Issue No: 1736
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Feature stories

Multiple approaches are required to ensure cereal self-sufficiency and food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

Multiple approaches are required to ensure cereal self-sufficiency and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Photo: ICRISAT

Can sub-Saharan Africa feed itself?

A recent research study concludes that the path to cereal self-sufficiency for countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)  will require, in addition to yield gap closure, increased cropping intensity and expansion of irrigated production area in regions that can support these options in a sustainable manner.

Link to Happenings story: https://icrisat.org/can-sub-saharan-africa-feed-itself/

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The study projects a two- to four-fold increase in population and estimates cereal demand to triple for the 10 countries studied by the year 2050. However, trends show that all countries, except Ethiopia and Zambia, have cereal yields growing more slowly than population and demand. For example the maize yield increase averaged only 27 and 34 kg per ha per year in west and east SSA countries respectively. Attaining self-sufficiency would necessitate doubling the yield increase. This is elusive in SSA where farmers lack access to markets; and to seeds, fertilizers and pest management inputs to support
higher yields.

Without yield increase, the demand for cereals can be met through crop area expansion or imports or both. Current levels of cereal consumption already depend on substantial imports while crop area expansion comes from deforestation and converting marginal land or previously abandoned crop land as the experience of crop land expansion in Ethiopia and Tanzania show.

Apart from yield increase on existing farmland, other possibilities are to increase cropping intensity (more crop cycles per year on the same field) and to increase the amount of irrigated area where water resources are available.

“There are still possibilities to grow multiple crops per year and to expand the irrigated area, but these are options with many uncertainties,” according to Prof Dr Martin van Ittersum, Principal Investigator of this research study.

If those fails, major expansions of farmland are required which will be at the cost of natural habitats and increased greenhouse gas emissions, or enormous grain imports that must be paid with scarce foreign exchange. However, in some countries, the required area is simply not available, and expansion of farmland is not sustainable, explains co-researcher, Prof Dr Abdullahi Bala.

Although the research was conducted for 10 SSA countries, the study considers it unlikely that the situation is more favorable in other African countries as the availability of arable land per capita is comparatively lower.

The research was conducted using agronomically relevant local data and spatial upscaling protocol to estimate food production capacities in five staple cereals namely maize, millet, rice, sorghum and wheat. The estimations are specific to 10 SSA countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

The yield gap analysis is the result of research undertaken by a team of researchers from Wageningen University & Research, several African institutes and the University of Nebraska.

This comprehensive research is based on the collaborative work undertaken in the Global Yield Gap Atlas (GYGA) project, coordinated by Dr Lieven Claessens, Principal Scientist – Resilient Dryland Systems, ICRISAT-Nairobi. 

For more information on the GYGA project click here

Research findings from this study have been published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS): van Ittersum MK, van Bussel LGJ and Wolf J et al. 2016. Can sub-Saharan Africa feed itself? PNAS, Early Edition http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/12/07/1610359113.abstract

Project: Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas

Investor: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Partners: University of Nebraska, USA; Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands; Water for Food, University of Nebraska; Africa Rice, Côte d’Ivoire and ICRISAT.

CGIAR Research Program: Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal


Kothapally watershed.

Kothapally watershed. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

ICRISAT’s 40 years of research in watershed development

In 1976 ICRISAT started on-site trials at its headquarters in India and have since introduced watershed management across more than 300 locations across Asia and Africa. A science backed proven model is now well established which is a community driven holistic model.

Link to Happenings story: https://icrisat.org/icrisats-40-years-of-research-in-watershed-development/

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Dug well in the Kothapally watershed work Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Dug well in the Kothapally watershed work Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Kothapally watershed in Telangana state in India, is one of the communities ICRISAT worked closely with starting in 1999. Key to the success has been ensuring the community is empowered to drive the innovations with ICRISAT taking a catalyst role and providing the scientific backing to all the interventions.

Over the decades, the village has prospered and a holistic approach developed as more innovations were introduced. These started with water and soil management and improved crop varieties and diversity on farm, and later expanded to include livestock integration, linking farmers to markets, building alternative livelihoods, wastewater treatment, self-sustaining filtered drinking water, and more.

Along with the recognition of Climate Change, other interventions and scientific approaches were needed to be introduced to watershed management. The drylands in particular are to be most affected by climate change, becoming hotter and worsening droughts and even floods.

