetic holdings of sorghum, pearl millet chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut and small millets. Now, new projects are being rolled out to secure and bolster the collection of the genebank, identify gap areas and enhance its usability.

“If we don’t have germplasm we don’t have the basis to develop anything. So all the breeding programs and research on these crops are based on germplasm and the genebank represents the biggest diversity possible of all those crops so we can have variability. Our job is to generate data so we can improve the utility of the bank,” Vania Azevedo, head of the ICRISAT Genebank, told Mongabay-India.

Fewer crops feeding the world (less diversity) than 50 years ago, renders agriculture more vulnerable to stresses such as droughts, insect pests and diseases. Having more diversity means having access to a large range of genetic traits.

“This diversity aids farmers adapt their crops to provide protection from disease, insect pests and changes in the climate. Some crops that were not important 50 years ago may become important in the future as we witness a change in climate. So genebanks are important toolkits in adaptation,” Hari Upadhyaya, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT Genebank, told Mongabay-India.

This long-term storage of seeds is, therefore, envisioned as a strategy to salvage crop diversity. Read more here…


In Fatuhi Khera, Punjab, crop losses following a deluge in 2009 prompted a switch from growing cotton to paddy in 75% of the acreage that was earlier under cotton. Since paddy withstands water logging better than cotton, farmers see its cultivation as a means to protect their income against losses emanating from excessive rainfall during the monsoon.

In Fatuhi Khera, Punjab, crop losses following a deluge in 2009 prompted a switch from growing cotton to paddy in 75% of the acreage that was earlier under cotton. Since paddy withstands water logging better than cotton, farmers see its cultivation as a means to protect their income against losses emanating from excessive rainfall during the monsoon.

Climate Change Crisis: Why Fatuhi Khera In Punjab Changed From Cotton To Rice

Harsimranjit Brar, 26, has an unforgettable childhood memory of his family’s fields in Fatuhi Khera, a village in Punjab’s Sri Muktsar Sahib district. Just before harvest, it would be a sea of white fluff. Brar’s father, a seasoned farmer, used to cultivate cotton on a 40-acre plot every kharif (monsoon) season.

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All that changed after a deluge in 2009 submerged their land under 4-5 feet of water, wiping out their cotton crop, recalled Brar, now an inspector with the Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation Limited. Three days of rain damaged the cotton crop in 60-70 villages of the around 238 villages in the district.

It took months for the standing water to percolate into the saturated ground. “The damage to our land was so substantial that it washed out the possibility of growing any crops in 2010,” he said.

To avoid a repeat of the disaster, in 2011, Brar’s father and elder brother decided to grow paddy–parmal, as it is called in Punjab–on 9 acres of their land because paddy can withstand water-logging.

The family has now switched to paddy on 38 of 40 acres. In the district itself, 75% of the acreage dedicated to cotton is now used for paddy, Brar reckoned.

“Monsoon rainfall used to be spread across the season but we had started to see more downpours followed by dry spells,” Brar said. “Downpours invariably led to water-logging. We strongly felt we needed to de-risk our income.”

The farmers of Sri Muktsar district chose to play it safe; elsewhere farmers might choose to deal with climate change differently. In semi-arid regions, for example, “farmers adopt more risky cash crops such as cotton instead of more resilient dryland cereals or pulses, in the anticipation of higher returns but at a very high risk of failure”, said Anthony Whitbread, a research programme director at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

To withstand climate change, farmers need adequate support by way of know-how and practical assistance for adoption of drought- or heat-tolerant crop varieties (cultivars), soil and water conservation technologies, said Anthony Whitbread, a research programme director at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

To withstand climate change, farmers need adequate support by way of know-how and practical assistance for adoption of drought- or heat-tolerant crop varieties (cultivars), soil and water conservation technologies, said Anthony Whitbread, a research programme director at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

For instance, this 2010 ICRISAT study examined a change in the cropping pattern in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra–from cereal crops (except maize) to pulses and other cash crops such as sugarcane and cotton.

India is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change. It has increased the frequency of downpours as well as the gaps between rainy days during the monsoon, as IndiaSpend reported in January 2018 and February 2018.

