74th Governing Board Meeting Call to strengthen partnerships in drought hit Zimbabwe to benefit smallholder farmers

Dr Nigel Kerby interacting with women farmers in a village in Zimbabwe. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

Dr Nigel Kerby interacting with women farmers in a village in Zimbabwe. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

Increasing and expanding the production of small grains such as legumes and millets is critical to meet the challenges of the severe drought gripping Zimbabwe. This is one of the key messages that emerged from the 74th meeting of the ICRISAT Governing Board during  20 to 22 April at Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

To cope with extreme climate events, there is a need for science backed solutions with stronger partnerships and a country strategy. The focus will be a triple win for Zimbabwe through adoption of improved crops such as sorghum, groundnut, chickpea and pigeonpea that are highly nutritious, climate smart and profitable to smallholder farmers.

ICRISAT, working with the Ministry of Agriculture, and other partners and donors in Zimbabwe, is pursuing new market opportunities for small grains for human nutrition and livestock feed, development and expansion of an integrated groundnut system, use of climate information to manage risk for increased long-term sustainability and resilience of crop-livestock systems.

We have undertaken work with ICRISAT on goat production, which led to significant increases in income of the farmers. We are adopting the innovation systems approach in many districts. Goat dip tanks (for treating lice infestation) were introduced which took a while for communities to take on. We are very excited we can work with a partner like ICRISAT and use their excellent skills. We also work in the field of nutrition – how to increase nutrition absorption especially among pregnant women and lactating women.
Ms Mvuselelo Huni,
CEO, Organization of Rural Associations for Progress

“Demand-driven agricultural research is key to transforming productivity of the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe, particularly of smallholder farmers. The country strategy, which ICRISAT Zimbabwe developed in consultation with national partners, will take advantage of market opportunities and support food production systems that protect the environment and address the realities of climate change,” said Professor Chandra Madramootoo, Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board.

Mr Ringson Chitsiko, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, welcomed the initiative. He said, “The development of the ICRISAT country strategy is overdue but never too late and I appreciate the process that values partner contribution. All partners need to take advantage of the process and contribute what they want to see ICRISAT doing in the country. Such partner participation will ensure ownership of the strategy at a country level and strengthen the work so we can improve the lives of smallholder farmers. All partners need to take advantage of the process and contribute to the type of partnership and work program they would like to have with ICRISAT.”

“The strategy will guide agricultural investment decisions and innovations while being socially inclusive of youth, gender and matters arising from HIV/AIDS to address the challenges faced by smallholder farmers,” said Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT.

Zimbabwe and other parts of East and Southern Africa are suffering severe drought from El Niño and the effects of climate change, which has destroyed crops and killed livestock. The devastating situation is threatening the livelihoods of millions of smallholder famers in Zimbabwe.

In an effort to fight the vagaries of climate change and other issues, ICRISAT is working in Zimbabwe with partners on projects like Building Farmers’ Resilience to Production Variability through Enhanced Climate Services and Improved Agricultural Technologies. “The main objective of the project is to help smallholder farmers achieve sustained improvements in food security through better access to climate information, and natural resource management strategies that can improve adaptation to poor seasons and enable them to better exploit good years,” said Dr Kizito Mazvimavi, ICRISAT’s country representative in Zimbabwe and Head of Monitoring, Evaluation, Impact and Learning.

A range of organizations joined the ICRISAT Board Program Committee meeting and spoke about their collaboration with ICRISAT in Zimbabwe and expressed their positive feeling about moving forward together, to realize prosperity in the dryer zones of Zimbabwe where drought has impacted farmers for two consecutive years. The partners present included, Mr D Nyoni, Provincial Agricultural Extension Officer, Department of Agritex; Mr Karsto Kwazira, Agronomist, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Zimbabwe; Mr Dave Evans, Chief of Party, ENSURE Project, World Vision; Mr Andrew Mushita, Director, Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT); Ms Mvuselelo Huni, Chief Executive Officer, Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP) and Mr Shadreck Ncube, Head of Station, Matopos Research Institute, Department of Research and Specialist Services.

Awards and Recognition

Dr Kholova receiving the Doreen Margaret Mashler Award. Photo: B Masaiti

Dr Kholova receiving the Doreen Margaret Mashler Award.
Photo: B Masaiti

Dr Jana Kholova, Scientist, Cereals Physiology, Dryland Cereals, Asia is the recipient of the Promising Young Scientist Award for 2015 and made a presentation to the ICRISAT Board during the Program Committee meeting. Dr Kholova’s seminar reflected on her research and the contribution of crop physiology and modelling to ICRISAT’s breeding programs.

The ICRISAT Crop Physiology team led by Dr Vincent Vadez, Team Leader-Systems Analysis for Climate Smart Agriculture (SACSA) was presented the 2015 Doreen Margaret Mashler Award by the Board Chair. The award was recieved by Dr Kholova, who is a key member of the team. On behalf of Dr Vadez, Dr Kholova made a presentation on the research and working environment of this high-performing team at ICRISAT.

Over the year the team has made major breakthrough in development of integrated, inter-disciplinary research to apply principles of precision agriculture to enhance production, both in quantity and quality in semi-arid agroecologies. The team conducts both applied-oriented and basic research on various aspects of plant water acquisition pathways to elucidate underlying processes of plant adaptations to water-limited environments.

Intitut d’economie Rurale (IER), Mali, received the Outstanding Partnership Award for 2015. Improved groundnut production technologies have been developed and disseminated as a result of the strong collaboration. IER has conducted more than 35 demonstrations of improved technologies, trained more than 2,200 farmers and 25 extension technicians in the project target regions. IER is expected to directly reach more than 20,000 small farmer households with improved technologies and contribute to awareness creation for 350,000 households through various communication tools including community radio, TV, print media and production guides. IER is also the focal institute for the implementation of Tropical Legumes III project, which is led by ICRISAT.

The award acknowledges the partnership over the years and ICRISAT’s intention to strengthen the relation between the two institutes for improving the livelihood of smallholder farmers in Mali.

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