Chickpea harvested in the Kothapally watershed work. wilt-tolerant chickpea was one of the early interventions and part of the holistic approach for the watershed work (Srujan Punna, ICRISAT)

Chickpea harvested in the Kothapally watershed work. Wilt-tolerant chickpea was one of the early interventions and part of the holistic approach for the watershed work Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Kothapally site incorporated weather management controls and school children were even engaged and taught how to record changes. Through capacity building, farmers are able to make better on-farm decisions.

Doing it on a large scale

Once a proven model was in place, the next challenge to take on was how to do this on a large scale. First the Kothapally model was taken to 28 more regions in four other states in India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan).

More areas are now being reached as many companies focusing their CSR in rural areas are concerned about the extreme water scarcity in the drylands of India, which covers more than 60% of the farmed area. ICRISAT is working in more than sixty villages in India implementing watershed management for companies.

However, ICRISAT sees the future for CSR in forming clusters to create broader watershed areas and achieve more impact from the same resources, coupled with taking a more holistic approach to agricultural development, looking at the whole value chain and facilitating developments from water management all the way through to market linkages.

The biggest challenge in watershed management came when ICRISAT was tasked with reaching 4.3 million farmers in Karnataka state within three years (2009-12) with the aim of increasing productivity 5% every year. Watershed had to be only one part of the solution and a holistic approach to agricultural development taken.

Although the principles of being community driven and having science backed solutions were the same, new communications technologies were needed to reach and engage so many farmers. 10,000 farmers were trained to be farmer facilitators – a type of farmer-led extension service. They were paid a nominal fee by the government to take on this additional role and as part of this they were provided tablets with customized information for their area to share with farmers. The farmer facilitators also produced video interviews with farmers and ensured interactive video sessions throughout villages to show successful technologies. Mobile based voice and text messages were also part of the communications to farmers.

The huge success has led to the Government of Karnataka supporting a second phase (2013-17) to reach five million famers aiming to increase productivity 20%.

Taking the approach across Asia and Africa

Now these decades of experience have been taken to other Asian countries and Africa. The core of the approach remains the same in the different countries, as noted here by Dr Tilahun Amede, Principal Scientist with ICRISAT, “Our ‘approach’ was just as critical as the technical solutions. Any efforts had to be both community driven and led by the local authorities and specialists. It was essential that ICRISAT take a catalyst role and provide any technical back up needed.”

Although watershed developments had been introduced many years ago in Ethiopia, these were mostly seen as environmental projects to protect the natural resources. ICRISAT added a whole new dimension in Ethiopia by integrating agricultural development.

This site is now becoming a learning site and a show case where extension agents are getting trained and policy makers learn the costs and benefits of integrated watershed management. This same community was awarded 1 million birr (about 50,000 USD) by the regional government to continue improving their watershed and production systems.

With four decades of lessons learnt and proven successful approaches, we now just need to reach more areas and more people, especially in the drylands, where 2.5 billion people live.

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To read about Kothapally watershed management story as a timeline click here

For an overview of the whole timeline click here

(Photo: Joanna Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT)

The tough environment of the Yewol watershed in the highlands of Ethiopia. Photo: Joanna Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

(Photo: Joanna Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT)

The whole community gets involved and takes ownership, Ethiopia Yewol watershed Photo: Joanna Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

 (Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT)

“I had seen carrots in the markets but never tasted them. We could just afford to eat what we grow. Now with the watershed work we have grown carrots and potatoes and now are trialing cherry trees. I have now eaten carrot and so many more foods.” (Source) Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT


Women at the groundnut processing center.

Women at the groundnut processing center. Photo: Photo: WOFAN

Groundnut varieties with higher oil content empowering women in Nigeria

Using improved varieties of groundnut for processing that offer at least twice the potential quantities of oil for extraction in comparison to local varieties is helping to economically empower women in Nigeria. Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) and ICRISAT are working to promote improved groundnut production technologies for the Yadakwari community in Garun Mallam Local Government Area (LGA) of Nigeria.

Link to Happenings story: https://icrisat.org/groundnut-varieties-with-higher-oil-content-empowering-women-in-nigeria/

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The Yadakwari Women’s Community Service Centre is now using these improved varieties to produce more groundnut oil (up to 350 liters per week) in addition to kuli-kuli (a popular local groundnut-based snack; see box). The demand for locally pressed groundnut oil and kuli-kuli is so high that they are being immediately sold in the local markets.

