The Seed Revolving Fund model developed by ICRISAT (see box) for improving groundnut and pigeonpea seed systems in Malawi was recognized for making a significant impact in the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, especially women.
Limited access to quality seed of improved, high-yielding and early maturing varieties of groundnut and pigeonpea had resulted in low productivity and poor cash incomes for farmers. The model was developed to address the issue and involved public and private partners at each stage of the seed value chain. In a span of six years through the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project (MSIDP) there was an eight-fold increase in the supply of legume certified seed from 270 tons to 2,405 tons.
Recognizing the organization’s contribution in working together with partners to improve smallholder farm productivity, food security and incomes through provision of high quality seed, the Seed Trade Association of Malawi (STAM) awarded a certificate and a trophy to ICRISAT.
“ICRISAT is a role model for other agricultural institutions in the country. Through ICRISAT’s initiatives, legume seed of improved varieties particularly groundnut and pigeonpea have been made available in the market and are easily accessible to farmers,” said Mr Nesimu Nyama, Secretary General, Seed Trade Association of Malawi.
The awards were presented to Dr Moses Siambi, ICRISAT Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa and Dr Patrick Okori, Principal Scientist - Groundnut Breeding and incumbent Country Representative for Malawi.
At the awards ceremony, Dr Siambi was also awarded a certificate and trophy for his contribution during his tenure as Malawi Country Representative in developing a viable legume seed system that contributed enormously to the Government of Malawi’s flagship, the Farm Input Subsidy Program. The program is one of the distribution channels for fertilizer and certified seeds of selected legume and maize to smallholder farmers at subsidized prices.
STAM was formed in 2004 with the aim of influencing and strengthening policies and regulations that guide the seed trade in Malawi.
For more information on the Seed Revolving Fund in Malawi, see http://annualreport.icrisat.org/.
Low water use efficiency rates of 50-55% in irrigated farms and 30-35% in rainfed areas in Andhra Pradesh and excessive use of fertilizer in the coastal districts were some of the key issues raised by Dr Suhas P Wani, Director, ICRISAT Development Center, at the Rythu Kosam workshop. ICRISAT monitors pilot sites covering an area of 10,000 ha in 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh and the progress is reported every trimester.
Dr Wani said that soil health is critical for increased yields and productivity. Hence, enhanced awareness on integrated nutrient management (INM) is required to address the issues. He pointed out that in certain coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is being used in excess. It is important to use fertilizer at levels recommended by soil health tests, so as to reduce pollution and ensure enhanced yields. The message for all stakeholders and farmers was to use fertilizers more responsibly and as required.
It was noted that farmers trusted fertilizer and pesticide dealers and only 17% of farmers were receiving technical support and extension support from the government.
Dr Vijay Kumar, Special Chief Secretary, Department of Agriculture, advised on actions needed, including:
Dr S Gopi, Senior Technical Officer, Commissioner’s office, said that in 2015, 400,000 soil samples were collected and analyzed by geo-referencing a 10 ha grid in dryland areas and 2.5 ha grid in irrigated areas. As many as 1.6 million Soil Health Cards were processed and this year a program to collect 641,000 soil samples by end of May has been initiated by the Department of Agriculture. From the analysis, land form situation, soil status and soil fertility level can be understood. This helps macronutrient, micronutrient and organic amendments to be rectified on farmers’ field. The department also has added new instruments that are being used in five mobile soil testing labs and many new technologies will be added this year, he said. Two mandals in each district are monitored by ICRISAT and samples from pilot areas are selected in such a way that the complete district soil analysis can be made.
A presentation by Dr KL Sahrawat, Consultant, ICRISAT, on Soil Mapping: Challenges and Opportunities, dealt on soil sampling equipment, sampling techniques, soil sample preparation and analysis. Dr Girish Chander, Senior scientist – Natural Resource Management, ICRISAT, presented on Soil Test Based Integrated Nutrient Management Strategies. The presentation dealt on deciding nutrient application dose on the percentage deficiency observed in the soil health card. A presentation, Strategies to Build Soil Carbon Stocks, was presented before the close of the session.
Participants were divided into four groups and allotted a topic to discuss and come out with strategies to implement INM. The topics included preparing an action plan for soil sample analysis and collection; INM strategies; awareness building on INM for extension functionaries and farmers; and monitoring, evaluation and behavioral change
Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and cooperatives face stiff competition and the lack of professional and qualified managers aggravates the situation. To help address these issues, a training was organized for the top management of FPOs.
The participants were chief executives and program coordinators of Producer Organization Promoting Institutions (POPIs), who in turn, will train the Board of Directors and CEOs of FPOs that they promote. To address the issue necessary technical and management skills were imparted to the participants.
The key learning of the participants were:
ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP), the Resource Support Agency for the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in Telangana, India, organized the training program. This is the second in the training series. AIP-ICRISAT is involved in designing the training programs, exposure visits, modules development, technical support to NABARD and POPIs on FPO promotion, contribution to FPO program design and implementation.
The training will enable POPI staff and managers to not only generate additional income and employment, but also strengthen the management of FPOs and cooperatives. It will also help create a better channel of communication between themselves and committee members on one hand, and with its members on the other. In doing so, managers will be able to create goodwill for the cooperative in the market and deliver high incomes for the members.
Mr Satyanarayana, Chief General Manager, NABARD, inaugurated the 5-day training program held from 4-8 January organized by the Agribusiness Incubator (ABI) program of AIP.