Extreme rainfall shocks could reduce farmer incomes in the kharif and rabi seasons by 13.7% and 5.5%, according to the Economic Survey, 2017-18. To reduce the impact of these shocks and to double farmer incomes, as the government wants to, the following are vital, according to Whitbread: “adequate support by way of know-how and practical assistance for adoption of drought- or heat-tolerant crop varieties (cultivars), soil and water conservation technologies, changing sowing dates and so on”.

Farmers’ observations mirror scientific predictions about climate change

In Punjab, 97% of the agricultural land is irrigated while in Madhya Pradesh, this percentage stands at 40%, leaving farmers more vulnerable to fluctuations in the monsoon. Despite this, farmers in both states have felt the effect of climate change.

Over three-quarters of the 150 paddy farmers in Punjab were sure that climate patterns have changed, Brar found in a 2016 survey he conducted for his master of science (MSc) degree in five districts–Hoshiarpur, Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar, Ludhiana, Faridkot and Sri Muktsar Sahib. This covered the the north-east, south-west and central parts of the state.

One in five farmers in the study was somewhat sure that climate change had happened. However, they differed on how it manifested. Eight in 10 farmers believed climate change had raised temperatures, seven thought the rainfall pattern had changed, four felt a rise in air pollution, nearly four perceived a fluctuation in the hours of sunshine, two thought droughts had become more frequent and less than one believed that floods occurred too frequently.

A couple of these observations match scientists’ predictions for climate change in the coming decades, as we will see in the following sections.

Arid pockets of western India may see increased rainfall

Between now and 2050, India is likely to see an increase in the baseline mean, minimum as well as maximum temperatures and these could have a warming effect that could raise sea levels, said Whitbread.

By the 2050s, some regions of India are likely to see more rainfall, in contrast to the African continent that is getting drier, he added. These predictions are based on 20 general circulation models, climate models simulating the future change in precipitation and temperature around the world. The highest increase in rainfall by 2050 is predicted in the arid western parts of India while the south and parts of the Gangetic plain bordering Nepal may see moderate increases.

However, this prediction comes with a rider: “Large uncertainties exist in quantifying precipitation changes,” said Whitbread. “Rainfall during the monsoon months will be uncertain; rainfall could be inadequate after the onset of the monsoon or involve pronounced dry periods juxtaposed against heavy spells. Since the number of rainy days is not projected to correspondingly increase, India could see more extreme events.”

There is little advice on how to adapt: Farmers

Jabalpur district in Madhya Pradesh has the largest area of rainfed agricultural land in the state–235,058 hectares. In its Shahpura block, where 45,274 hectares of the land is rainfed, seven in 10 farmers listed the lack of knowledge about ways to mitigate the effects of climate change as their biggest challenge, in a 2015 survey conducted by Amrita Singh, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur, for her MSc degree.

All the farmers featured in the survey were aware that they should delay the sowing of the kharif crop because monsoon now tends to start late. About eight in 10 had some idea of measures such as ensuring adequate drainage and avoiding the use of fertiliser during heavy rainfall to avoid nutrients leaching into groundwater. Six in 10 farmers were aware that selecting a suitable cropping pattern could help deal with the current vagaries of nature.

While farmers in Shahpura acknowledged that government and non-government bodies were holding agricultural extension activities to equip farmers with information about dealing with climate change, more than half complained about the non-availability of information in local languages. This plea for information is universal.

Brar is of the opinion that technical know-how is sparse and what is being shared is not customised. “Drafting an advisory for a state or large region ignores the fact that the characteristics of land differ from area to area,” he said.

“We need to strengthen the agro advisories covering market information and other know-how being circulated to farmers,” agreed Anil Sharma, assistant director (TV and radio) of the Centre for Communication & International Linkages, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. He suggested the use of the internet to disseminate the advisories because rural Punjab is net-savvy.

Farmers need better seeds to cope with climate change

Left to their own resources to adapt to climate change, nine in 10 paddy farmers Brar surveyed in Punjab had switched to growing shorter duration varieties of crops while eight were relying on the weather forecast–these are two of the most popular measures. Less than one in 10 farmers had opted to change their cropping pattern, a potential outcome of climate change with drastic implications. If farmers switch en masse from a food crop to a cash crop, the quantity and variety of food available to the country would be adversely impacted.

