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February
Issue No: 1943
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50th Years celebration


Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the display booths and interacts with ICRISAT scientists. Photo: PTI

Hon'ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the display booths and interacts with ICRISAT scientists. Photo: PTI

Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi inaugurates ICRISAT’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has marked the start of its 50th anniversary celebrations with an official visit by the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, to its global headquarters in Hyderabad, India.

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India has hosted the leading international Institute since its inception on 28th March 1972, as part of a global institutional framework to share scientific breakthroughs and innovations that help overcome poverty, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the harshest dryland regions of the world.

The Prime Minister was welcomed by ICRISAT’s Director General Dr Jaqueline Hughes, Governing Board Chair Professor Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director General Research Dr Arvind Kumar and staff from across the Institute.

Prime Minister Modi was appraised of the Institute’s research into crop improvement, agri-food systems, seed production, gender empowerment and digital agriculture that are helping improve food security and nutrition for the world’s poorest communities.

Speaking at the celebration, Prime Minister Modi congratulated staff and scientists on the 50th milestone commended the innovations and research that the Institute has undertaken over the last half century to improve agriculture for smallholder farmers.

Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General-Research, explains about improved sorghum cultivars to Hon'ble Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar. Photo: PTI

Dr Arvind Kumar, Deputy Director General-Research, explains about improved sorghum cultivars to Hon’ble Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar. Photo: PTI

The Prime Minister highlighted ICRISAT’s work in supporting agri-food systems, citing water management in the Bundelkhand Region of India to the development of more climate-resilient grain varieties citing some examples, that were leading to better food security in the semi-arid regions of Asia and Africa.

He encouraged the Institute to keep advancing its research achievements and the international public goods it has delivered for half a century, by developing new targets for the next 25 years which would coincide with India’s 100th Year of Independence.

He underscored the Government’s commitment to smallholder farmers by connecting them to Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO’s) and online market places and applauded ICRISAT’s approach to digital agriculture.

In his closing remarks, Prime Minister Modi encouraged ICRISAT to continue working on biofuel research with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and agricultural universities with a focus on smallholder and dryland farmers.

The Prime Minister also reaffirmed the Government’s focus on supporting the development of more millets – a mandate crop of the Institute – especially in the lead up to the International Year of Millets in 2023 as a key pillar in enhancing nutritional security in India.

ICRISAT Director General Dr Jaqueline Hughes thanked Prime Minister Modi for his visit and applauded the Government for its enduring partnership and efforts in having the UN declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

Dr Hughes said she looked forward to collaborating with the Government on the Institute’s 50th celebrations in 2022 with a range of activities to be announced across ICRISAT locations in West, Central East and Southern Africa and India.

Hon'ble Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar and other dignitaries along with ICRISAT Governing Board Chair Prof Prabhu Pingali visit the demonstration fields. Photo: PTI

Hon’ble Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare Shri Narendra Singh Tomar and other dignitaries along with ICRISAT Governing Board Chair Prof Prabhu Pingali visit the demonstration fields. Photo: PTI

New partnership


Ms Shoko Noda, Resident Representative, UNDP India (L), and Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT (R), at the virtual event during which the two institutions signed an MoU. Photo: P Joshi

Ms Shoko Noda, Resident Representative, UNDP India (L), and Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT (R), at the virtual event during which the two institutions signed an MoU. Photo: P Joshi

Leveraging the synergy of two global institutions for greater development

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and ICRISAT recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together towards robust solutions for land restoration, biodiversity conservation, climate resilience, etc. Ms Shoko Noda, Resident Representative, UNDP India, and Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT, inked the MoU on 19 January, 2022.

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The key goals of cooperation between UNDP and ICRISAT are as follows:

  • To develop and demonstrate technology-enabled tools and innovative practices to bring more biodiversity in agriculture and promote climate resilience in food systems
  • To develop and mainstream climate-resilient agricultural practices to strengthen food systems through both data-driven and community-driven approaches
  • To develop training material and awareness modules for capacity building of different stakeholders (scientists, researchers, national and local institutes, nationalized banks, farmers etc.) on biodiversity conservation, sustainable agriculture and farming practices, utilization of indigenous and wild crop varieties, more efficient storage systems, robust and reliable financing mechanism for farmers etc.
  • To monitor and enumerate the positive impacts on biodiversity through climate-smart agricultural practices, using an integrated approach to manage landscapes to help adapt agricultural methods, livestock and crops to the ongoing human-induced climate change
  • To document and disseminate best practices in biodiversity conservation using climate-smart agriculture by creating a ‘Best Practices Compendium’ for building a robust network of communication and outreach to different stakeholders
  • To collaborate on projects in areas like climate resilience and climate-resilient agriculture, agroforestry and land restoration
  • To work towards maximizing positive policy impacts for climate-resilient food systems through research, analysis, policy advocacy etc.
  • To facilitate low-cost scalable interventions with technical partnerships using innovative approaches like data collaboratives, open innovation platforms, digital public goods, citizen’s engagement, citizen science etc., to strengthen data-driven policy making in food systems
  • To foster data-driven policies in food systems through research, analysis and data sharing by leveraging artificial intelligence, open data, remote sensing and geospatial data, open digital platforms, and so on
  • To adopt a community-centric approach for better data collection, knowledge management, and interdisciplinary research to strengthen governance and policy advocacy for positive impact on the agricultural ecosystem

The UNDP works with partners in several countries to promote sustainable development by eradication of poverty, advancement of women, good governance, etc. UNDP India specifically focuses on strategic solutions to achieve scalable impacts in the area of water governance, conservation and management.

With ICRISAT’s expertise in climate-smart agricultural technologies including development of improved crop varieties and hybrids, natural resource management, resilient food systems, prevention of land degradation etc. the partnership between UNDP and ICRISAT has tremendous potential for significant impact, especially in the drylands.

With the signing of this MoU, it is hoped that the strengths of both institutions will be leveraged so that their individual development efforts can be synergized for maximum positive impact.

Honor


Prabhu Pingali, Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board

Prof Prabhu Pingali bestowed honor for his exemplary contributions

Prof Prabhu Pingali, Chair, ICRISAT Governing Board, has been elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Wednesday, January 26. He was commended “for distinguished contributions to the field of agricultural and applied economics, particularly for his work on agricultural development and food systems improvements.”

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“It is an honor to be named an AAAS Fellow in recognition of my work in pursuit of knowledge that can help lift the rural poor out of deprivation and alleviate malnutrition in the developing world,” said Prof Pingali, accepting the accolades. “This honor would not have been possible without the contributions of the students, research fellows, postdocs, and other collaborators I have worked with throughout my career.”

Click here to read more on this: Prabhu Pingali Named AAAS Fellow

It may be noted that a few days earlier Prof Prabhu was named as part of the Indian government’s technical advisory committee for evaluation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA). With this appointment he will be working closely with Indian government officials, academics and researchers to provide advice on technical aspects of the evaluation plan by Development Monitoring and Evaluation Office (DMEO) of the Niti Aayog (Planning Commission) as it evaluates food subsidies under the NFSA. Read more about it here: Prabhu Pingali Named to Advisory Committee on Indian National Food Security Act)

Heartiest congratulations to Prof Pingali from all of us at ICRISAT.

Capacity building


Participants in a training session by Dr Aboubacar Touré.

Participants in a training session by Dr Aboubacar Touré.

Strengthening capacity of Malian private sector in first generation seed production

In an effort to increase compliance of seed production in Mali with the laws and standards, especially for that of hybrid seed production, a training program was organized by ICRISAT for researchers, seed companies and farmers during 7 – 11 December in Sikasso through the Integrated Seed Sector Development in the Sahel project (ISSD/Sahel).

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The training program looked at increasing awareness and knowledge of breeders in the variety registration process, variety maintenance and to better involve private companies in early generation seed production. The program, “Laws and texts governing the registration of varieties in the seed catalog and the production of early-generation seeds in Mali”, is expected to help in the larger endeavor to make available breeder and foundation seeds to seed producers in Mali through the project. Thanks to the strong collaboration between private sector and research, some seed companies and farmers organizations (FOs) in Mali are already involved in sorghum seed production under supervision of researchers.