“Improved varieties of groundnut from ICRISAT have brought happiness to many farm-families in northern Nigeria. Husbands grow groundnut, while WOFAN supports their wives to buy the grains produced for use in small-scale oil extraction. Several other families in Kano state go to our office because they can buy unadulterated groundnut oil from women’s groups being mentored by WOFAN,” said Mrs Hadja Salamatu Garba, Executive Director of WOFAN, Nigeria.

Processed groundnut oil.

Processed groundnut oil. Photo: WOFAN

“If ICRISAT had not partnered with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) to bring SAMNUT 23 and SAMNUT 24 varieties, which give three times the value of oil we were getting before, we wouldn’t have been able to address current market needs,” said Ms Garba.

Mrs Saadatu Musa, leader of the groundnut processing group of the Centre, has indicated that each kuli-kuli bag easily fetches about 4,000 Naira (US$12) and the oil is sold at about 400 Naira (US$1.2) per liter. The sale proceeds are divided into three parts: shared among members of the groups, savings into the group’s account, and for maintenance of the processing equipment.

The Yadakwari Women’s Community Service Centre comprises three women’s groups (one dedicated to general farming, the second to rice processing, and the third on groundnut processing). Each group has 30 women members. The group focusing on rice processing also receives support from the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI).

The project is being implemented by ICRISAT in partnership with 12 national partners and WOFAN is leading the post-harvest operations and market linkages in three states– Kano, Katsina and Jigawa. g

For more information on ICRISAT’s work on groundnuts

For more information on ICRISAT’s work in Nigeria

Kuli-kuli is a popular snack in northern Nigeria made from groundnuts. It can either be eaten alone or with a mixture of other foods. It is sometimes ground and mixed with salad or used as an ingredient for some foods. To make kuli-kuli, groundnuts are roasted and ground into a paste. The paste is then mixed with spices, salt and powered pepper. The paste is stripped of excess oil and made into desired shapes (round, cylinders, etc.). The oil removed in this process can then be heated and reused to fry peanut paste until it solidifies. It is then removed from oil and allowed to cool until ready to be eaten.

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes

Project: Increasing Groundnut Productivity of Smallholder Farmers in Ghana, Mali and Nigeria.

Investor: United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Partners: Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR); Nigerian Agricultural Seed Council (NASC); Centre for Dryland Agriculture of the Bayero University of Kano (CDA/BUK); Federal University of Agriculture- Makurdi (FUAM); Green Sahel Agricultural and Rural Development Initiative (GSARDI); Catholic Relief Services (CRS); Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN) and the Agricultural and Rural Development Authorities of Kebbi, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa and Katsina, Nigeria, and ICRISAT.

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal

Improving farmer livelihood through chickpea cultivation.

Improving farmer livelihood through chickpea cultivation. Photo: ICRISAT

Adopting improved chickpea improves farmer livelihoods in Ethiopia

A new study has found that improved chickpea adoption by farmers in Ethiopia significantly increased household income while also reducing poverty. The study found that a 10 percent increase in the area planted with improved chickpea is associated with a 12.6 percent increase in income per capita and a 12.3 percent increase in total income. The study also indicates that adopting improved chickpea varieties can reduce the probability of a household being below the US$2 poverty line.

Link to Happenings story: https://icrisat.org/adopting-improved-chickpea-improves-farmer-livelihoods-in-ethiopia/

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The study found that an increasing number of farmers adopted improved varieties in the Shewa region between 2006-07 and 2013-14 seasons. “In 2006-07 only 30% of farmers planted improved chickpea. By 2013-14 this share rose to almost 80%. The area dedicated to improved chickpea moved up from 0.17 hectare average to more than 0.4 hectare by 2014. Furthermore, many households started planting chickpea, bringing the share of chickpea growers up to 90% from an initial 65%,” said Dr Kai Mausch, Scientist-Economics at ICRISAT- Kenya.

The increased input use associated with improved chickpea cultivation contributes to significantly higher yields. These increased yields allow households to sell a larger share of their production into the market. While improved varieties command only a small mark-up, the return to improved chickpea is significantly higher given the significantly larger volume of sales. All this leads to chickpea sales making up a larger share of total income for those who adopt improved varieties. “Overall, increasing access to improved chickpea appears to be a promising pathway for rural development in Ethiopia,” said Dr Mausch.

