Issue No: 1848
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COVID-19 Update from ICRISAT

The health and safety of staff and communities are of utmost importance to ICRISAT during this difficult time of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Staff are required to work from home and postpone or cancel any group meetings and travel, and avail of ICT technologies for virtual communications. We are also following the rules of the government in each site where we work. Depending on the location, type of work and changing situation, project work continues. Please be assured that we are doing everything possible, but responsibly, to undertake our important work while looking after staff, families and communities. Senior management is monitoring the situation closely and continually. We thank our partners and funders for their support. It is now even more important that together, including as OneCGIAR, we achieve food and nutrition security across Africa and Asia.



Announcement from ICRISAT Board Chair: Incoming Director General at ICRISAT

On behalf of the ICRISAT Governing Board, I am announcing a change in plans for the future Director General. I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes as incoming Director General for ICRISAT.  She will be able to join us soon.

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A natural leader and experienced researcher, Dr Hughes, a British national, holds invaluable insight to the world of agricultural science, research and development. Throughout her career, she has taken on ever more challenging roles, having risen through the ranks of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, moving then to the position of Deputy Director General for Research at the World Vegetable Center in Taiwan, before assuming her most recent role as Deputy Director General for Research at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Her work and that of the teams which she has led has delivered significant impact across Africa and Asia, improving the livelihoods of some of the poorest communities. She has gained invaluable insight into the world of international agricultural research, overseeing a diverse number of programes encompassing numerous issues such as strategic innovation, sustainable impact and cross-cutting research support. It is this record of dedication, drive and accomplishment that makes her the perfect leader to champion the path forward for ICRISAT as we navigate through and adapt to the new context of One CGIAR. Her passion for our work combined with her experience across Asia and Africa are among the reasons why we have chosen Dr Hughes to lead and deliver results for the Institution, the One CGIAR and the communities that we serve.

I look forward to working with her and the wider team in our continued efforts to fulfil our vision of creating a prosperous food-secure and resilient dryland tropics.

I also wish to convey my sincere appreciation to Dr Peter Carberry for his commitment to the Institute and ensuring continuity of leadership, as we work towards delivering our mission and navigating through developments to become ‘One CGIAR’. He will continue to lead the Institute until 23 April 2020.

The Governing Board and Management are working on a transition plan. I can assure you that work on the ground continues with business as usual and strong commitment and focus from staff and management. ICRISAT is always highly appreciative of our investors and partners and we wish to thank them for their commitment in advising and collaborating with us to help the people of the semi-arid tropics across Africa and Asia.

Yours sincerely

Dr Paco Sereme
ICRISAT Governing Board Chair


Brokering research crucial for climate-proofing drylands

Of the 12 interventions identified for agriculture by the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) in its September report, ‘Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience’, research and development has a role to play in nine interventions. That is just about the number of interventions involving policy and markets, and two more than those that require financial input.

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In addition to breeding climate resilient varieties, conservation of landscapes and helping pastoralists adapt, the GCA underscores the need for research and development in on- and off-farm diversification, increasing market access, crop and livestock insurance, rights of women farmers, transition funding and helping devise mechanisms to narrow the gap between adaptation and mitigation.

Clearly, the world’s largest agricultural research for development organization, CGIAR, and its partners, have multiple roles of play.

The role of innovation brokers or facilitators–bringing together available capabilities–is just as important as doing the science itself. The need to assimilate capabilities is the greatest in sub-Saharan Africa and South-Asia, regions that are most food-insecure today and where populations are expected to double by 2050 with commensurate increase in demand for food.

Without intervention in these regions, crop productivity gains that might be made can be undermined by climate variability and extreme events, even as contributions to global emissions from agriculture may rise exponentially and augment farm distresses. It is not exaggerated to say that the resulting consequences of economic and food insecurity will be unimaginably troubling.