“Our main objective as a research center is to help seed production units become independent in the future and take up production of foundation seeds without the help of any project,” said Dr Baloua Nebie, sorghum breeder and the project’s Coordinator at ICRISAT.

Seed production involves meeting many requirements, particularly production of hybrid varieties, like the techniques of isolation and purification. Complying with the rules results in quality seeds meeting the criteria for certification.

“Seed production is done according to precise rules. It obeys the laws in force in Mali. The objective was to share with participants this useful information around rules and laws that regulate seed production in Mali,” said Dr Dioncounda Camara, trainer from LABOSEM (Mali’s seed regulator).

Dr Aboubacar Touré, a sorghum breeder and Product Placement Lead at ICRISAT, trained the participants In first generation seed producing techniques and maintenance of varieties.

“Hybrid production can be a bit complicated in terms of complying with the rules. This is not always clear for seed companies like us. This kind of training can help us to produce good quality seeds,” said Mr Ibrahim Mallé, Director General of ZAMOHO, a seed company. Twenty two trainees, including researchers, representatives of seed companies and farmers’ organizations participated. The training revolved around many crops, such as sorghum, millet, groundnut, cowpea, rice, maize and vegetables.

To hear what the participants said about the training, click here.

Funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN) and coordinated by a consortium of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) (lead organization), Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) (Netherlands) and ICRISAT, the ISSD Sahel project works in Mali and Niger to transform seed systems in these countries.

Recommendations for better production of foundation and breeder seeds 

  • At the end of the training sessions, participants conveyed to the research centers (ICRISAT and IER) the need to maintain and strengthen collaboration with seed companies in all their activities. They also added that this collaboration should not be project-based and that they are ready to implement demonstration plots of new varieties using their resources.
  • A continual capacity building is required to maintain seed quality, especially of hybrids.
  • It is also important to indicate the name of the hybrid parents in the regional seed catalogs so that the hybrids registered with varying names across countries could be identified by seed companies. This can help avoid duplication.

Project: Integrated Seed Sector Development in the Sahel (ISSD/Sahel)
Funder: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN)
Partners: International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), NARS partners from Mali and Niger, and ICRISAT


Inauguration of polyhouse structures by: A) Dr Pradosh Kumar Panda (Deputy Director Horticulture, Nabarangpur); B) Mr Vimsen Sabar (Additional Project Director, District Rural Development Agency, Rayagada) and C) Mr Milu Nandi (Sarpanch, Kunduli, Koraput). Photos: Abhishek Pradhan, World Veg

Inauguration of polyhouse structures by: A) Dr Pradosh Kumar Panda (Deputy Director Horticulture, Nabarangpur); B) Mr Vimsen Sabar (Additional Project Director, District Rural Development Agency, Rayagada) and C) Mr Milu Nandi (Sarpanch, Kunduli, Koraput). Photos: Abhishek Pradhan, World Veg

Hi-tech horticulture nursery structures established under Odisha Livelihoods Mission Project

To improve vegetable production in the remotest parts of India’s Odisha state, ICRISAT in partnership with the World Vegetable Center has established naturally ventilated hi-tech nurseries in the state’s tribal districts of Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada. The polyhouse nurseries became operational in December 2021.

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The three nurseries, one each in Pungar village in Kunduli Gram Panchayat, Padargam village in Temera Gram Panchayat and Singari village in Kumudabali Gram Panchayat, are being operated by Self-Help Groups (SHGs). Dr Arshad Pal, Scientist, World Vegetable Center, informed that the nursery structures are equipped with facilities of fertigation MixRite, foggers, etc., and each nursery structure can produce about 300,000 quality vegetable seedlings per batch. The members of SHGs were trained in raising soil-less seedlings using cocopeat and protrays.

Why hi-tech horticulture nurseries?

Production of good quality vegetable seedlings ensures high yield and quality. It is often observed that scientific design and technical knowhow are lacking when nurseries are established through developmental schemes, especially in remote rural locations. Secondly, the building capacity of traditional horticulture farmers in raising good quality seedlings locally is critical to augment their livelihoods. The seedlings raised in unscientific nursery structures/open fields have poor germination, are infested by insects, pests and diseases. This often results in increased mortality of seedlings when they are planted in the main field, and subsequently farmers realize low yield. Such experiences can be a major deterrent to efforts aimed to improve crop productivity and rural livelihoods. The Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM) Project aims to tackle these issues.

Dr Prasad Kamdi, the project’s Coordinator for Nabarangpur District, pointed out that local availability of good quality seedlings can fulfil the seedlings requirement, reduce mortality during transportation and the transportation cost of seedlings.

Dr Aviraj Datta, the project’s Coordinator for Koraput District, informed that the cost per seedling of tomato has come down significantly from Rs 5 to 7 to about half a rupee for the farmers in OLM-ICRISAT project sites. Farmers are no longer dependent on local nurseries. Capacity building exercises carried out by the project team have enabled the farmers to raise disease free seedlings using cocopeat and prortrays in this hi-tech nursery structure with negligible or no mortality rate by themselves.

During the inauguration of the nurseries, Dr Pushpajeet Choudhari, Coordinator for Rayagada District, said these structures will ensure good quality seedling production along with significant reduction in input cost of vegetable cultivation, making tribal farmers self-reliant in the long run.

Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, ICRISAT Development Center, highlighted that in the future quality seedling production in these nurseries can become a highly commercialized business for the SHGs, wherein the farmers from surrounding areas can buy the seedlings.

Project: Sustainable improvement of rural livelihoods and restoration of coconut-based livelihoods through specific science based interventions
Funder: Odisha Livelihoods Mission (OLM)
Partners: World Vegetable Center
CRP: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals


The new office and conference hall facility. Photo: ICRISAT.

The new office and conference hall facility. Photo: ICRISAT.

Strengthening AR4D partnerships in Kenya with new research infrastructure

To enhance research infrastructure for ICRISAT and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), ICRISAT handed over newly constructed offices and a conference hall building to KALRO in December 2021. The facilities situated in KALRO’s Agricultural Mechanization Research Institute (AMRI) station in Kiboko, Kenya will be jointly used by both KALRO and ICRISAT staff as well as other collaborators.

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The development of the facilities was initiated through a joint collaboration between ICRISAT and KALRO-AMRI. Partnerships are central to ICRISAT’s approach towards tackling challenges facing drylands. KALRO and ICRISAT have been undertaking collaborative research and capacity building in various fields within KALRO centers, including AMRI-Kiboko, Alupe and other centers in Kenya.

Speaking on behalf of Dr Eliud Kireger, KALRO’s Director General, Dr Felister Makini, KALRO’s Deputy Director for Crops, pointed out that the facilities which consist of five offices and a conference hall will go a long way in enhancing research infrastructure. She added that the partnership between ICRISAT and KALRO through research on drought tolerant crops (sorghum, pigeon pea, groundnut, chickpea and millets) has led to immense achievements, which include provision of research infrastructure, bilateral research in various fields and sharing and exchange of germplasm and breeding lines, joint evaluation of trials and nurseries by KALRO and ICRISAT scientists and utilization of the ICRISAT molecular lab by KALRO scientists and scholars.

The facilities being inaugurated by Dr Makini (left) and Dr Harawa (right)

The facilities being inaugurated by Dr Makini (left) and Dr Harawa (right)

Dr Makini added that partnership in bilateral projects such as Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancements (HOPE), Feed the Future Accelerated Value Chain Development (FtF-AVCD), Strengthening Sorghum and Millet Value Chains for Food, Nutritional and Income Security in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (SOMNI) and Tropical legumes I and II have led to the development of high-yielding sorghum, millet and pigeon pea varieties and capacity building of several scientists to Masters and PhD level.

Dr Rebbie Harawa, ICRISAT’s ESA Regional Director, assured KALRO that future collaborative research activities between the organization and ICRISAT will continue focusing on bilateral research in various fields, sharing and exchange of germplasm and breeding lines, infrastructural improvement and training at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. She noted that through this collaboration, 13 varieties comprising of sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, and pigeon pea have been released between 1988 and 2016. “If one goes into the farms, one will find a lot of these varieties. These are not only varieties that have been released, but varieties that are in homes helping meet food and nutrition needs and have become income generators. Indeed, this is not just about science of discovery but also science of delivery and impact,” remarked Dr Harawa.