The research carried out under ICRISAT’S Tropical Legumes II project (TLII), with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, computed the impact of adoption, while accounting for possible errors from access to technology transfer and improved seed. On the basis of their observations, the authors concluded that average adoption rates for improved chickpea varieties in the rest of Ethiopia remained much lower than those in the area under the study.

However, Ms. Simone Verkaart, Junior Professional Officer Technology Transfer, ICRISAT-Kenya cautions, “While this success story looks very promising for large parts of Ethiopia, attempts to increase the coverage to other chickpea growers or to non-chickpea growing regions should be preceded by careful economic and agronomic assessments to ensure replicability. While the upsides are evidently clear to farmers, traditional knowledge and market access may differ, which could change the outcomes.”

Policies that specifically target the poorest and remove obstacles for the diffusion of improved chickpea varieties, along with efforts targeted at building partnerships along the value chain, may go a long way in promoting smallholder welfare through adoption.

Outcomes from this research has been published in the journal Food Policy: Verkaart S, Munyua GB, Mausch K and Michler DJ. 2016. Welfare impacts of improved chickpea adoption: A pathway for rural development in Ethiopia? http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2016.11.007

The study was made possible through the financial support provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ICRISAT and the Netherlands Junior Professional Officer (JPO) program. The authors were supported by the Debre Zeit Agricultural Research Center (DZARC) of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), and their respective institutions in conducting the study.

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal


Farmers visiting sorghum field. Photo: Agathe Diama, ICRISAT

Farmers visiting sorghum field. Photo: Agathe Diama, ICRISAT

Enhancing awareness on improved sorghum and groundnut technologies in Mali

Farmers from four regions of Mali learnt about groundnut hybridization, sorghum hybrids and multipurpose sweet sorghum, open pollinated varieties of sorghum, varieties resistant to abiotic and biotic stresses with short and medium duration to cope with climate change, hybrid seed production and aflatoxin management during a field day organised by ICRISAT.

Link to Happenings story: https://icrisat.org/enhancing-awareness-on-improved-sorghum-and-groundnut-technologies-in-mali/

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Farmers visited the exhibition stands and participated in tasting of sweet sorghum syrup and value-added products of groundnut. Their discussions with researchers covered groundnut and sorghum production technologies and improved cultural practices, constraints and opportunities to improve the crops and production systems.

In the pathology laboratory where aflatoxin detection in groundnut and other crops are being carried out, the farmers were explained the importance of pre- and post-harvest aflatoxin management and different techniques to detect aflatoxin in groundnut products in laboratory, including ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) test.

During the visit, farmers appreciated the variability of breeding materials available, sorghum hybrid seed production and field management techniques. The enthusiasm and expectations of the farmers were heartening:

“I am happy with the performance of the dual-purpose sorghum varieties. I was able to cultivate some of them this year in an experimentation field. Despite the low rainfall, I got good crops yield. Dual-purpose sorghum is useful both for human consumption and livestock feeding and that explain my preference to these varieties. I urge ICRISAT to continue its support to farmers’ cooperatives. This will help them to produce quality seed, which in turn will contribute to improving food security and our incomes,” said Mr Mamadou Goita, a producer from Kifosso, Sikasso region.

“More women can earn better livelihoods nowadays thanks to groundnut seed production.  The women group in Wakoro which I am a member of has been working with ICRISAT during the past ten years; today we can get up to 2 tons of groundnut per hectare using improved varieties in our own fields,” said Ms Djeneba Ouattara.

“With the changing climate and drought conditions, many of our local groundnut varieties are no longer adapted. It is reassuring to know that we can count on research to access improved seeds of varieties that are better adapted to our farming conditions,” said Ms Mariam Camara, a participant from Kayes region.

According to Mrs Balla Togola, “Research carried out by ICRISAT and its partners in Mali has improved farmers’ access to quality seeds. Research efforts should be encouraged that will help farmers to benefit more from agriculture.”

The field day was organized on 18 November, at ICRISAT Samanko Research Station, Mali. Eighty five farmers including 26 women and 59 men representing different villages from Mopti, Kayes, Koulikoro and Sikasso regions attended the program. The field day was coordinated by Dr Ayoni Ogunbayo, Country Project Manager, Mali; USAID Project, and Dr Baloua Nebie, Scientist, Sorghum Breeding, ICRISAT, Mali. The field activities were facilitated by Dr D Hailemichael Shewayrga, Senior Scientist, Groundnut Breeding and Dr Aboubacar Toure, Senior Scientist, Sorghum Breeding.