Brokering on-farm research in the drylands

Smallholder farmers in the drylands are among the most affected in a warming world. These regions are witnessing frequent climate variations, changes in pest and disease patterns and reduced water availability. Land degradation, resulting from inefficient farm practices, land clearing and overgrazing, perpetuates the damage to farm systems.

Identification of local or regional effects of climate change is critical to enhancing smallholder incomes without increasing emissions. Modelling for variable climate scenarios can help researchers arrive at efficient adaptation and mitigation pathways, but climate-smart crops, bred to challenge biotic and abiotic stresses, may alone not suffice as a solution.

The capacity of farmers will have to be enhanced to adopt digital technologies, to acquire new cropping techniques, practice unfamiliar natural resources management methods or diversify farm activities. Many farmers in India, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have sampled the benefits of livestock rearing when crops fail following extreme weather events. Farmers in India and Africa are also being encouraged to cultivate crops for purposes other than food production.

Working within CGIAR’s flagship, the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and beyond, the group’s 15 institutions, including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), have often facilitated solutions by brokering research multilaterally. Strong linkages with private and public institutions across a nation’s value chains are instrumental for the success of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Water management in the highlands of Yewol in Ethiopia through stone terraces prevented water run-off and erosion on the slopes while accruing a gamut of benefits for communities both in the uplands and the valley. Nearly all of the watershed area, around 7,500 hectares, was terraced. Degraded land turned fertile and farmers began diversifying crops for improved incomes and nutritious food. A robust partnership was at play in the community-driven initiative with national partners and CGIAR center, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), with ICRISAT playing the role of a research catalyst through its expertise in watershed management.

Similarly, in the Parasai-Sindh watershed of Bundelkhand region in India’s Uttar Pradesh, farmers’ incomes were more than doubled following increased water availability through efficient water harvesting and management. This work prompted a scale-up across the region which is now underway.

Off-farm innovation

The Smart Food initiative, founded by ICRISAT and led by Africa and Asia networks, is attempting to change consumption sustainably by returning traditional cereals and legumes to the table. Millets and sorghum, highly nutritious, inherently resilient and modest in input requirement, have nearly disappeared from everyday diets, leaving behind intensive cultivation of a limited number of crops. While bringing food security and economic gains to farmers, this farm-to-plate shift also increased agriculture’s environmental footprint. Increasing dietary diversity will return diversity to farms, in effect orchestrating a plate-to-farm shift buoyed by nutrition.

A series of feeding trials in Tanzania, India and Myanmar in collaboration with governments, private and public-good institutions, revealed that consumption can be changed towards healthier foods with the right communication. In Karnataka state of India, a school feeding intervention showed that growth rate in children can be significantly improved with millet-based diets—rich in iron, zinc and calcium—in just three months.

Behind the initiative is a value-addition support system that encourages farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs to transform dryland crops to food that is appealing, affordable and available. Ripe market conditions and price support mechanisms will help farmers diversify their income sources and gear them to better handle climate vagaries.

Motivated by the high return on investments realized by CGIAR in the past, a coalition of funders last year pledged over US$ 900 million to the group to help 300 million smallholders adapt in the decade that remains before SDGs are to be met. How the CGIAR institutions work to take on the eight grand challenges that have been set for the Two Degree Initiative for Food and Agriculture, CGIAR’s most comprehensive attempt at tackling climate change, will influence to a significant extent the wellbeing of the drylands.

This article was first published on the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

About the author

Dr Peter Carberry
Director General,
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

Dr Lalla Malika Issofou, First Lady of Niger visiting ICRISAT exhibit stall with HE Albade Abouba, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Niger. Also seen is Dr Malick Ba, ICRISAT Country Representative, Niger. Photo: ICRISAT

Dr Lalla Malika Issofou, First Lady of Niger visiting ICRISAT exhibit stall with HE Albade Abouba, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Niger. Also seen is Dr Malick Ba, ICRISAT Country Representative, Niger. Photo: ICRISAT

First Lady of Niger leads millet movement

Niger recently celebrated the second annual International Millet Festival (FESTIMIL), aimed at enhancing the production, processing and consumption of millets, so as to create wellbeing and better dietary diversity. The festival is led by the First Lady, Dr Lalla Malika Issofou, a Smart Food Ambassador, and offered a framework for discussions around strengthening value chains of millets in Niger. Smart Food Master Classes were also organized for the Presidency and hotel chefs as well as students.