She added that ICRISAT has also contributed to more infrastructure such as construction of a 2.7km electric fence at KALRO Kiboko station, installation of a ground mounted transformer that supplies electricity to the two institutions and other beneficiaries, and solar power installation that serves ICRISAT and KALRO, among others.

Dr Harawa emphasized the continued collaboration with KALRO in modernizing the Kiboko research station to a center of excellence where people, especially the young generation, can learn about crop breeding and all the science that is taking place.She added that there is a need to go beyond variety release and consider business incubation or agribusiness for a more sustainable research.

“I am grateful to KALRO for their support in the implementation of Tropical Legumes Projects for which ICRISAT was awarded the Africa Food Prize in 2021. As we celebrate 50 years in March 2022, we recognize our national partners like KALRO; we couldn’t have come this far without their support,” she added.


A research technician at improved white sorghum variety Narosorgh 1 foundation seed multiplication site at NaSARRI, Serere, Uganda. Photo: Omaria Sam

A research technician at improved white sorghum variety Narosorgh 1 foundation seed multiplication site at NaSARRI, Serere, Uganda. Photo: Omaria Sam

Key actors work hand-in-hand to enhance Early Generation Seed supply in Uganda

ICRISAT and its partners in Uganda have joined forces to operationalize a pre-booking system for breeder and foundation seed by facilitating seed demand forecasting and planning meetings with other Early Generation Seed (EGS) actors in the country. They are also supporting seed tracking and tracing activities to ensure proper coordination of quality seed delivery.

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Through the Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa (ISSD-Africa) project, the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI), one of the research centers of National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), and ICRISAT are working together with NARO Holdings Limited (NHL) and other key stakeholders in the seed sector to address EGS supply challenges, so that there is greater availability of quality seed of improved crop varieties in Uganda.

“This initiative will guide production and guarantee sustainable supply of EGS to dedicated seed companies for subsequent production of certified seed for sale to grain producers. It will also strengthen the capacity of stakeholders in the EGS value chain in the areas of demand forecasting and production planning,” said NARO NHL General Manager, Mr Chris Muwanika.

The shortage of EGS required to scale up production of improved varieties is a major bottleneck hampering availability and access to quality seed for smallholder farmers. NARO has the mandate to produce and supply quality EGS of improved varieties of crops, majorly cereals, small grains, oilseeds, grain legumes, pastures, and vegetatively propagated crops in Uganda. According to Mr Muwanika, NARO has the technical human resources to produce and supply EGS; however, institutional bottlenecks such as the non-tax revenue policy and protracted procurement processes curtail timely reinvestment of funds generated from seed sales to sustain production and supply. As such, NARO is unable to effectively respond to the increasing demand for quality foundation seed from commercial seed producers. To address this constraint, NARO partnered with NHL for commercial production and supply of foundation seed.

Beyond this initiative, the project has also supported on-station breeder and foundation seed multiplication for sorghum and finger millet at NaSARRI. Steps have been taken to secure off-take by initiating a pre-booking system through signing of partnership agreements with seed off-takers who produce commercial seed and also function as grain off-takers at the far end of the commodity value chain.

According to Ms Hellen Opie, a socio-economist and project team leader at NaSARRI, these efforts will ensure timeliness and availability of breeder and foundation seed in desired quantities by commercial seed producers in the country.

Authors:

Robinah Nakabaggwe, NaSARRI/NARO, Soroti, Uganda
Hellen Opie, NaSARRI/NARO, Soroti, Uganda
Chris Muwanika, NARO Holdings Ltd, Kampala, Uganda
Essegbemon Akpo, ICRISAT, Nairobi, Kenya

Partners: NARO-NaSARRI, NARO Holdings Ltd, ICRISAT
Funder: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under ISSD-Africa


Demonstration of animal feed preparation from leaves of Gliricidia sepium. Photo B Zemadim, ICRISAT

Demonstration of animal feed preparation from leaves of Gliricidia sepium. Photo B Zemadim, ICRISAT

Farmers and other agricultural stakeholders in Central Tanzania come together for sustainable development

Biovision Agroecological Project conducts a field day for farmers to disseminate agro technologies.

Kilimo Ikolojia kwa Maendeleo Endelevu is a well-known and inspiring slogan by the rural community that implemented agroecological interventions in Kongwa District of Central Tanzania to combat land degradation and improve crop productivity. This slogan was repeated quite often by farmers during a three-day Farmers -Field Day (FFD) program that showcased agro technologies and practices introduced in the eight intervention villages in the region.

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Some of the interventions were:

  • Establishment of multipurpose tree nursery sites to address land degradation
  • Demonstration of poultry and cattle feed processing from leaves of multipurpose trees
  • Installation of Fanya Juu/Chini terraces in upland catchment areas

Dr Birhanu Zemadim Birhanu, Senior Scientist and Project Leader, called the FFD event “a learning visit that will provide an opportunity to all participants to learn, discuss and exchange ideas on how to effectively roll out the validated technologies at the landscape level.” He further mentioned that all participants are thus our ambassadors for effective and sustainable implementation of validated technologies and practices.

In his welcome address Dr Elirehema Swai, a Senior Researcher, Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI-Makutupora), introduced the purpose of the FFD, explaining, “Farmers, students and their teachers, and higher learning institution students have been invited to this event. Similarly, extension workers, local Government leaders and policy makers are also here for an in-depth understanding of the benefits of using agroecological technologies and practices in the semiarid region of central Tanzania”.

“ICRISAT has collaboratively conducted R&D work on crop improvement and seed systems for dryland crops with the government of Tanzania through collaborative agreement with them and the current project is benefitting from the fruits of this collaboration,” said Mr Peter Ngowi, Senior Scientific Officer for the project. He also said that the scale-out initiative implemented by ICRISAT, LEAD Foundation and TARI wouldn’t have been possible without the good participatory and collaborative efforts by Biovision, ICRISAT, TARI, LEAD Foundation, technocrats from Kongwa District Commission, and farmers from the eight intervention villages.

The First High Level Policy Dialogue on Land Degradation in Dodoma, Tanzania

The FFD event followed the First High level Policy Dialogue on Land Degradation conducted on 17 December 2021 in Dodoma, Tanzania. Key invited participants at this dialog were the Minister from the Vice President’s Office-Union and Environment, District Commissioners, Members of Parliament, academicians, representatives from local and international NGOs, media and community leaders and members. The Policy Dialogue was part of the first Tanzania Arid and Semi-Arid Land Restoration Conference (TASALRC) organized by the project’s key implementing partner LEAD Foundation during the occasion of its 10th anniversary. The Policy Dialogue focused on exchanging ideas and experiences (successes and expectations) on how to accelerate efforts to restore degraded landscapes in arid and semi-arid areas of Tanzania. Various techniques of restoring natural vegetation in drylands including harvesting rain water to reduce drought and techniques of improving soil health were discussed.

Dr Anthony Whitbread (Global Program Director, ICRISAT) and Eng Njamasi Chiwnaga (Program Director of LEAD Foundation) made presentations on challenges, experiences and lessons to combat Land Degradation, and thus set the stage for the Policy Dialogue. Panelists from Sokoine University of Agriculture (Dr Ismail Selemani- Rangeland Expert), Pembamoto Village (Mr Abnasir Mboya-Community Leader), Mlanga Village (Mr Michael Mbijima – Farmer Representative), ICRISAT (Dr Anthony Whitbread), LEAD Foundation (Eng. Njamasi Chiwanga), and London School of Hygiene (Dr Peninah Murage – Researcher) were invited and each shared their experience on relevant works to be done and restore degraded lands. Conference participants made testimonies on the usefulness of using various soil and water conservation techniques and encouraged such efforts need to be promoted and scaled widely by government representatives at different levels. Finally, HE Dr Selemani Jafo, Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office-Union Affairs and Environment, said, “The presentation and panel discussions allowed natural interactions, and helped to inspire shared excitement and passion around efforts to combat land degradation. Special thanks to all participants, together we can restore all restorable lands in Tanzania and become a learning model.”