More than half the respondents wanted the government to develop crop varieties that are insect- and disease-resistant; close to half wanted varieties that are resistant to water logging and almost a third wanted varieties that could cope with temperature variations and water stress.

Indian scientists have developed drought- and heat-tolerant varieties of certain crops but farmers don’t seem to be aware of all that is available.

Harsimranjit Brar, from a farming family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, feels that farmers need more technical know-how on climate relevant to their situation. State-wise or regional advisories ignore the fact that the characteristics of land differ from area to area.

Harsimranjit Brar, from a farming family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, feels that farmers need more technical know-how on climate relevant to their situation. State-wise or regional advisories ignore the fact that the characteristics of land differ from area to area.

For instance, ICRISAT has developed the ICGV 91114, a strain of groundnut with better drought tolerance, that has been shown to increase pod yield by 23%, net income by 36% and reduce yield variability by 30%, in a farm impact study conducted in 2011 in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh.

In 2016, the Odisha State Seed Certification Limited procured about 54 tons of the ICGV 91114 from the seed-producing farmers in four districts to distribute to other farmers in the subsequent season. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka also produce the ICGV 91114 seed for distribution to farmers. But this is still little considering that the top five groundnut producing states in 2015-16 were Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

“Apart from low awareness, diffusion of our new technologies in farmers’ field is slow because of the non-availability of seeds in the market,” Swamikannu Nedumaran, a senior scientist with ICRISAT told IndiaSpend. He believes that this is due to the limited attention paid to developing and distributing seeds for dryland crops and promoting them through price support.

Dryland crops are a traditional source of income for thousands of small farmers in rainfed regions. “There is much more focus across the country on the major food crops such as paddy, wheat and maize,” said Nedumaran.

Poor access to technology compelling small farmers to switch crops

In Madhya Pradesh, soybean covers 45% of the state’s total cropped area during the monsoon. This was the case in Raisen and Hoshangabad districts too, till a few years ago.

Of late, frequent and heavy monsoon rains in the two low-lying districts have caused crop failures and prompted a shift from soybean and pulses to paddy, said Nalin Khare, professor and head, Agricultural Extension, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur.

“Water stagnation from unpredictable rainfall affects soybean more than paddy,” he said.

Soybean became a favourite crop of farmers “mainly because of [its] short duration (90-105 days) with high net return”, reads the 2015-16 Annual Report of the directorate of pulses development, Bhopal, a body under the ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare.

However, the report tells us that “soybean production was more drastically declined during kharif 2015 due to excess rains at vegetative phase [the period of growth between germination and flowering], long dry spell at seed filling stage [when the seed develops in the pod] and infestation of yellow mosaic virus [a viral disease affecting plants] and other insect pest”.

In certain districts, the soybean crop loss in 2015 was 60-70%.

During agricultural extension activities in Madhya Pradesh, farmers have been taught how to use the ridge and furrow method and raised bed system to protect the soybean crop from heavy rainPurushottam Sharma, a senior scientist (Agricultural Economics) with the Indian Institute of Soybean Research, Indore, told IndiaSpend.

The state government is trying to make available the required tools for this system through professionally-run hiring centres established for the purpose. “But as the reach of these hiring centres is limited, far-flung farmers are still deprived, keeping the adoption of these protective methods low,” he said.

Brar is grateful for the government subsidies farmers in Sri Muktsar Sahib received a few years ago to bore tubewells. “A tubewell priced at Rs 100,000 to install cost us only Rs 9,000,” he said. However, he acknowledged that this benefit has not been extended to all the needy farmers, many of who cannot afford electricity.

Harsimranjit Brar’s family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, is grateful for the government subsidies that reduced the cost of a tubewell from Rs 100,000 to Rs 9,000. However, he acknowledged that this benefit has not been extended to all the needy farmers, many of whom cannot afford electricity.

Harsimranjit Brar’s family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, is grateful for the government subsidies that reduced the cost of a tubewell from Rs 100,000 to Rs 9,000. However, he acknowledged that this benefit has not been extended to all the needy farmers, many of whom cannot afford electricity.