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FESTIMIL 2020 consisted of meetings, demonstrations, culinary workshops, contests and panel discussions led by eminent researchers and millet value chain professionals from Niger and other Sahelian countries. Inaugurating the event, HE Mr Albadé Abouba, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, said, “FESTIMIL aims to promote healthy and balanced nutrition for families, especially in rural areas, in order to better fight against malnutrition. It is about promoting rainfed and irrigated production of millets, various processed millet-based products, and the nutritional values of millet. Let us consume what our farmers are producing; let us consume Nigerien products.”

FESTIMIL has been adopted and institutionalized by the government of Niger, as an extension of its ‘Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens’ 3N campaign to promote local products. Dr Issoufou, who is also President of the Tattali Iyali (‘Family wellbeing’ in the local language) Foundation, said, “FESTIMIL has helped us discover that consumption of millets that are rich in iron and zinc can contribute a lot towards improving the nutritional state of target populations and help them fulfill their physical and cognitive potential. Through FESTIMIL, many Nigeriens have understood that millet is a Smart Food. It is tolerant to the harsh climatic conditions of our Sahelian countries and it benefits both producers and consumers as it is a very nourishing food that is good for health.”

Panelists discussing millet processing and market opportunities. Photo: ICIRSAT

Panelists discussing millet processing and market opportunities. Photo: ICIRSAT

The first panel discussion saw millet breeders and other researchers sharing their insights on the evolution and adaptation of millets in the Sahel.

  • “In Niger, millet represents 65% of the cultivated areas and contributes to 75% of the country’s cereal production. Our annual production ranges between 3 million and 4 million tons per year.”  Dr Ahmadou Issaka, Pearl millet breeder, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger (INRAN), Niger.
  • “In 1979, we actively started the millet improvement program to create a genebank of local populations as a reliable source of variability. We had the vision to create and maintain gene pools of the main ecotypes representing different regions of Niger and the Lake Chad basin.” Dr Naino Jika, Retired Pearl millet Breeder, INRAN.
  • “Our genetic studies confirm that the domestication of millet dates back to 4,900 years ago. We can use the diversity of millets to improve millet production.” Dr Djido Ardo Kane, Genetician, Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA), Senegal.

The second panel discussion was around processing of millets and market opportunities.

  • “There has been a diversification of millet-based products with over 15 innovative products recently in the market. Moreover, the nutritional virtues of millets offer more opportunities.” – Dr Moustapha Moussa, Nutritionist, INRAN.
  • “The processing sector in Niger has improved thanks to the actions of actors, including the researchers. Previously, millet was only processed into traditional dishes and sold along the streets. Now, we have several innovative millet-based products that are well-labeled and sold in very competitive markets. If we can boost our local consumption, the economy will grow.”Mrs Aminata Limane, millet processor.
“We learned how to make millet desserts, millet- and sorghum-based pizza, as well as millet pastry cream,” said Mrs Abdoulaye Rekiatou, student, IMAT. Photo: ICRISAT

“We learned how to make millet desserts, millet- and sorghum-based pizza, as well as millet pastry cream,” said Mrs Abdoulaye Rekiatou, student, IMAT. Photo: ICRISAT

The Smart Food initiative organized two major training courses on various ways of using millets and sorghum. A Master Class for students of the Institut international des métiers de l’aviation, du tourisme et de l’hôtellerie (IMAT) conducted on 5 March introduced about 35 hotel professionals to millet-based recipes.