For more information on ICRISAT’s work in Mali, click 

For more information on Aflatoxin click

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal

Farmers and project members inspecting green gram crop. Photo: Egerton University

Farmers and project members inspecting green gram crop. Photo: Egerton University

Increasing farm productivity in Kenya through cultivation of improved legumes and cereals

In a span of one year, 300 farmers in Kerio valley in Kenya earned over KES 4.8 million (USD 46,978) by cultivating 44.5 ha of green grams and over KES 4.2 million (USD 41,106) through cultivation of 161.8 ha of groundnuts.

Link to Happenings story: https://icrisat.org/increasing-farm-productivity-in-kenya-through-cultivation-of-improved-legumes-and-cereals/

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These farmers were trained in increasing productivity of dense legumes (groundnuts, green grams) and cereals (millets and sorghum). High quality seeds of green grams and groundnuts mainly KS20 variety, CG 7, and ICGV 90704 that are well adapted to hot dry areas of Kerio valley were released to farmers. Farmers were trained on improved planting practices. Prior to this, farmers used to plant less seed (4 kgs per 0.4 ha instead of 8 kgs per 0.4 ha) which reduced their yield to 3-4 bags per 0.4 ha instead of 7-8 bags per 0.4 ha.

Due to the combination of providing high yielding improved seeds and training on better agronomic practices farmers in four areas (Kapkayo, Biretwo, Kabulwo and Arror) tripled their acreage to 364 ha for groundnuts and increased monetary gains from KES 4 million (USD 39,149) in 2015 to KES 25 million (USD 244,682) in 2016. Green gram production also increased significantly from an area of less than 48 ha to over 116 ha with total incomes increasing from KES 2.8 million (USD 27,404) in 2015 to 5.6 million (USD 54,808) in 2016.

As harvest improved, farmers were briefed on the benefits of collective marketing of produce through aggregation centers at Arror, Kabulwo, Biretwo, Kapkayo and Cheplambus for better price negotiation. Due to aggregation, market access became easier for farmers. For example the Greenforest Company Ltd. based in Nairobi is currently buying the unshelled groundnut at KES 70 (USD 0.68) and green gram at KES 125 (USD 1.22) per kilo.

In addition farmers were trained on correct spacing, timely planting, importance of earthing-up for groundnut to facilitate better pod formation, pest (pod borers, cutworms, aphids) and disease (mainly early blight, cerspora leaf spots and Groundnut Rossette virus) control.

Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) bags were introduced to farmers to manage post-harvest loses. Additionally, the bags have been effective in maintaining seed integrity up to next planting season as the bag maintains low levels of oxygen and higher levels of carbon dioxide killing all insects.

Adequate promotion of above mentioned practices and technologies has enhanced the adoption of improved varieties, increased the awareness, contributed to inclusive agricultural growth and availability of surplus for marketing as well as food self-sufficiency at households. Consequently, nutrition has been improved due to enhanced consumption of high value legumes (pigeon pea, groundnuts, green gram) and cereals (sorghum, finger and pearl millet) reducing dependence on livestock for livelihoods.

For information on ICRISAT’s work on grain legumes click here

For information on ICRISAT’s work on dryland cereals click here

For information on ICRISAT’s work in kenya click here

Project: Feed the Future – Accelerated Value Chain Development Program

Investors: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Partners: County government of Elgeyo Marakwet, Kenya; Egerton University; International Potato Centre and ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals and Grain Legumes

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal

Enhancing yield of chickpea through micronutrient application.

Enhancing yield of chickpea through micronutrient application. Photo: S Punna, ICRISAT

Enhancing productivity through micronutrient management

A recent study reveals that chickpea variety (JG-130) grown with balanced fertilizers including micronutrients and bio-fertilizers under rainfed condition recorded 15% and 40% higher grain yield compared to JG-130 and local chickpea variety grown without micronutrients respectively. For groundnut the application of micronutrients increased groundnut pods per plant by 9%, seeds per pod by 6% and pod yield by13%.