Eng. Njamasi Simon Chiwanga, Director of Programs, LEAD Foundation, informed the participants that his office was implementing a Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) program under the current project by developing multipurpose tree nurseries and planting and preserving of natural vegetation. LEAD Foundation provided training programs for farmers to maintain 10 to 20 native trees per acre in their farm fields and plant multipurpose tree species such as Gliricidia sepium seedlings on the crest of Fanya Juu/Chini contour terraces.

“In the current collaborative scaling out initiative, ICRISAT, LEAD Foundation and TARI together raised about 45,000 Gliricidia sepium tree seedlings,” he explained. Participants were informed that tree seedlings from the project would be distributed free of charge to farmers who installed Fanya Juu/Chini terraces in their fields immediately on the onset of rainfall.

The Chairman of Kongwa District Council, HE Mr White Zuberi, reiterated that land degradation, mainly caused by human activities such as deforestation, overgrazing, etc. was a very serious problem. He noted that the district was no longer receiving enough rains and said, “I know these scientists from ICRISAT, TARI, and LEAD Foundation, and others from Universities for a long time for their good work that they are doing for the betterment of farmers’ lives.” Mr Zuberi further informed participants that the agroecological project had come at the right time. “It is an effort all farmers, leaders at all levels must embrace and push to ensure that we succeed in alleviating land degradation and improve crop productivity.”

HE Sina Mbenegalo Mude, Ward Councilor, Nghumbi village, said, “The usefulness of the project and its success depend, among others, on our commitment as leaders to be good examples, to be the first to have the technologies and practices implemented in our farm fields to be emulated by the rest of the farmers.”

The Guest of Honor, Ms Aziza Mumba, Assistant Regional Administrative Secretary, Dodoma City, commended the work done by the project and conveyed her special thanks to the donor and all participating institutions. She further noted that the outcomes of the project would benefit local communities that face the challenges of recurrent drought and soil erosion. She urged all project partners to work together and address the issue of difficult access to improved seeds. Subsequently, she requested the participants to take full advantage of the event to learn all that they could, so that they could improve their agricultural productivity as well as change their livelihoods.

The FFD concluded with a feedback session where the guest of honor and invited participants shared their observations and the key lessons to be taken forward. During the discussion, various challenges facing the agricultural sector across diverse semi-arid areas of Kongwa were identified.

Proposed solutions and the respective institutional commitments:

For farmers: Farmers have been advised to be good ambassadors at their home villages by ensuring implementation of agroecological technologies and practices they have learned and pass the knowledge on to their fellow farmers.

For the government: In order for the technologies and practices to be successfully and sustainably rolled out to different agroecologies and new geographies, the government, through its relevant authorities, should enact bye-laws to be abided by local communities at different levels, starting from sub-village level. The government should support development organizations in their efforts for sustainable agroecological interventions. In addition, government leaders at all levels should set up demonstration fields and learning fields in different villages under the guidance of extension workers and/or lead farmers to ensure smooth transfer of technologies and practices.

For Development Organizations (DOs): DOs were advised to scale out the project outcomes to other regions and expand platforms at different levels to effectively interact and share experiences on agroecological practices.

The FFD was organized during 20-22 December 2021 at Mlali village, Kongwa district, under the Biovision Agroecological Project led by ICRISAT and its key implementing partners TARI-Makutupora, and LEAD Foundation. It brought together a wide range of stakeholders – farmers, local government leaders, researchers and development actors from ICRISAT, TARI and LEAD foundation, extension officers and village leaders.

A total of 469 (208 female and 261 male) participants attended the FFD.

Authors:

Dr Birhanu Zemadin Birhanu, Senior Scientist & Cluster Leader – Landscapes, Soil Fertility and Water Management, ICRISAT
Dr Anthony Whitbread, Global Research Program Director, Resilient Farm and Food Systems, ICRISAT

Project: Enabling a resilient and prosperous community through participatory agroecological practices in the semiarid region of central Tanzania. Biovision Agroecological Project has been implemented in Sagara A, Sagara B, Lengaji, Moleti, Laikala A, Laikala B, Nghumbi and Mlali.
Funder: Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development; CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)
Partners: Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development, Tanzanian Agricultural Research Institute (TARI Makutopora), LEAD Foundation, and ICRISAT

Project updates


A farmer from Finkolo ACI village in Sikasso region holding Nafatiama tiga, an improved groundnut variety.

Improved varieties sow a better future in Mali’s groundnut hubs

Improved varieties are helping increase groundnut production, farm incomes, improving lives and empowering women in Mali’s major groundnut producing hubs of Kayes and Sikasso, where lack of access to such varieties had contributed to low yields of less than 1 ton/ha, well below the global average of 1.6 ton/ha. Over the last three years, ICRISAT has been coordinating the Upscaling improved groundnut varieties through integrated seed systems for improving income and nutrition in dryland Ghana and Mali Project, which is funded by NWO-WOTRO.

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“By improving the groundnut seed systems to scale up production of improved groundnut varieties, we hope to enhance incomes and nutrition of women and men smallholder farmers in the drylands of Ghana and Mali,” said Dr Haile Desmae, the Project Coordinator and groundnut breeder at ICRISAT-WCA (West and Central Africa).

In Mali, groundnut is grown for both household consumption and sale, accounting for roughly half of a rural household’s cash income. The project has been looking into seed production and marketing models as well as promoting improved varieties with optimal cultural practices while improving farmers’ and seed actors’ knowledge and skills. The efforts translated into outcomes through public-private partnerships to boost early-generation seed production, demonstrations of improved varieties in farmers’ fields and field days to raise awareness, sensitize and demonstrate mini-mechanization equipment for groundnut planting, harvesting and threshing. Most importantly, it also involved training farmers and seed producers in best production practices.

Based on data from the first two years of the project, the effort has reached 1,586 farmers (984 women and 602 men) through demonstrations and field day visits.

Sikasso region

“Before the project arrived, farmers in Sikasso region were unfamiliar with improved groundnut varieties,” stated Dr Dramane Sako, Groundnut Breeder at IER, Kayes. Dr Sako emphasized this is a significant step forward for the Mali’s national groundnut program. Farmers in Sikasso grow groundnut predominantly for sale. For fresh pod sales, they choose local varieties. Growing groundnut provides a significant market opportunity for farmers to generate some money, especially for women, in a region regarded as the main producer of rice and maize for home consumption. The groundnut market in Sikasso mostly sees trade of fresh pods, of the Valencia types with 3 or 4 seeds per pod, for consumption.

“Though our improved varieties are Spanish types, usually with two seeds per pod, they have proven attractive to farmers and are finding more takers,”
Dr Sako further said.

Yiriwatiga and Nietatiga, which were widely disseminated and preferred by farmers in Sikasso, are two improved groundnut varieties with a yield of 2 t/ha in farmers’ field compared to 1 t/ha for local varieties. These improved varieties also produce a large amount of fodder, which appeals to women farmers who raise livestock. For example, Yiriwatiga was preferred by 66% of the participants in a field day in October 2020 at Kamale Sirakoro in Sikasso. Women farmers from the Badenya Cooperative in Lamine Bambala village, about 10 kilometers from Sikasso, fully adopted Nietatiga three years ago.

“We were able to save enough money to start a new business with the profits from the sale of the annual harvest of improved varieties. We purchased chairs, tarpaulins, plates and pots that we now rent out to the villagers during social ceremonies. We made 350,000 FCFA (about 630 USD) last year,” said Ms Diarata Ouattara, the cooperative’s President.

“We made more money from selling the improved variety grain as it yields more than local varieties even if it only has two seeds per pod,” added Ms Acheta Berthé, a cooperative member.

Kayes region

In Kayes, the variety Allason was preferred the most by about 53% of the participants who hosted demonstrations and attended field days in October 2020. In addition to the grain yield about 2t/ha in farmers’ fields, several farmer groups in the Kayes region benefit each year from the sale of Allason fodder, which covers a significant cost of the field activity.

“About 40 farmers in the communes of Kolokani and Liberté Dembaya, for instance, are able to earn between 150,000 and 200,000 FCFA (US$ 270 to 360) every year from selling groundnut fodder. This money assists them in purchasing seeds and other agricultural equipment for the coming season,” Dr Sako said.