Another Smart Food Master Class for about 25 chefs from the Presidency in Niger and Niamey hotels, during which they were introduced to the Smart Food concept and recipes based on millet and sorghum, was held on 7 March. “I am impatient to go back to my hotel to start using millet in the menu,” said Mr Agbakla Kodjo Anani, Chef, Noom Hotel, Niamey, Niger. “The things that I learned during this training are very simple but good and easy to practice. I especially liked the millet ice cream. A very simple way to start diversifying our diet and a modern way of cooking millet,” said Mrs Akilou Haoua, caterer.

FESTIMIL was held during 3-4 March 2020 at the Academy of Martial Arts in Niamey, Niger. This year the FESTIMIL was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, in partnership with the Tattali Iyali Foundation of the First Lady Dr Lalla Malika Issoufou; the Ministry of Cultural Renaissance, the Ministry of Health, the High Commission for the 3N Initiative, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique du Niger(INRAN) and ICRISAT.

We thank the CGIAR Research Program Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals for their support in this event.

Farmer Betty Bondo in her field. Photo: ICRISAT

Farmer Betty Bondo in her field. Photo: ICRISAT

Farmers in Eastern Kenya reap big profits from improved varieties of drought-tolerant crops

Farmers in Eastern Kenya are seeing an increase in yield from their crops and earning better incomes than before. Over 144,000 farming households have been provided with 1,000 tons of improved high-quality seeds of drought-tolerant cereals and legumes, resulting in over 60,000 ha of land being covered byimproved seeds in Eastern Kenya. More than 144,000 farmers have been trained in good agricultural practices for higher productivity, including over 50,000 farmers who received training on effective post-harvest handling techniques. All this, and more, has been achieved in Phase 1 of the Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) project funded by USAID.

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The project, which began in 2015, is now in its second phase, and is using the approach of ‘farming as a business’, integrating nutrition with agriculture.

Apart from training in good practices such as mechanized threshing, safe storage using hermetically sealed storage bags, the project also reached parents of over 21,000 children under the age of two with vital nutrition messages. In the process of developing the seed system, about 450 farmers were trained in community seed production and dissemination and 24 seed banks managed by farmers were established.

The introduction of improved varieties of sorghum, groundnut, green gram, finger millet, pearl millet, pigeonpea and cowpea brought a new lease of life to the farmers who are now able to get higher yields and thereby, enhanced food security and increased income for their households. Farmers were also enabled to access quality seed unlike before when they used recycled seeds or grain purchased from the market.

One of the farmers benefited by the project is Ms Betty Bondo from Mulala, Makueni County, Eastern Kenya, who started growing new green gram varieties when ICRISAT introduced the varieties to farmers in that area. “I started on one acre (about 0.4 ha) because the yields were low, and I did not know much about green gram farming. ICRISAT brought the improved varieties and trained us on how to plant on time, use proper spacing, intercropping and post-harvest handling,” remarks Betty. “The new variety and good farming techniques have improved my yields from two bags (200 kg) per acre to six bags (600 kg) per acre,” she continued. This encouraged Betty to increase her acreage from 1 to 3 and then to 20 acres.

According to Betty, more than 800 farmers in Mulala Ward took training on seed acquisition, planting on time, good agronomic practices and post-harvest management.  The farmers are a happier lot after harvesting three to four times of their previous harvest that came from the local varieties.

When Dr Rebbie Harawa, Regional Program Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, ICRISAT, visited the farmers in Mulala Ward, she was especially impressed by Betty’s record keeping that helps her keep track of time for different activities like harvesting, and account for her expenses versus income. Betty carries out farming as a business, checking the prevailing output market prices versus inputs. “I believe this is the direction that the farmers should be going in, to get out of subsistence farming towards agribusiness to support their entire livelihoods,” added Dr Rebbie. “In the last phase of the project, farmers like Betty will be trained as TOTs to train others on ‘farming as a business’. An ICT platform has been created where farmers can keep their records, link to the market, and access information on good agronomic practices. Also, all the beneficiaries of the project have access to electronic cards with information on their crop enterprise,” she explained.