Why India can’t delay developing and implementing climate change strategies

Globally, climate change has already extended the growing season in some middle and higher latitude areas that were earlier too cold for the cultivation of most crops, such as the northern precincts of Russia, according to this 2013 study published in the journal Economics. In contrast, Southern Russia, one of the world’s breadbaskets, would suffer a decline in wheat yield as the climate becomes drier, it predicted.

Russia’s bumper wheat harvest in recent years is partly attributable to record temperatures boosting yields, this April 2018 Bloomberg report noted.

In India, while agriculture in parts of the country might benefit from the 5% to 20% increase in rainfall expected by the 2050s, the adverse effect of rising temperatures across the country and the mixed effect of rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would also need to be factored into future plans.

The combined impact of precipitation, temperature and carbon dioxide will depend on the crop variety grown, crop management practices and location, said Nedumaran.

ICRISAT crop simulation models of the impact of climate change suggest that maize, sorghum and groundnut yields may increase due to higher rainfall, but rising temperature will decrease the yield of crops, especially rabi (cool) season crops such as chickpea, particularly in south India.

Gram, soybean, onion and castor could benefit from the higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, while rice, wheat, maize and sorghum could see a decline in yield, according to a recent modelling study.


Out of 137 publications analyzed using an institutional analysis framework, 55.5% make specific reference to the institutional dimension of climate-smart agriculture. Photo: IITA

Out of 137 publications analyzed using an institutional analysis framework, 55.5% make specific reference to the institutional dimension of climate-smart agriculture. Photo: IITA

Integrating institutional enabling factors can provide a new avenue to scaling up climate-smart agriculture

New study explores whether and how institutional perspectives are reflected in the global literature on climate-smart agriculture.

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Published recently in the scientific journal Sustainability, the study entitled Institutional Perspectives of Climate-Smart Agriculture: A Systematic Literature Review explored to what extent institutional factors are addressed in peer-reviewed literature on climate-smart agriculture (CSA) at the global scale.

The authors employed a systematic literature review methodology and institutional analysis framework to synthesize how institutional dimensions were explored in 137 peer-reviewed CSA publications.

The study highlights that interest in institutional aspects of CSA has increased, particularly around knowledge infrastructure, market structure, and hard institutional aspects. However, other aspects, such as the engagement of the private sector in agricultural development, have gotten less attention.

Institutional dimensions reflected in the CSA literature. Source: Totin et al. 2018.

Institutional dimensions reflected in the CSA literature. Source: Totin et al. 2018.

The study also found that while the CSA concept encompasses three pillars (productivity, adaptation, and mitigation), the literature has hardly addressed these pillars in an integrated way. The development status of study sites also appears to influence which pillars are promoted. For instance, in developed countries, more research efforts were underway to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, developing countries focused more on increasing crop productivity and improving resilience to climate change. These differences highlighting the context-specific nature of CSA.

Explaining the complexity of the institutional context

With a growing world population, the response to the increasing demand for food is becoming more and more of a global concern. According to established scenarios, intensifying croplands with available CSA technologies is likely to be a more promising option for meeting the demand for food, than clearing a greater area of land to expand production areas.

But technology-oriented interventions alone may not be enough to achieve sustainable agricultural transformation, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is because of the complexity of the institutional context within which the actors of the agricultural system operate. Farming systems also comprise a range of institutional aspects, including policy, market, and political components.

The study’s authors argue that transferring agricultural technologies to the end-users without taking into account their local context may not work. The findings reveal that CSA suffers from:

  • Limited attention to contextual and cultural factors
  • Relatively poor public-private partnership to support the scaling of the CSA options, especially in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Poor documentation of the synergies and trade-offs among the three pillars of CSA
  • Poor articulation of physical infrastructures such as roads and rural communication

The study concludes that promoting CSA technologies by building both on technology packages and enabling institutional contexts could provide potential opportunities for effective scaling of CSA options.


Fighting Malnutrition Among Farmers

Farmers are the nutrition providers of any nation. They are responsible for producing food for the entire nation. Ironically, they are also one of the most malnourished people in India. The farmers are also paid the least in the entire food production and distribution hierarchy.

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This has reduced the number of people engaged in agriculture by 8.6 million according to the Census of India report 2013.