The benefits of improved varieties have improved the livelihood of some farmers like Sekou Diarra from Kolokani village. Seed producer of improved groundnut varieties, he began producing Allason three years ago.

“It is one of the few varieties that can adapt to our climatic conditions,” Mr Diarra said. “In 2019 and 2020, I harvested 1 and 2 tons from 1 and 2 hectares, respectively. I sold every kilo for 900 FCFA (US$ 1.60). I built a new home in 2019 and paid off a 150,000 FCFA (US$ 272) debt. In 2020, I bought an ox for plowing at 200,000 FCFA (US$ 360). Thanks to the sale of my groundnut fodder, I saved about 150,000 FCFA (US$ 270) for home and in this year’s field expenses.”

Kayes’ local varieties only yield between 700-850 kg and are vulnerable to the early leaf spot disease, and are often affected by drought. With drought tolerance and early maturity, Allason has become very popular in the region after it was widely disseminated through the innovation platforms in the area involving different actors of the value chain.

“Three years ago, we knew nothing about improved groundnut seed. Thanks to the training sessions offered by the project team and local trainers, we produce and sell every year our seed harvest,” said Mrs Bougouri Sidibé, a woman from Dôgôfili village.

The women of the village have formed a cooperative to invest their profits in the purchase of agricultural equipment and domestic animals. “Since 2019, I was able to save about 50,000 to 75,000 FCFA (US$ 90 to 135). Today, I own several sheep and goats that I bought with the profit from selling improved groundnut seed,” explained Ms Diarré Traoré, President of the Dôgôfili Seed Cooperative.

The project has lobbied for easy access of women to cultivable land. “Kayes has witnessed a significant shift in attitudes around women’s access to land. Women can now grow groundnut on 1 hectare of land with the help of their husbands. In the past, this would not have been conceivable,” Dr Sako explained.

Strong collaboration between national partners and farmer organizations, with IER leading the process, as well as partnerships with ICRISAT, KIT and the Société de Production de Semences (SOPROSA-Mali) resulted in WOTRO creating significant impact. The results of the activities of the project’s third year will soon be available.

Reported by Moussa Magassa

Communications Executive, ICRISAT-WCA

Project: Upscaling improved groundnut varieties through integrated seed systems for improving income and nutrition in dryland Ghana and Mali

Funder: NWO WOTRO

Partners: ICRISAT, IER, KIT and the Société de Production de Semences (SOPROSA-Mali), farmer organizations

CRP: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC)


Mr Diawara, Mayor of Madina is now a champion of the technology parks.

Africa RISING: Technology parks herald a new beginning in Mali’s farms

The Africa RISING project draws to a close in June 2022.

On 11 and 12 November 2021, Africa RISING project partners, farmers and stakeholders in Mali convened at the technology parks in Bougouni and Koutiala regions for the last farmers’ field day of the project as it draws to a close in June this year. Technology parks within the project have introduced farming communities in southern Mali and beyond to numerous improved technologies and best practices for soil fertility management, including erosion control through contour bunding, improving fodder production for livestock feeding, and introducing new cereal, legumes, and vegetable crop varieties.

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Dr Fred Kizito, the project’s Chief Scientist in West Africa, stated that the project has achieved its objectives. “We identified entry points for adoption of appropriate agronomic practices in farmers’ own environments. Not only did we introduce farmers to new technologies, we also facilitated access to input and output markets. These actions resulted in making a real difference in their livelihoods. This has also helped facilitate the scaling up of agricultural technologies, and the technology parks have been a platform for a dialogue between farmers and authorities.”

“Farmers were able to replicate some of the improved technologies and agronomic practices on their farmlands and have continued to spread them across different agro-ecologies and geographies,” said Dr Birhanu Zemadim Birhanu, the project’s National Coordinator in Mali. “These technology parks have created an enabling environment for the scaling up of technologies, benefiting thousands of farmers who made use of the knowledge to prevent degradation of their farmlands and to reduce soil erosion in the Africa RISING intervention villages.”

“It is important to secure the support and commitment of farmers and farming communities and to work closely with them. Express your idea and let members of the target community feed in their ideas,” were Dr Birhanu’s words of advice for replication.

Dr Akinseye Folorunso Matthew, an agronomist and agro-climatologist at ICRISAT, expressed pleasure over the impact of trials and demonstrations of soil fertilization strategies. “A cost-benefit analysis of the five fertilization strategies and two sorghum varieties we identified has shown that these strategies have the potential to greatly increase farmers’ productivity compared to their current practice,” he said.

“Before the project, we mainly used traditional seeds and farming practices inherited from our elders. We discovered improved varieties and hybrids of cereal crops such as sorghum and maize in the technology parks. Even on smaller plots of land we can now harvest better yields, thanks to agricultural production intensification techniques. Also, the new improved seeds available are better adapted than local seeds to our weather conditions,” said Mr Bassiriba Samaké, a farmer in the village of Diéba who participated in the technology park in Madina, Bougouni region.

“The new seeds we accessed are better adapted to cope with climate change. The lessons and knowledge gained have been very beneficial. I was able to teach these technologies to many other farmers who in turn created their own plots using improved technologies. I am happy I was able to create a technology park in my village. It inspires other farmers,” Mr Samaké added.

Mr Soumaila Diawara, a representative of the village chief of Madina, said, “During the dry season, the parks are used for market gardening with irrigation. Many young people in our community have earned up to 500,000 FCFA (about US$ 870) from dry season vegetable production, which in turn has kept the youth away from banditry. The women, who are heavily involved in gardening, have also earned considerable incomes and are able to contribute to household expenses.”

Mrs Fanta Dembele, a participant in the technology park in N’Golonianasso Koutiala region, seconded Mr Diawara. “I can pay for better clothes for my children. I can also pay for healthcare. Before starting in the technology park, I could not earn enough to consult a doctor.”

Mrs Nematou Togora, participant in the technology park located in the village of M’Pessoba, Koutiala region, said food security and nutrition were improved and the women have played an important role in this process. “Compared to men, women and children are considered more vulnerable, but at the same time they are pillars of the household,” she said.

“Malnutrition was severe in the community. At one point, older women were accused of causing illness among community members, especially among their grandchildren and daughters-in-law. Misconception about the causes of malnutrition and its effects prompted families and community members to reject elderly women. Within the parks, we understood the importance of both elderly and pregnant women eating healthy and balanced foods to keep mothers and their babies healthy. The mothers-in-law are now accepted in the community,” Mrs Togora further said.

Mr Karitié Coulibaly, chief of M’Pessoba village, said the technology park installed in the village will remain. “I am a member of a group of 53 village chiefs and will mobilize these leaders to create a synergy of action to perpetuate the achievements of the technology parks.”

“Just as we were able to assemble many producers in the technology parks to learn and share, we can also join forces to support the sustainability of these activities,” Mr Ousmane Dembele, Head of Program, Innovation and Applied Research at the NGO AMEDD, said while expressing confidence in the sustainability of the activities carried out.

Mr Seybou Diawara, Mayor of Madina, is thankful to the project’s partners who have trained farmers to improve their yields and expressed confidence in the project continuing to yield benefits in the long run.  Mr Kalifa Coulibaly, Mayor of M’Pessoba Commune, sees the parks as harbingers of new technologies indispensable for food security.

“The improved and hybrid varieties promoted in the technology parks are useful for both human and animal consumption. The project has really contributed to the government’s efforts to achieve food and nutritional security,” outlines Mrs Traoré Aminata Sanogo, sub-Prefect of the rural commune of M’Pessoba.

Mr Hassane Tolo, Director General of the Agricultural Learning Center (CAA) of M’Pessoba (a center hosting 300 students) proposes transferring the technology park CAA. “All the technologies experienced in the Africa RISING project technology parks should be taught to our students in partnership with ICRISAT and IER. Though we have our own demonstration plots within the CAA center, the Africa RISING project technology parks are far much better.”

In response, Dr Bouba Traoré, knowledge broker in Africa RISING, said the project is in a process that will lead to the transfer of technology parks.