Dr Ganga Rao, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT, AVCD coordinator, reported that ICRISAT’s Digital Agriculture theme, through its ihub start-up partners, are deploying digital solutions to enable Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), county extension staff and farmers to use digital tools related to good agricultural practices, market linkages and better record keeping.

Dr Ganga also noted that the project introduced community seedbanks where farmers form groups to produce quality seeds, save seeds by storing them safely until the next crop season, and get training on seed banking for continuous supply of the seeds, ensuring sustainability even after project completion. “We also introduced a snapping variety for finger millet, EUFM 502, which is easy to harvest and favorable to women, who form the biggest part of the labor force for finger millet. The snapping trait gives the finger millet a brittle stem allowing farmers to harvest it just by snapping the plant at the neck.”

According to Mr Gelvasio Mukono, ICRISAT’s field officer coordinating activities in Makueni, the unreliable rainfall and poor soils in the locality left farmers with little yields but through the training by AVCD project, the farmers are now able to use improved varieties and fertilizers, plant on time and get better yields. “The improved varieties not only withstand the dry weather but are also resistant to diseases and have higher nutritional value,” added Mr Mukono.

The project also trained women groups on agri-nutrition and value addition where they came up with different types of recipes such as chapatis, mandazi (Kenyan doughnut), doughnuts and cakes from pigeonpea.

In the final leg, the project is working with county governments to develop sustainable seed strategies, working with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), National Agricultural Research Extension Systems (NARES) seed units, the private seed companies and FPOs. To develop the capacity of FPOs to become business hubs for collective action, counties are profiling and mapping FPOs with the aim of forming bigger cooperatives. Also, nutrition is being mainstreamed for improving consumption of safe and diversified diets as well as complementary feeding practices at community level for better nutrition of women and children.

The program is implemented by ILRI, ICRISAT and CIP as a consortium.

For more on our work in Kenya, click here.

Project:Feed the Future – Accelerated Value Chain Development

Funder: United States Agency for International Development

Partners: International Livestock Research Institute, International Potato Center and ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 17-partnerships-goals 


Dr Ramadjita Tabo (right) interacting with Mr Anjani Kumar (Center) at ICRISAT-Mali.

Dr Ramadjita Tabo (right) interacting with Mr Anjani Kumar (Center) at ICRISAT-Mali.

Strengthening South-South collaboration with Mali-India ties

Asserting the commitment of Indian government to assist agriculture in Africa, Mr Anjani Kumar, Indian Ambassador to Mali, discussed partnerships with ICRISAT-WCA staff with an aim to strengthen south-south collaboration.

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“The government of India has collaborated with the Government of Mali on many projects which have been completed, are underway and in the process. We will always be keen from the government side to contribute to any initiative or project and we are happy to receive from you any proposal that we can take forward together,” Mr Kumar said during his visit to ICRISAT in Bamako, Mali, where he also visited the facilities of ICRAF and World Vegetable Center.

Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional and Research Program Director, ICRISAT-WCA, underscored the potential areas where India can contribute to the region’s agriculture. Dr Tabo explained, “There is always a missing link such as markets, irrigation and how the farmers can have access to cheap and clean water. We are talking about extension services that are not working well. We have some challenges but I believe that India is a model to follow in Africa and it is our responsibility to work together.”

Ambassador Kumar also commended ICRISAT researchers by saying the institute’s research “is not cut off from the society”.

“It is very important that we realize that with climate change, we really need to encourage the food grown in a particular climate, which is what the Smart Food campaign is all about,” Mr Kumar said in reference to ICRISAT’s mandate crops and the Smart Food initiative.

To know more about ICRISAT’s work in Mali, click here

ICRISAT senior researcher Henry Ojulong explains pearl millet seed production.

ICRISAT senior researcher Henry Ojulong explains pearl millet seed production.