Walmart Foundation in partnership with International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropic (ICRISAT) has initiated a two year project that will move over 6000 farmers in Andhra Pradesh to an improved business model for better value chains and better incomes.

The program is focussed on two key national priorities: doubling farmers’ incomes and addressing malnutrition in rural areas. Over the next two years, ICRISAT will work in Andhra Pradesh’s dry land farming areas with 6,100 smallholder famers, 2,000 of whom are women. The project will set up community-based millet and legume legume processing facilities, provide access to training and more productive plant varieties and educate buyers in the market about the nutritional value of grain legumes to help boost demand.

Walmart Foundation has granted close to US$2 million to the project as part of an ongoing initiative to improve market access for India’s smallholder farmers.

A key component of this project is the establishment of networks of small enterprise centers where smallholder-produced grain legumes can be collected and jointly processed. These centers will be run by farmer organisations and, youth and women entrepreneurs, with appropriate training and support.

“Supporting smallholder farmers to better harness markets is a powerful way to help communities move from poverty to prosperity,” said Dr Peter Carberry, Director General (Acting), ICRISAT.


In Fatuhi Khera, Punjab, crop losses following a deluge in 2009 prompted a switch from growing cotton to paddy in 75% of the acreage that was earlier under cotton. Since paddy withstands water logging better than cotton, farmers see its cultivation as a means to protect their income against losses emanating from excessive rainfall during the monsoon. Image Courtesy: Harsimranjit Brar

In Fatuhi Khera, Punjab, crop losses following a deluge in 2009 prompted a switch from growing cotton to paddy in 75% of the acreage that was earlier under cotton. Since paddy withstands water logging better than cotton, farmers see its cultivation as a means to protect their income against losses emanating from excessive rainfall during the monsoon. Image Courtesy: Harsimranjit Brar

Climate change may reduce rabi and kharif crop earnings by up to 13.7% and 5.5%; farmers left to their own resources to cope

Harsimranjit Brar, 26, has an unforgettable childhood memory of his family’s fields in Fatuhi Khera, a village in Punjab’s Sri Muktsar Sahib district. Just before harvest, it would be a sea of white fluff. Brar’s father, a seasoned farmer, used to cultivate cotton on a 40-acre plot every kharif (monsoon) season.

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All that changed after a deluge in 2009 submerged their land under 4-5 feet of water, wiping out their cotton crop, recalled Brar, now an inspector with the Punjab Agro Foodgrains Corporation Limited. Three days of rain damaged the cotton crop in 60-70 villages of the around 238 villages in the district.

It took months for the standing water to percolate into the saturated ground. “The damage to our land was so substantial that it washed out the possibility of growing any crops in 2010,” he said.

To avoid a repeat of the disaster, in 2011, Brar’s father and elder brother decided to grow paddy–parmal, as it is called in Punjab–on 9 acres of their land because paddy can withstand water-logging.

The family has now switched to paddy on 38 of 40 acres. In the district itself, 75 percent of the acreage dedicated to cotton is now used for paddy, Brar reckoned.

“Monsoon rainfall used to be spread across the season but we had started to see more downpours followed by dry spells,” Brar said. “Downpours invariably led to water-logging. We strongly felt we needed to de-risk our income.”

The farmers of Sri Muktsar district chose to play it safe; elsewhere farmers might choose to deal with climate change differently. In semi-arid regions, for example, “farmers adopt more risky cash crops such as cotton instead of more resilient dryland cereals or pulses, in the anticipation of higher returns but at a very high risk of failure”, said Anthony Whitbread, a research programme director at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

To withstand climate change, farmers need adequate support by way of know-how and practical assistance for adoption of drought- or heat-tolerant crop varieties (cultivars), soil and water conservation technologies, said Anthony Whitbread, a research programme director at ICRISAT.

To withstand climate change, farmers need adequate support by way of know-how and practical assistance for adoption of drought- or heat-tolerant crop varieties (cultivars), soil and water conservation technologies, said Anthony Whitbread, a research programme director at ICRISAT.

For instance, this 2010 ICRISAT study examined a change in the cropping pattern in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra–from cereal crops (except maize) to pulses and other cash crops such as sugarcane and cotton.