Project: Africa RISING- Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation

Funder: United States Agency for International Development as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative through the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Partners: Institut d’Economie Rurale, The World Vegetable Center, International Livestock Research Institute, Wageningen University, Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security, International Food Policy Research Institute, ICRISAT, Africa RISING’s Large-scale Diffusion of Technologies for Sorghum and Millet Systems (ARDT-SMS), Fédération Nationale des Producteurs de l’Agriculture Biologique et Equitable du Mali (FENABE) and Association Malienne d’éveil au Développement Durable (AMEDD),The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

About the Africa RISING MALI

Africa RISING Mali is one of the three regional USAID-funded Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) projects operating in Mali under the name Sustainable Intensification of Key Farming Systems in the Sudano-Guinea Zone of Mali. The project aims at providing pathways out of hunger and poverty for smallholder families through sustainably intensified farming systems that sufficiently improve food, nutrition, and income security, particularly for women and children, and conserve or enhance the natural resource base. In Mali, the project is managed by ICRISAT, and implemented by multi-stakeholder research-for-development platforms comprising of international and national research and development partners from the public and private sectors, farmers’ interest groups, service providers and market actors.

Building on current and developing more functioning partnerships between R&D, and scaling partners, the technologies co-validated and implemented in nine villages and four technology parks of southern Mali were scaled out to the different agroecologies of the country and benefitted over 19,401 direct and 85, 964 indirect households between 2015-2021. In 2021, the total number of Malian households benefitted directly through the research process were 4,910. On the other hand, 22, 952 households were exposed to Africa RISING technologies through partnership with development and scaling partners.

Technology in agriculture


Farmers using their mobile phones to avail climate information and agro-advisories. A screengrab of weather information (inset).

Farmers using their mobile phones to avail climate information and agro-advisories. A screengrab of weather information (inset).

Farmers in southern Mali dial ‘S’ for success

Sènèkèla/Sandji mobile-based services make climate and agro-advisory information available to farmers under the CSAT project to significantly aid crucial on-farm decisions so that smallholders get more from their farms.

A group of farmers in Mali’s Sikasso region swear by mobile-based services that aid in making crucial decisions on the farm. Providing timely weather forecasts and advice regarding all thing’s agriculture, the services by Orange Mali, a leading telecom services provider in Mali, has helped the group reduce costs, avoid crop loss and save time in farming.

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“In August, I noticed that my maize plot had been attacked by insects. I called the Sénèkèla call center, which advised me in the use of phytosanitary products and I was able to treat my plot effectively,” says Mr Seydou Koné, a farmer in the village of Senina.  Sènèkèla/Sandji are the services.

In June 2021, 100 smallholder farmers in Sikasso and Kadiolo were introduced to the Sènèkèla/Sandji platform that sends out weather forecasts as messages to the farmers (Sandji) and offers agriculture advice through a call center (Sènèkèla). Agronomists at the Sènèkèla call center provided advice in several local languages regarding cultivation methods, seeds and sowing times, while Sandji sends out accurate, reliable and localized weather forecasts for a radius of 3 km in French and Bambara.

Before Sènèkèla/Sandji, farmers accessed weather forecasts on national radio and television. These forecasts lack relevance as they are not localized. For advice, the farmers relied on the government’s extension agents, who cannot cater to farmers everywhere.

Under the Climate Smart Agricultural Technologies for Improved Rural Livelihoods and Food Security in Mali (CSAT-Mali) project, ICRISAT supports use of weather forecasting to give farmers access to information relevant for deciding optimal planting and weeding time and fertilizer application practices. ICRISAT has improved access to seasonal forecasting and has trained farmers at the onset of the growing season in the use of climate and agro-advisory digital information services and monitored them through the season.

Throughout the growing season from June to October 2021, the mobile-based services by Orange Mali have aided farmers in sowing, spreading, tilling, phytosanitary treatment and harvesting. A monitoring exercise in July, August and September 2021 saw farmers reporting a drop in production costs by 30.6%, a significant reduction as inputs are very expensive in the market. The reduction in costs resulted from increased efficiency in the use of inputs; farmers used less agricultural inputs because they paid more attention to forecasts before making decisions.

“Now with Sandji, I can better plan my activities according to rainy events. I have spent less on inputs and have seen an increase in the yield of crops already harvested such as maize, groundnuts and beans,” says Mr Souleymane Djourté, a farmer from Nierouni village.

Thanks to the forecasts, about 60% of the producers reported saving time by not having to repeat certain tasks (sowing, weeding, and crop treatment). Twenty-nine percent of the producers perceived that they avoided losing or damaging their crops after using the service and women benefited doubly. “Sandji has helped me a lot in my household chores. I can better plan certain activities such as washing and drying food, thanks to my phone. I share information with other members of my family who come to me for information,” says Ms Aminata Sangaré, a farmer from the Ifola village.

The Sénékèla call center, through its agricultural advisories, helped 31% of the producers to choose seed varieties and phytosanitary products to be used in their plots.

With the forecasts having a high accuracy (71%), the perception study done among producers also indicates that 86% of users are satisfied with the services, particularly with the use of the SMS-Sandji service for disseminating weather information.

Project: Climate Smart Agricultural Technologies for improved rural livelihoods and food security in Mali (CSAT-Mali)
Funder: The Norwegian Embassy in Mali and Niger
Partners in Mali: IITA, ICRISAT, IER, AMEDD and MALIMARK


ICRISAT team presenting NiMet with cheap, recyclable IoT rain gauge prototypes conceived by Manobi Africa and Viveris to reduce basis risk, smallholder insurance premiums and loan rates.

Nigeria to industrialize frugal tech innovation

Variability in climate makes agriculture risky. In the tropics, this mostly relates to variability in rainfall. To address this, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recommends a minimum of 1 precipitation recording station per 5,750 km2. Nigeria, which is home to 220 million smallholder farmers, meets this recommendation with 176 functioning weather stations. Yet, with interest rates on smallholder loans as high as 23 percent and the default rate reaching up to 98 percent, it seems this current data infrastructure doesn’t help de-risk smallholder agriculture. Why is this?

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First, there has been a lack of seeing the forest for the trees. Nigeria’s population is expected to almost double by 2050, with most of that growth occurring in cities. Ensuring there is enough food requires a significant increase in the use of agricultural inputs – especially nitrogen (N) fertiliser. Today, the country only uses an estimated 20kgN per hectare, compared to 100kg in Asia.

In order to increase nitrogen use, the very first input needed is credit. Reducing the role of observation networks to last-mile agro-advisory support should not hide their bigger systemic potential for de-risking investment and making credit affordable.

Helping farmers better manage climate risk with their (existing) limited resources is relatively less important and valuable than helping them access more affordable resources.

Farmers already manage climate risk pretty well and they know better than most how to optimize the management of their existing resource.

What producers need is more external resources. A more transformational change is required, to help farmers secure access to more and cheaper credit and other inputs to make the required doubling of yields possible.

Second, there is too often far too much focus on the technologies and innovations (e.g. measurement instrument and farm-level advisory) over the processes needed to realise their potential (e.g. industrialization of a frugal technology triggering a systemic reduction in the cost of credit).

Technology is usually not the limiting factor in food production – so why do companies interested in selling tech and digital information services spend so much time developing sophisticated technology which cannot scale, and so little time listening to the users?

Acknowledging the limitations of data that comes from global observation systems and climate models—specifically as a source of information for farm-level decision making— does not imply condoning the use of any kind of in-situ technology.

Too many fancy tractors have been abandoned in remote villages due to lack of spare parts or the means to purchase them. Likewise, too many automatic weather stations have been sitting unused in the countryside, victims of unmanageable maintenance costs and acts of vandalism.

It is high time that frugal tech and sophisticated engagement (via a public-private-engagement between African SMEs and public research institutes) should replace sophisticated tech and frugal engagement.

Finally, there is lingering mistrust between the public and private sectors. Let’s not forget that the establishment of one of Africa’s most lauded agro-meteorological success stories, Mali’s GTPAs (Groupes de Travail Pluridisciplinaires d’Appui au Monde Rural) was triggered almost 40 years ago by an innovative public-private partnership. That was when Mali’s National Hydrological and Meteorological Service and SIMPLAST S.A., a local plastic bucket company teamed up to produce the now widely disseminated, US$5 “farmer’s rain gauge” (pluviomètre paysan, or sanji sumanan in Bamanankan), which is the foundation upon which GTPAs operate, with spillover benefits in several countries.