Link to Happenings story: https://icrisat.org/enhancing-productivity-through-micronutrient-management/

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Application of balanced fertilizers significantly enhanced growth, yield attributes and yield of groundnut and chickpea. The net economic gain under balanced fertilization was ₹ 3,024 per ha for chickpea and ₹ 7,155 per ha for groundnut. In addition to economic gains a positive residual benefit on the succeeding crops was also documented. For example, the mean yield of wheat was 3,010 kg per ha as a result of residual effect. The yield increased by 231 kg compared to the yield (2,779 kg per ha) without the application of micronutrients.

A three-year study carried out in severely micronutrient deficit semi-arid areas of Uttar Pradesh, India, shows that prolonged and overuse of fertilizers to increase crop yield has resulted in rapid depletion of micronutrients from soils. Instead of single nutrient deficiency, multi-nutrient deficiencies are emerging. Multi-nutrient soil deficiency directly impacts crop productivity and indirectly contributes to malnutrition.

Economic and residual gains after micronutrient application.

Economic and residual gains after micronutrient application.

The beneficial effects of balanced fertilization are better growth and productivity of crops which resulted in lower production costs, better profitability, and improved chances of producing a good yield under adverse climatic and soil conditions.

Results from this study also strengthen the argument that balanced fertilizer application is beneficial and necessary to ensure long term sustainability, especially in the context of intensive agriculture.

The research findings showed that 88% farmers appreciated the impact of balanced fertilization. However only 9% farmers actually used them. The unavailability of micronutrients and lack of awareness by farmers seems to be a major hurdle in scaling up the use of micronutrients. Hence a concerted effort is required by researchers, extension personnel, policy-makers, fertilizer industry and dealers to ensure micronutrient is available to farmers at affordable prices.

This study was conducted at Domagor-Pahuj watershed in Babina block of Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. In this area, the National Research Centre for Agroforestry (NRCAF) a unit of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR),
Jhansi, is developing a model watershed in consortium mode with ICRISAT and Development Alternatives, a non-governmental organization.

The findings of this research were published in the Indian Journal of Soil and Water Conservation and this paper has been selected as the best paper of 2016 by the Indian Association of Soil Water Conservation (IASWC).

Palsaniya DR, Singh R, Tewari RK, Dhyani SK, Yadav RS, Wani SP, Sachan R and Pandey SN. 2016. Sustaining Farm Productivity through Watershed based Participatory Balance Nutrient Management: A Case Study from Semi-Arid Tropics of Central India. Indian Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 44(1):13-18. http://oar.icrisat.org/9819/

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal

Year End Message

As 2016 draws to a close Dr David Bergvinson reflects on our work in making pulses accessible and affordable to all consumers. Social innovations allow farmers to unlock the potential that markets offer. Our work across Africa in partnership with local research institutes has helped in promoting equitable markets and development translating into economic opportunities for farmers.

Watch the video http://dgblog.icrisat.org/

Workshop and conference

Spatial Crop Modelling for improving Food Security. Photo: AM Nenkam, ICRISAT

Spatial Crop Modelling for improving Food Security. Photo: AM Nenkam, ICRISAT

Training workshop on agricultural forecasting tool

At a recent workshop participants were trained on how to reliably simulate crop yields over space, and use aggregated forecasts to improve food security on sub-national to national scales using the CCAFS Regional Agricultural Forecasting Toolbox (CRAFT). CRAFT is a computer based decision support system to forecast short- and long-term crop yield and to analyze agricultural risks.

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During the workshop, participants were shown how to generate soil, weather and observed data and import the data into CRAFT. Expertise in Geographic Information System (GIS) is a pre-requisite to use CRAFT which is a challenge for many users. Therefore, to make it user friendly, the workshop discussed on adapting Quantum GIS (QGIS) or functionalities to automate data preparation. Participants reported bugs while using CRAFT and these inputs were utilized in fine tuning the software.

The workshop discussions also aimed at using CRAFT as a benchmark for yield prediction in West Africa. “CRAFT not only provides an attractive software platform to investigate model complexity tradeoffs in spatial yield forecasting, it also learns from, and builds upon existing modeling skills and priorities in the region. As such it will help foster partnerships that increase the reliability and granularity of yield forecasts, and will thus help strengthen food security at coarser scales, and the delivery of farm support services into the last mile,” said Dr Pierre Sibiry Traore, Head GIS, ICRISAT-Mali and Project Leader, Capacitating African Smallholders with Climate Advisories and Insurance Development (CASCAID).

