(L) Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, inaugurates the Annual Day celebrations by lighting a ceremonial lamp. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

From strength to strength in the drylands with diversity, values and commitment

(L) Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, inaugurates the Annual Day celebrations by lighting a ceremonial lamp. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

(L) Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, inaugurates the Annual Day celebrations by lighting a ceremonial lamp. Photos: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Cultural diversity, cheer and resilience marked ICRISAT’s 49th Annual Day celebrated on 21 December across its offices in Africa and India. Signalling a departure from last year’s subdued celebrations due to COVID-19, staff participated actively taking necessary precautions.

“We are celebrating our values, achievements, diversity, and we are celebrating us. We now have our strategic plan 2021-2025, which outlines a strong and focussed vision. We worked through a rolling medium-term plan and have recently launched a tool to track how we are doing,” said DrJacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.

The celebrations at Hyderabad, India, began with performances of song and dance followed by a carnival. Later in the day, the institute recognized and rewarded outstanding scientific contributions and fundraising efforts, excellence in the celebratory sporting events held on campus and recognition of long service to the institute. Staff awards were also given in West and Central Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa.

Commending ICRISAT’s achievements in 2021,
Prof. Prabhu Pingali, Chair of ICRISAT’s Governing Board, said, “The Africa Food Prize was an enormous recognition for the contribution ICRISAT made in addressing food insecurity and rural poverty in
sub-Saharan Africa. The work on sequencing chickpea pan-genome has received worldwide attention. We have also seen very important papers released on the role of millets in addressing micronutrient deficiency and non-communicable disease.”

Reaffirming ICRISAT’s commitment to the drylands,
Prof.Pingali mentioned technologies, scientific knowledge and the background that ICRISAT has in drylands research as just some of its strengths for being an independent international research organization. Prof. Pingali recognized the management’s partnership building efforts by listing some new partnerships, including those with FAO and the World Food Programme, and affirmed these partnerships as essential as the institute charts its future course.
He also noted that in-person capacity building has resumed in Africa.

The Board Chair singled out the health and security services teams for their work during the past two years of the pandemic, and applauded their services in keeping ICRISAT safe. He then paid a tribute to
Mr Sarwat Hussain, a former ICRISAT and World Bank staff member who passed away recently.

Dr Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Vice-Chair of ICRISAT’s Board, congratulated the Institute and complimented it on its successes. “Last year was quite challenging for all of us. We reaffirmed our commitment to move forward with our trusted partnership.  The ICAR-ICRISAT partnership has been hugely successful with high impact research, particularly in the area of genomics and marker-assisted breeding.

“ICRISAT continues to play a key role as a leading research institute in dryland agriculture both in India and Africa. It is heartening that ICRISAT was awarded the Africa Food Prize 2021,” he said, expressing confidence that ICRISAT will continue striving to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the drylands.

Speaking about the future of research at ICRISAT,
Dr Hughes said, “The future of agri-food systems is digital. We need to make our digital technologies, our apps and our programs internally and ensure they are crosscutting and interconnected. My aim is to position ICRISAT as a thought leader in digital agriculture as we go through 2022.”

Dr Hughes urged all staff to prioritize gender and empowerment of the disadvantaged in research work. “Women are half our population and do more than half of the unpaid work. Given their caring role, they are more likely to be highly affected by climate and economic calamities,” she said.

Speaking of the strong research pipeline at ICRISAT,
Dr Hughes underscored the importance of partnerships and conveyed to the staff that ICRISAT’s partners in the drylands are committed to the Institute’s vision. She spoke about plans to mark ICRISAT’s 50th Anniversary in 2022 and urged the staff to plan in advance activities and outputs for the International Year of Millets in 2023.

Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General-Research, said that despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the institute has fulfilled some of the most essential tasks over the last 12 months. He thanked the
non-research staff  for their support to research.

“I thank the entire research team and the Research Leadership Team for where we are today. We have moved from uncertainty to certainty. Despite the challenges, we know where we want to go. Let’s work together in a committed fashion and realize the future we envision for ICRISAT,” Dr Kumar said.

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