Several countries in West Africa—including Nigeria and Senegal—have been using the SIMPLAST manual rain gauges. Several have also implemented the GTPA model, including Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Chad.

Fortunately, with the Geneva Declaration of 2019, a profound cultural and behavioural change is ongoing at the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) with public-private engagement now a core ideology.

It is important that such an approach to public-private engagement trickles down to local practice, as no single partner can claim to meet the diversity of user needs alone.

These recent changes at WMO present an opportunity to promote similar mindset changes at regional, national and local levels. It is in that context that on December 2nd, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and Manobi Africa met to review initial outputs from the 2021 deployment of twenty agCelerant IoT rain gauges in the states of Bauchi, Kano, and Niger.

Results were judged to be promising, with 95-99% agreement between IoT rain gauges and co-located reference instruments, and with IoT rain gauges successfully capturing and streaming both the number of rainy days and daily rainfall amounts in various locations. The partners agreed to strengthen and formalize their collaboration through a larger 2022 pilot, including assembling several hundred such devices on site at NiMET headquarters at Abuja Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport ahead of the 2022 agricultural season.

The partners also agreed to deploy a larger number of devices across the NiMET network, and to support the effort with refined start-of-season instrument commissioning and end-of-season decommissioning protocols, as well as monitoring and validation procedures that include the performance of energy supply (stock LR20 batteries with proven autonomy of over 8 months) and network signal.

agCelerant IoT rain gauges are designed for frugal operations without grid and solar power and can withstand ambient temperatures of up to 50°C and the photochemical oxidation that comes with high UV radiation. Their affordable cost should allow users (in this case national hydrological and meteorological services) to increase ground observation network density up to 50-fold, and Manobi Africa, NiMET and ICRISAT plan to produce 1,000 such devices in 2022.

These devices should reduce basis risk in weather index insurance which, in turn, should reduce insurance premiums. As insurance is usually bundled with credit, this could also result in a reduction in interest rates on loans. As credit becomes more affordable farmers can increase their use of agricultural inputs and produce more food. Additionally, the upfront cost of the IoT rain gauge is embedded in credit. This holistic engagement process exploits the power of phygital value chain coordination platforms like agCelerant.

This approach also supports the concept of “one farmer, one loan, one rain gauge” by delivering hyper-local value to producers and financial service providers.

Authorsed by

Pierre C Sibiry Traore, (ICRISAT); Stephen Ndung’u Machetho (ICRISAT); Hakeem Ayinde Ajeigbe (ICRISAT); Mansur Bako Matazu (NiMET); James Adamu Ijampy (NiMET); Folorunso Matthew Akinseye (ICRISAT); Haruna Zakari (NiMET); Claudius Ebimoboere (Manobi Africa); Daniel Annerose (Manobi Africa).

Research findings


Children at a school eating millet-based food. Photo: Liam Wright, ICRISAT

Children at a school eating millet-based food. Photo: Liam Wright, ICRISAT

Scientific evidence shows eating millets leads to better growth in children

Researchers examining the nutritional benefits of millets have found that these “smart foods” can boost growth in children and adolescents by 26 – 39% when they replace rice in standard meals. The results suggest that millets can significantly contribute to overcoming malnutrition.

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The study was published in the journal Nutrients and is a review and meta-analysis of eight prior published studies. It was undertaken by seven organizations in four countries and was led by Dr. S Anitha, Senior Scientist-Nutrition at the International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

“These results are attributable to the naturally high nutrient content of millets that exhibit high amounts of growth promoting nutrients, especially total protein, sulphur containing amino acids, and calcium in the case of finger millets,” said Dr. Anitha.

A finger millet plant in the field. Photo: ICRISAT

A finger millet plant in the field. Photo: ICRISAT

Infants, preschool and school going children as well as adolescents were part of the review. Five of the studies in the review used finger millet, one used sorghum and two used a mixture of millets (finger, pearl, foxtail, little and kodo millets).

Among the children fed millet-based meals, a relative increase of 28.2% in mean height, 26% in weight, 39% in the mid upper arm circumference and 37% in chest circumference was noted when compared to children on regular rice-based diets. The children studied consumed millets over 3 months to 4.5 years.

“These findings provide evidence that nutrition intervention programs can be developed and adapted to increase diversity in meals using millets, and thus to improve the nutritional content, including in school feeding and mother and child programs,” said Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT.

Study author Dr. Hemalatha, Director at India’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), said that implementing millet-based meals required menus to be designed for different age groups utilising culturally sensitive and tasty recipes.

“This should also be complemented with awareness and marketing campaigns to generate an understanding and interest in millets” said Dr. Hemalatha.

The studies were all undertaken in India and based on standard rice-based meals. The researchers also studied meals significantly enhanced with more diversity including vegetables, fruit, dairy and staples, which resulted in minimal additional growth from replacing rice with millets.

This indicates that by simply replacing or diversifying rice with millets or major changes in the whole diet with more diversity and nutritious foods can be beneficial for the growth of children.

“Millets are a basket of a wide range of nutrients and this growth study is part of four years of work among numerous organizations around the world who partnered to undertake a series of scientific studies on the major health claims of millets, to test the scientific credibility,” noted Professor Ian Givens, a study author and Director, Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health, University of Reading, UK.

This series of studies that Dr. Givens refers to has shown that millets help meet many of the largest nutrition and health needs. They not only help tackle child undernutrition, but also assist in managing type 2 diabetes as well as overcoming iron deficiency anaemia, lowering total cholesterol levels, obesity and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Additionally, finger millet naturally contains high calcium levels (364 ± 58 mg/100g of grain) from which almost 23% is usually retained by the body. Available evidence shows that around 28% of calcium from finger millet is bioavailable, which means it can provide around 100 mg of bioavailable calcium/100g of grain, that could help overcome calcium deficiencies if consumed adequately,” Dr. Anitha summarized.

A millet-based preparation. Photo: ICRISAT

A millet-based preparation. Photo: ICRISAT

For more information, please contact:
Rohit Pillandi at +91 9949513812 or p (dot) rohit (at) cgiar (dot) org

Expert opinions


 File photo. Photo: L Vidya sagar, ICRISAT.

File photo. Photo: L Vidya sagar, ICRISAT.

Youth or Young mothers? The paradox of transitions in the rural women’s lives

India’s pledge of Panchamrit (five-fold strategy) to fight climate change, announced during the 26th Conference of the Parties (CoP26) at Glasgow, Scotland, has caught global attention. The country’s new commitments include reaching 500 gigawatt (GW) of non-fossil fuel energy capacity by 2030; producing 50 per cent of energy requirements via renewable energy sources by 2030; a reduction of 1 billion tons of carbon by 2030; reducing the carbon emission intensity of the GDP by 45 per cent by 2030; and most importantly, achieving the target of net-zero emissions by 2070.

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This story was first published by Down to Earth

A basket of agreements was signed by groups of countries during the Glasgow Summit. Here, we focus our discussions on agriculture and food systems and how India should prepare and act to fight the challenge of climate change in light of CoP26.

As many as 26 countries signed the Sustainable Agriculture Policy Action Agenda at the summit to set a course of action to protect food systems and prevent loss of biodiversity against climate change. The countries laid down their commitments with a pledge “to use land sustainably and put protection and restoration of nature at the heart of all”.

India did not sign the agenda as its Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), one of the missions within the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), is already operational to deal with the issue of climate change in the agriculture sector.

At the present inflection point, when the agricultural sector in these countries, and for that matter across the planet, is threatened by the adversities brought by climate change, these initiatives seem to be a good way to reinvigorate efforts to promote and practice sustainable agriculture technologies.

While Indian agriculture is adversely impacted by the vicissitudes of climate change, the sector also is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As per the Third Biennial Update Report submitted by the Government of India in early 2021 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the agriculture sector contributes 14 per cent of the total GHG emissions (energy 75.01 per cent; industrial process and product use 8 per cent; and waste 2.7 per cent, as per 2016 data).