Commencing on 28 November, the two-week long workshop was organized at University of Florida, USA. It brought together West African resource persons to fine tune CRAFT using historical reference data from Mali’s cotton growing belt. Nine participants representing the Agrhymet Regional Centre, University of Bonn, Germany, University of Florida and ICRISAT took part in the training.

For more information on CRAFT click here 

For information on ICRISAT’s work on climate change click here

CRAFT is a framework for running multiple crop simulation models under a unified user interface and spatial aggregation of the simulated results into interactive thematic maps. Running on gridded data sets, CRAFT requires spatially continuous weather, soil and agricultural management inputs. CRAFT utilizes merged weather data sets developed by the National Meteorological Agency of Mali under the ENACTS (Enhancing National Climate Services) initiative with crop masks and crop type maps produced by ICRISAT and partners under the Sentinel-2 Agriculture project. CRAFT was developed in partnership with Washington State University, the University of Florida, and by Asia Risk Centre (ARC), a sister company of Risk Management Solutions (RMS) Inc.

Projects – Capacitating African Smallholders with Climate Advisories and Insurance Development (CASCAID); Agricultural Model Inter-comparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP); Sentinel-2 Agriculture (Sen2agri); Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Investors – CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS); UK Aid; European Space Agency.

Partners – CCAFS; Washington State University, USA; University of Florida, USA; Asia Risk Centre (ARC); Agrhymet Regional Centre, Niger; International Research Institute on Climate and Society (IRI), Columbia University, USA and ICRISAT.

CGIAR Research Program – Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal

(L to R) Dr Whitbread; Dr Chakravarthy; Dr Carberry; Dr Rao; Dr Kumar.

(L to R) Dr Whitbread; Dr Chakravarthy; Dr Carberry; Dr Rao; Dr Kumar. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Scaling up climate smart agriculture for Telangana, India

Given the high climatic variability in Telangana state in India, stakeholders came together to discuss context specific climate smart agriculture (CSA) practices and identify synergies to design and promote local level CSA implementation plans.

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In Telangana, severe fluctuations in rainfall have negatively impacted rainfed farming systems in both low rainfall (600 mm) zones of southern Telangana and high rainfall (1000 mm) zones in the northern part of the state. Drought is a common and recurrent feature of the region. This has adversely impacted the livelihoods of resource poor farmers.

The workshop began by reviewing cases of climate smart villages (CSV) initiated in India and specifically Telangana. Climatic risks were identified at mandal level (smallest administrative division) covering all 30 districts of Telangana. Median values of 29 Global Climate Models (GCMs) and projections of future climate data were obtained by using the most recent Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) and were used to analyze future climate projections and identify highly vulnerable hot spots. Mandals in southern Telangana were identified to be more vulnerable.

The next step was to prioritize CSA practices that are adaptable and location specific, factoring in diversity at grassroots level. Climate risks are experienced differently by different groups which depends not only on the geography and production systems but also on the socio-economic status of farmers, government policies, investments in agriculture, etc. Therefore, based on the newly identified climate risk data, participants prioritized potential CSA interventions for the state. Methodology for prioritization of location specific CSA practices was presented by Dr Shalander Kumar, Scientist, Dryland Systems in South Asia, Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program, ICRISAT-India and Dr Arun KC, CGIAR Research Program Climate Change, Agriculture & Food Security, CCAFS, New Delhi. Climate risk data was presented by
Dr Dakshina Murthy, Senior Scientist – Systems Modeling, Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program, ICRISAT-India and team.

Multi-criteria analysis was used to prioritize CSA practices. Adoption barriers in terms of resource requirement, capacity and knowledge of extension agencies and farmers, social acceptability and policy constraints were also assessed for each prioritized CSA practice. The group also deliberated on incentives such as subsidies, credits and
tax breaks to promote CSA interventions.

A diverse group of 60 researchers, scientists, policy makers, members from civil society and officials from various departments of Government of Telangana participated in the workshop organized jointly by Environment Protection Training and Research Institute (EPTRI), CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and ICRISAT. The two-day workshop was hosted by ICRISAT on 6-7 December.

This workshop was attended by participants from: Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad; PJ Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), Hyderabad; National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD); Telangana state departments of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry; State Seed Corporation (SSC); National Seed Corporation (NSC), Ground Water Department; State Co-operative and Marketing Federation (MARKFED); State Warehousing Corporation and Rural Development; District Water Management Agency (DWMA); Non-governmental organizations such as Dhan; Watershed Support Services and Activity Network (WASSAN) and South Asia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Water Resources Studies (SaciWATER).