India is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change. It has increased the frequency of downpours as well as the gaps between rainy days during the monsoon, as IndiaSpend reported in January 2018 and February 2018.

Extreme rainfall shocks could reduce farmer incomes in the kharif and rabi seasons by 13.7 percent and 5.5 percent, according to the Economic Survey, 2017-18. To reduce the impact of these shocks and to double farmer incomes, as the government wants to, the following are vital, according to Whitbread: “adequate support by way of know-how and practical assistance for adoption of drought- or heat-tolerant crop varieties (cultivars), soil and water conservation technologies, changing sowing dates and so on”.

Farmers’ observations mirror scientific predictions about climate change

In Punjab, 97 percent of the agricultural land is irrigated while in Madhya Pradesh, this percentage stands at 40 percent, leaving farmers more vulnerable to fluctuations in the monsoon. Despite this, farmers in both states have felt the effect of climate change.

Over three-quarters of the 150 paddy farmers in Punjab were sure that climate patterns have changed, Brar found in a 2016 survey he conducted for his Master of Science (MSc) degree in five districts–Hoshiarpur, Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar, Ludhiana, Faridkot and Sri Muktsar Sahib. This covered the the north-east, south-west and central parts of the state.

One in five farmers in the study was somewhat sure that climate change had happened. However, they differed on how it manifested. Eight in 10 farmers believed climate change had raised temperatures, seven thought the rainfall pattern had changed, four felt a rise in air pollution, nearly four perceived a fluctuation in the hours of sunshine, two thought droughts had become more frequent and less than one believed that floods occurred too frequently.

A couple of these observations match scientists’ predictions for climate change in the coming decades, as we will see in the following sections.

Arid pockets of western India may see increased rainfall

Between now and 2050, India is likely to see an increase in the baseline mean, minimum, as well as maximum temperatures and these, could have a warming effect that could raise sea levels, said Whitbread.

By the 2050s, some regions of India are likely to see more rainfall, in contrast to the African continent that is getting drier, he added. These predictions are based on 20 general circulation models, climate models simulating the future change in precipitation and temperature around the world. The highest increase in rainfall by 2050 is predicted in the arid western parts of India while the south and parts of the Gangetic plain bordering Nepal may see moderate increases.

However, this prediction comes with a rider: “Large uncertainties exist in quantifying precipitation changes,” said Whitbread. “Rainfall during the monsoon months will be uncertain; rainfall could be inadequate after the onset of the monsoon or involve pronounced dry periods juxtaposed against heavy spells. Since the number of rainy days is not projected to correspondingly increase, India could see more extreme events.”

There is little advice on how to adapt: Farmers

Jabalpur district in Madhya Pradesh has the largest area of rainfed agricultural land in the state–235,058 hectares. In its Shahpura block, where 45,274 hectares of the land is rainfed, seven in 10 farmers listed the lack of knowledge about ways to mitigate the effects of climate change as their biggest challenge, in a 2015 survey conducted by Amrita Singh, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur, for her MSc degree.

All the farmers featured in the survey were aware that they should delay the sowing of the kharif crop because monsoon now tends to start late. About eight in 10 had some idea of measures such as ensuring adequate drainage and avoiding the use of fertiliser during heavy rainfall to avoid nutrients leaching into groundwater. Six in 10 farmers were aware that selecting a suitable cropping pattern could help deal with the current vagaries of nature.

While farmers in Shahpura acknowledged that government and non-government bodies were holding agricultural extension activities to equip farmers with information about dealing with climate change, more than half complained about the non-availability of information in local languages. This plea for information is universal.

Brar is of the opinion that technical know-how is sparse and what is being shared is not customised. “Drafting an advisory for a state or large region ignores the fact that the characteristics of land differ from area to area,” he said.

“We need to strengthen the agro advisories covering market information and other know-how being circulated to farmers,” agreed Anil Sharma, assistant director (TV and radio) of the Centre for Communication & International Linkages, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. He suggested the use of the internet to disseminate the advisories because rural Punjab is net-savvy.

Farmers need better seeds to cope with climate change

Left to their own resources to adapt to climate change, nine in 10 paddy farmers Brar surveyed in Punjab had switched to growing shorter duration varieties of crops while eight were relying on the weather forecast–these are two of the most popular measures. Less than one in 10 farmers had opted to change their cropping pattern, a potential outcome of climate change with drastic implications. If farmers switch en masse from a food crop to a cash crop, the quantity and variety of food available to the country would be adversely impacted.