Within the sector, 54.6 per cent of GHG emissions were due to enteric fermentation, followed by 17.5 per cent from rice cultivation, 19.1 per cent from fertilizer applied to agricultural soils, 6.7 per cent from manure management, and 2.2 per cent due to field burning of agricultural residues. Therefore, effective mitigation measures and appropriate adaptation technologies must be taken to reduce GHG emissions from the agriculture sector.

India’s approach has been a balancing act between growth and sustainability in its climate change policies and it is leading the developing nations to place agriculture in the ongoing negotiations. The National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, as part of National Action Plan on Climate Change for more than a decade now, has focused to make Indian agriculture sustainable, considering likely risks arising from climate variability.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research and International Agricultural Research Centres of the CGIAR system (a France-headquartered public agricultural innovation network), including International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), have developed climate smart agricultural technologies and approaches to assist the agricultural sector to be less vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

We present a list of strategies/pathways that could be prioritized in the policy agenda to make Indian agriculture resilient and sustainable in a changing climate.

Diversification:

Diversifying from existing cropping systems, predominated by rice and wheat in many unsustainable landscapes, to more nutritious and environment-friendly crops have often been suggested to address challenges of climate change and malnutrition. However, such a transition must protect the income base of the farmers.

To continue reading, click here

Authors:

Dr Arabinda K Padhee, Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs
Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director Resilient Farm and Food Systems


Photo: S Homann-Kee Tui

Photo: S Homann-Kee Tui . Youth SMEs that were provided hammer mills can now locally process grain for food and feed. This supports livestock value chains, helps reduce transport and processing costs and ensure supply of low cost nutrition-rich feed.

Livestock for food and nutrition security in Malawi: Policy gaps, needs and opportunities

Malawi’s growing population is expected to place an increasing demand on its food production systems but the country’s smallholder farmers, the providers of the nation’s food, aren’t poised to benefit from this increased demand. Why, one might wonder, does increased demand not translate to increased incomes for the suppliers of demand?

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The answer lies in the smallholder’s ability to supply. The projected outlook for a smallholder farmer in Malawi is not encouraging. As their farm sizes are too small for generating significant income, smallholder farmers cannot bring more land under the till to reach profitable scales of operation. The manifestations of climate change threaten to undercut yields and incomes. What only makes the situation bleaker is underutilization of the livestock sector owing to low rates of farm diversification, restrictive policy frameworks that translate to inadequate access to markets and extension services and little to none infrastructure. The result: Smallholder farmers aren’t equipped adequately to benefit from livestock and are deprived from realizing its full income potential.

The Ministry of Agriculture recognizes the growing importance of the sector in contributing to farm diversification, increased income levels and food and nutrition security and potential contributions to the country’s economy. In response, the Ministry has made recent adjustments on the Livestock Development Policy by developing the 2021 to 2026 Livestock Policy to increase and complement efforts to commercialize the sector.

It is for these reasons that the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in collaboration with the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) hosted a policy dialogue under the theme “Livestock for food and nutrition security in Malawi: Policy Gaps, needs and opportunities.” The policy dialogue which took place on the 16 October 2021 to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss current policy challenges, needs and opportunities in the livestock sector. The webinar was informed by the Crop Livestock Integration and Marketing in Malawi (CLIM²) project that ICRISAT is implementing in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the Small-Scale Livestock and Livelihoods Programme (SSLLP) funded by the European Union under the Farm Income and Diversification Programme (FIDP II). The project’s goal is to improve crop livestock diversification and integration and to contribute to more efficient use of scarce farm resources, benefiting women in particular.

Mrs Erika Maganga, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, highlighted the importance of stakeholders working together to address the challenges affecting growth of the sector.

“This meeting has come at an opportune time to discuss the key role of the livestock sector in its contribution to the agricultural sector, with reference to policy paradigm shift. It is therefore vital that all stakeholders take part in implementation of the revised strategies. We need to address multiple challenges on how we can better invest,” she said.

Responding to the call from the Principal Secretary, Prof Sikhalazo Dube from ILRI highlighted a series of gaps that had mainly been identified through the project that need addressing through policy and support mechanisms. The project had focused mainly on goat, poultry and dairy and other challenges smallholder farmers faced, like limited availability of capital including finance of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), especially for those that women and youth were participating in. A lack of skills or expertise in animal husbandry with limited access to extension services, limited knowledge about what qualified as good quality product from the perspective of the consumer resulting in low returns and policies that were not inclusive enough for the rural poor often making the dairy market inaccessible.

“The project has clearly shown that farm income and nutrition benefits can be enhanced if we invest in inclusive agri-business models in chicken, goat and dairy value chains,” said Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, a social scientist from ICRISAT with the CLIM² project, while explaining how the project was addressing these limitations. “This should build our confidence in smallholder agri-business and urge us to create conducive conditions for smallholder farmer-driven agri-businesses. Doing this involves the promotion of nutrient-dense dual purpose crops, such as legumes and small grains, for better integration of crops and livestock to enhance efficient nutrient utilization and farm net returns, while coupling agriculture and nutrition.”

The project illustrated multiple entry points: It supported the Government of Malawi in the release of the Kuroiler Chicken, a fast-growing dual-purpose breed that also produces larger sized eggs. Farmers were also trained in producing their own feeds and cutting feed costs. By investing in high quality infrastructure in the goat value chain, constructing sale pens where goats can be sold, refurbishing abattoirs and butchery facilities, farmers can now engage with buyers in a way that benefits both from more efficient transactions; farmers also gain insights into meat demand of the market. Through investment in micro dairy processing, the project illustrated ways to reduce wastage of milk products and value addition to milk locally. Improved knowledge about animal welfare and health also helped reduce losses (mortality and product wastage) and improved the quality of eggs, poultry, goat and dairy. All of this led to an overall increase in farm incomes from the various agri-businesses. The Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) approach seeks to seed agri-business capacity locally for which the project had initiated starter kits to support the financial needs of SMEs.

Prof Sikhalazo also spoke passionately of this venture saying, “Once we realized the capital constraint, we developed starter kits to support SMEs. It became important to recognize that starter kits can be vital to nurture passion and critically important for agri-business.”

Dr Patrick Chikungwa, Director for the Department of Livestock and Animal Health, detailed the government’s efforts to incorporate lessons from the project in line with the nine priority areas of the new 2021-2026 livestock policy.

“During the development of this new policy, the CLIM2 project consulted with us. The project team’s inputs were taken into consideration in developing the Livestock policy review,” Dr Chikungwa said. The Director continued to further elaborate how the project identified productivity and per capita consumption as areas not well addressed in the previous policies and key to achieving farm diversification.

“The CLIM2 project has brought to light evidences for low involvement of stakeholders, low public funding, livestock disease pressure, low technology uptake and low commercialization. Previous policies have increased numbers but did not look at increasing productivity and per capita consumption. The yield per animal can be improved. We will now try to address that,” he said.

So far, the project has scored some major points in informing the new livestock policy and bringing in various innovations. However, sustainability of efforts when a project phases out has always been a contentious issue in ensuring maximum use of resources. The dialogue identified the need for synergies in efforts by state and non-state actors, academia and other stakeholders to achieve this.

“The lessons from the meeting will inform us going forward in business coaching and capacity building of the SMEs. We will strengthen the alignment with DAESS and others to coordinate better,” Prof Sikhalazo Dube added.

The dialogue brought to light some other important issues that needed to be considered at policy implementation level, such as low employment rates within the sector which needs to be increased for improved extension service coverage, poor road networks which limit farmers’ access to infrastructure and markets, and therefore equally needed investing in, and the importance of stringent regulatory framework for quality control for Malawi to truly gain from the export market.

Reacting to this need, Dr Chikungwa further emphasized that with the assistance of CISANET and the CLIM2 project, the government will package the policy messages and further engage relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, the revised livestock policy would be officially disseminated and launched; Dr Chikungwa hinted that the Ministry of Agriculture would commit to conducting follow-up dialogues.

“This is my appeal to all stakeholders in the country to move together following all nine priority areas that cover every challenge, in a way. We will also get in touch with donor and development partners as the government alone cannot address all challenges. There is a need for resource mobilization with donors and development organizations, with the new policy setting pace and direction for the country,” he said.

To view a policy brief on the livestock sector resulting from the consultations and the learnings of the project, click here.

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