Among the dignitaries present were: B Kalyan Chakravarthy, Director General, EPTRI, Dr V Praveen Rao, Vice Chancellor, PJTSAU, Dr Peter Carberry, Deputy Director General, ICRISAT and Dr Anthony Whitbread, Program Director, Innovation Systems for Drylands, ICRISAT.

For more information on ICRISAT’s work on climate change click here

Project: Scaling up Climate Smart Agriculture via the Climate Smart Village Approach for Telangana State, Resilient Agricultural Households through Adaptation to Climate Change in Mahabubnagar district.

Investor: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change (NAFCC), Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Government of India through Environment Protection Training & Research Institute (EPTRI), Government of Telangana.

Partners:  Environment Protection Training and Research Institute (EPTRI), CGIAR Research Program on Climate change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and ICRISAT.

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal


Web updates

Super-early pigeonpea: Dodging climate change in the drylands

A pigeonpea improvement field at ICRISAT headquarters, India.

A pigeonpea improvement field at ICRISAT headquarters, India.

Early-maturing pigeonpea varieties that fit into farmers’ cropping systems and yield higher returns with low inputs have long been on the wish list of Indian farmers. ICRISAT’s pigeonpea breeding team recently developed super-early varieties (ICPL 11255, ICPL 20340 and ICPL 20338), which are attracting farmers from several states of Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Read more

Women and youth in pulse value chains: opportunities for inclusion of smallholders

Smallholder farmers grow a significant portion of pulse crops and 67% of global pulse production happens in Africa and Asia. The efficacy and equity of pulse value chains depends on a better understanding of their major actors, including smallholder farmers. It is equally important to recognize that there are many different types of smallholder farmers participating in pulse value chains. Read more


Dr Arabinda Kumar Padhee, joined as Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs, ICRISAT-Delhi, on 25 November. He has a Master’s degree in Agricultural Entomology from Banaras Hindu University and a PhD from Indian Agricultural Research Institute. He also has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Dr Padhee has undertaken public policy courses at University of Toronto, Civil Services College, Singapore and University of Cambridge at various points of his career.

He topped the Agricultural Research Services (ARS) Examination in 1992 and joined the Indian Administrative Services in 1996. He has held various positions such as: District Magistrate and Collector; Director, Agriculture and Food Production; Joint Secretary, Department of Fertilizers, New Delhi; and Chief Administrator, Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha. During his tenure with Odisha Government he was instrumental in drafting the Odisha State Agriculture Policy in 2008.

We welcome Dr Padhee and his family to Team ICRISAT and wish him all success.

New publications

Tenancy and Agricultural Productivity in Southern India: Nature, Extent, Trends and Determinants.

Authors: U Deb, S Pramanik, PE Khan, and C Bantilan.

Published: Journal of Rural Development, 35(3):435-464.

Abstract: The study reconfirmed prevalence of reverse tenancy in dryland agriculture in southern India in recent years (2009-10 and 2011-12) as was in the mid-seventies. Household level panel data collected from six villages by ICRISAT under its Village Level Studies (VLS) and Village Dynamics Studies (VDS) programme were analysed.Results indicated that an additional bullock increased
rented-in area by 0.22 ha. On the other hand, large farmers had 0.47 ha more area under rented-in compared to other tenants. There was negative relationship between rentedin area and age and education of the household head indicating that educated and elderly people participated
less in the tenancy market. Input use level, crop yield and profitability were generally higher in own land than that of rented-in land in the mid-seventies. Reduction of production risks in one of the study villages has not only reduced tenancy but also abolished reverse tenancy.


Exploration of cultural norms and practices influencing women’s participation in chickpea participatory varietal selection training activities: A case study of Ada’a and Ensaro districts, Ethiopia.

Authors: Esther M Njuguna, Millicent L Liani, Meseret Beyene and Chris Ojiewo.

Published: 2016. Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security, 1(3): 40-63.

Abstract: In order to encourage gender equality in delivery of varietal knowledge to male and female farmers in Ada’a and Ensaro districts of Ethiopia, chickpea breeders set a policy that each male farmer would bring along his wife to participatory varietal selection sessions. Women farmers did not attend the trainings as expected. Short radius of movement, labor burden, sex of extension agents, intimacy and harmony in the home emerge as key factors considered by women.


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