More than half the respondents wanted the government to develop crop varieties that are insect- and disease-resistant; close to half wanted varieties that are resistant to waterlogging and almost a third wanted varieties that could cope with temperature variations and water stress.

Indian scientists have developed drought- and heat-tolerant varieties of certain crops but farmers don’t seem to be aware of all that is available.

Harsimranjit Brar, from a farming family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, feels that farmers need more technical know-how on climate relevant to their situation. State-wise or regional advisories ignore the fact that the characteristics of land differ from area to area. Image Courtesy: Harsimranjit Brar

Harsimranjit Brar, from a farming family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, feels that farmers need more technical know-how on climate relevant to their situation. State-wise or regional advisories ignore the fact that the characteristics of land differ from area to area. Image Courtesy: Harsimranjit Brar

For instance, ICRISAT has developed the ICGV 91114, a strain of groundnut with better drought tolerance, that has been shown to increase pod yield by 23 percent, net income by 36 percent and reduce yield variability by 30 percent, in a farm impact study conducted in 2011 in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh.<

In 2016, the Odisha State Seed Certification Limited procured about 54 tons of the ICGV 91114 from the seed-producing farmers in four districts to distribute to other farmers in the subsequent season. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka also produce the ICGV 91114 seed for distribution to farmers. But this is still little considering that the top five groundnut producing states in 2015-16 were Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

“Apart from low awareness, diffusion of our new technologies in farmers’ field is slow because of the non-availability of seeds in the market,” Swamikannu Nedumaran, a senior scientist with ICRISAT told IndiaSpend. He believes that this is due to the limited attention paid to developing and distributing seeds for dryland crops and promoting them through price support.

Dryland crops are a traditional source of income for thousands of small farmers in rainfed regions. “There is much more focus across the country on the major food crops such as paddy, wheat and maize,” said Nedumaran.

Poor access to technology compelling small farmers to switch crops

In Madhya Pradesh, soybean covers 45 percent of the state’s total cropped area during the monsoon. This was the case in Raisen and Hoshangabad districts too, till a few years ago.

Of late, frequent and heavy monsoon rains in the two low-lying districts have caused crop failures and prompted a shift from soybean and pulses to paddy, said Nalin Khare, professor and head, Agricultural Extension, Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, Jabalpur.

“Water stagnation from unpredictable rainfall affects soybean more than paddy,” he said.

Soybean became a favourite crop of farmers “mainly because of [its] short duration (90-105 days) with high net return”, reads the 2015-16 Annual Report of the directorate of pulses development, Bhopal, a body under the ministry of agriculture and farmers welfare.

However, the report tells us that “soybean production was more drastically declined during kharif 2015 due to excess rains at vegetative phase [the period of growth between germination and flowering], long dry spell at seed filling stage [when the seed develops in the pod] and infestation of yellow mosaic virus [a viral disease affecting plants] and other insect pest”.

In certain districts, the soybean crop loss in 2015 was 60-70 percent.

During agricultural extension activities in Madhya Pradesh, farmers have been taught how to use the ridge and furrow method and raised bed system to protect the soybean crop from heavy rain, Purushottam Sharma, a senior scientist (Agricultural Economics) with the Indian Institute of Soybean Research, Indore, told IndiaSpend.

The state government is trying to make available the required tools for this system through professionally-run hiring centres established for the purpose. “But as the reach of these hiring centres is limited, far-flung farmers are still deprived, keeping the adoption of these protective methods low,” he said.

Brar is grateful for the government subsidies farmers in Sri Muktsar Sahib received a few years ago to bore tubewells. “A tubewell priced at Rs 100,000 to install cost us only Rs 9,000,” he said. However, he acknowledged that this benefit has not been extended to all the needy farmers, many of who cannot afford electricity.

