26) ICRISAT and IFAD call for a second Green Revolution
A second Green Revolution must be waged to end hunger and poverty in the drylands. This clarion call was given by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Director General William Dar and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Kanayo Nwanze in dialogue with the media.
The two leaders also called upon national governments to draft polices that would transform dryland agriculture into a successful business. To turn agriculture profitable for farmers, governments need to create local demand and make local markets viable, they said. This would be the only way to attain food security in a world afflicted by climate change.
In a joint statement on the occasion of the 37th Annual Day celebrations of ICRISAT, Dr Dar and Dr Nwanze stressed the urgent need for a second Green Revolution focused in the semi-arid tropics. “Nearly 80 million hectares of India’s net sown area is rainfed. However, productivity levels of crops like millets, pulses and oilseeds continue to remain low. Though potential yields of up to 2 tonnes per hectare are possible, the yield gaps are exacerbated by vagaries of climate,” Dr Dar added.
Dr Nwanze said that a key strategy should involve the small farmers as they feed one-third of the world population. He also stressed the need to organize these farmers into groups and provide them with access to inputs and markets. Emphasizing the need for political will and the right policy atmosphere he points out, “We need a different landscape to feed a population of 9.6 billion by 2050. There is a need to develop better seeds, which can withstand water shortage, new pests and adverse weather conditions including flooding.
Referring to climate change, which is affecting agricultural productivity across the world, the IFAD President said, “Climate change is going to erode the development that took place (in agriculture) in the past two and half decades unless we take required steps and stress on research for more resistant crops.’’ Stating that the international community and the governments had long neglected agricultural research, he said that the amount spent for agriculture-related activities came down from 18% to 3% between 1980 and 2006. According to Dr Nwanze, IFAD has taken up projects worth $636 million in India. Two other projects including one for the North Eastern regions are in the pipeline.
The important role of women in agricultural production cannot be ignored. Underscoring the vulnerability of poor women to climate change, both ICRISAT and IFAD called for policies benefiting rural women. “Empower women with suitable technology, give them access to markets by connecting roads,” Dr Nwanze said. Thanks to the valuable knowledge that women have acquired over the years in water, forest and biodiversity management, women’s role in the identification of appropriate adaptation and disaster mitigation processes in a warmer world could be very useful, Dr Dar added.
ICRISAT and IFAD collaboration in Asia
The IFAD-funded project Harnessing the true potential of legumes: economic and knowledge empowerment of poor rainfed farmers in Asia aims to improve the well-being of the rural poor in Asia. In spite of unpredictable weather patterns that hit agricultural production last year, improved varieties and low cost legume management technologies shielded farmers from economic ruin. These innovations are now being taken up by the farming communities of Nepal and Vietnam.
Collaboration in sub-Saharan Africa
There are two initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa led by ICRISAT and IFAD. Under the Integrated Innovations for improving legume productivity, marketing linkages and risk management, poor farmers harness underutilized opportunities in livelihoods and income growth in four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. Another project Growing out of poverty: intensification of sorghum and pearl millet based systems by unlocking local biodiversity and new market opportunities in semi-arid West Africa involves farmers in all activities from planning to evaluation and the assessment of results.
Yet another project, Harnessing water-use efficient bio-energy crop for enhancing livelihood opportunities of smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America recognizes biofuels as a major emerging market opportunity for the poor. Through this project, attempts are also being made to increase feed stocks such as sweet sorghum, jatropha and cassava. The stocks provide better income to poor rural communities living in remote areas under fragile agro-economic conditions.
Under this collaboration, ICRISAT and IFAD have identified improved sweet sorghum varieties, pest and disease-tolerant breeding materials and optimal spacing for maximizing grain and sugar yields. The tie-up has also helped collect 138 jatropha accessions and organize self-help groups to understand biodiesel options. High yielding cassava cultivars have been identified for different agro-eco zones and cassava-based livelihoods are being studied.
The road ahead
ICRISAT and IFAD will work together to enhance agricultural productivity, diversify and develop rural enterprises and improve livelihood opportunities in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
With just six years until the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the challenges are immense and research will be fundamental in identifying better solutions for improving the lives of poor rural communities.
For this reason, IFAD is resolving to increase its engagement and support to the CGIAR Centers.
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