Harsimranjit Brar’s family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, is grateful for the government subsidies that reduced the cost of a tubewell from Rs 100,000 to Rs 9,000. However, he acknowledged that this benefit has not been extended to all the needy farmers, many of whom cannot afford electricity. Image Courtesy: Harsimranjit Brar

Harsimranjit Brar’s family in Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, is grateful for the government subsidies that reduced the cost of a tubewell from Rs 100,000 to Rs 9,000. However, he acknowledged that this benefit has not been extended to all the needy farmers, many of whom cannot afford electricity. Image Courtesy: Harsimranjit Brar

Why India can’t delay developing and implementing climate change strategies

Globally, climate change has already extended the growing season in some middle and higher latitude areas that were earlier too cold for the cultivation of most crops, such as the northern precincts of Russia, according to this 2013 study published in the journal Economics. In contrast, Southern Russia, one of the world’s breadbaskets, would suffer a decline in wheat yield as the climate becomes drier, it predicted.

Russia’s bumper wheat harvest in recent years is partly attributable to record temperatures boosting yields, this April 2018 Bloomberg report noted.

In India, while agriculture in parts of the country might benefit from the 5 percent to 20 percent increase in rainfall expected by the 2050s, the adverse effect of rising temperatures across the country and the mixed effect of rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide would also need to be factored into future plans.

The combined impact of precipitation, temperature and carbon dioxide will depend on the crop variety grown, crop management practices and location, said Nedumaran.

ICRISAT crop simulation models of the impact of climate change suggest that maize, sorghum and groundnut yields may increase due to higher rainfall, but rising temperature will decrease the yield of crops, especially rabi (cool) season crops such as chickpea, particularly in south India.

Gram, soybean, onion and castor could benefit from the higher atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, while rice, wheat, maize and sorghum could see a decline in yield, according to a recent modelling study.


Seed-producing cooperatives improve access to quality seeds in West and Central Africa

New study observes the rise of seed-producing cooperatives in the region

A new study by the Access to Seeds Index, supported by Agence Française de Développement, the Government of The Netherlands and AgriCord, evaluated over 50 seed-producing cooperatives across 20 countries in West and Central Africa. Strong performers were identified in four countries: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. In eight other countries the situation was qualified as ‘promising’.

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A new study by the Access to Seeds Index, supported by Agence Française de Développement, the Government of The Netherlands and AgriCord, evaluated over 50 seed-producing cooperatives across 20 countries in West and Central Africa. Strong performers were identified in four countries: Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. In eight other countries the situation was qualified as ‘promising’.

‘The key question that guided our evaluation is whether farmer-led cooperatives can play a role delivering the new varieties developed by research institutes into the hands of famers,’ says Yacouba Diallo, as research lead responsible for the study. ‘This is relevant as modern plant breeding has led to an acceleration in the development of new varieties that can help farmers deal with the effects of climate change such as increased weather variability and the introduction of new pests and diseases,’ Diallo adds. ‘Based on our findings, the answer is: yes they can, and they are already doing it.’

Farmer-led cooperatives moved into seed production in the 1980s and 90s when the seed sector was privatized. In the 2000s, many countries renewed their national seed laws, which created opportunities for these cooperatives to become formally recognized as certified seed producers. ‘When we talk about the formal seed sector in the region, it is important to realize that cooperatives can also be formal actors, not just seed companies,’ Diallo explains.

The general perception of cooperatives is that they multiply basic seed sourced from research institutes, distributing these among their members. The study observed that strong performers have moved well beyond that model. Diallo: ‘These strong performers partner with national and international research institutes to test and select varieties that meet the needs and preferences of local farmers. Also, they partner with seed companies or public agencies to ensure that the seeds are distributed at national scale or even beyond borders. Some even have reached advanced levels of seed production, producing hybrids or early generation seeds.’

One example is Madda Ben in Niger. Its members not only work together with global research agency ICRISAT in participatory variety selection, variety testing and demonstration in field schools, they also produce foundation seed for ICRISAT’s Seed Unit. So far, four new millet varieties have been introduced as a result of this cooperation. Through contracts with seed companies, its certified seed reaches farmers throughout the country.

The relevance of cooperatives also lays in their presence and portfolio, the study found. In countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia or Borno State in Nigeria, where not many seed companies are active, cooperatives are the only suppliers of certified seed. The top 5 crops covered by cooperatives includes groundnut and cowpea, not often found in the portfolio of seed companies.

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