ICRISAT and local seed companies to build a seed industry for supply of high performing hybrids to smallholder farmers

Demand for sorghum and pearl millet as major food, feed and fodder crop continues to increase globally. However, in the last 50 years, these grains have largely been abandoned in favor of the more popular maize, wheat, rice and soya beans. This is because of unavailability of improved and adaptable cultivars (a plant variety produced in cultivation by selective breeding) that are resistant to key biotics (living things and abiotic stresses such as water, air, soil and minerals).

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Additionally, the cost involved to come up with new seed lines for sorghum and pearl millet as well as hybrid parents, which are later used to develop the hybrid seeds for the market is high, making local seed companies abandon these crops. It also takes not less than six years to develop new seed lines, hybrid parents and hybrid seeds.

Fast-moving cereals 

According to Dr Henry Ojulong, Senior Scientist-Breeding, Dryland Cereals at Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat), most seed firms are unable to come up with new hybrid seeds as it is a time-consuming venture and they lack inhouse breeders.

Seed companies with inhouse breeders prefer hybrid seeds for only fast-moving cereals such as maize.

“Farmers are willing to buy sorghum and millet hybrid seeds, but we have been having a shortage of hybrid seeds.

Once breeders produce a new variety, most of those varieties remain in the shelves and farmers aren’t aware of them,” he said.

It is against this background that Icrisat partnered with eight seed companies in Eastern and Southern Africa to form a regional body, the Sorghum and Pearl Millet Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (SPMHPRC)

Icrisat is a non-profit, non-political organisation that conducts agricultural research for development in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The group envisions prosperous, food-secure and resilient dry land tropics.

Dr Eric Manyasa (Breeder and Head of Sorghum at Icrisat, Nairobi) during the field day at Kiboko, Makueni county. PD/alex mburu

Dr Eric Manyasa (Breeder and Head of Sorghum at Icrisat, Nairobi) during the field day at Kiboko, Makueni county. PD/alex mburu

Under the consortium, Icrisat will develop the hybrid parents, which will then be taken up by the seed firms or any public research institution with the technical capacity to develop hybrids and avail them to farmers.

Previously, research institutes would give the seed companies hybrid seeds for distribution.

But now distributors will be getting hybrid parents for sorghum and millet for crossing so as to come up with hybrid seeds.

“Having ready hybrid parents will shorten time taken by seed companies to come up with new hybrid varieties.

This will ensure small companies, which cannot afford to develop hybrid parents because of financial constraints, have an opportunity to come up with their own hybrid seeds,” said Dr Eric Manyasa, Senior Scientist and Breeder at Icrisat.

The scientists spoke during a field trip to their research station in Kiboko, Makueni county where Icrisat hosted the consortium’s members drawn from Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The forum aimed at exposing the organisations to the sorghum and pearl millet hybrid parents recently developed by the institute for them to choose parents for their use.

Hybrid parents 

The tour will be repeated after every two years. “We have brought these seed firms and public research institutions here to ensure that they select hybrid parents they would like to work with.

With this we are building a system that will enable sorghum and pearl millet hybrids to reach the farmers,” said Dr Manyasa.

The researcher said there  was high demand for sorghum and pearl millet driven by emerging markets and alternative uses.

Consequently, sorghum hybrids have been released in Sudan and Tanzania and potential for release exists in Kenya and Uganda where several sorghum hybrids have been recommended.

Despite this potential, the sorghum and pearl millet hybrid industries have been limited by lack of a viable hybrid sorghum and pearl millet seed production systems.

To enhance productivity, several sorghum and pearl millet varieties have been developed and released, but adoption has been constrained by the inadequacies of the seed systems and crop management.

“Greater productivity enhancement opportunities exist from sorghum and pearl millet hybrids, which have shown 15 to 40 per cent yield advantage over open-pollinated varieties.

Apart from more yields, the seeds once developed will be disease and pest tolerant,” Manyasa said.

This article was first published in Kenya’s People Daily.

To know more about ICRISAT’s work in ESA, click here

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 7-decent-work 8-industry-innovation 17-partnerships-goals 

Delegates during the launch meeting of APSAN-Mali project at ICRISAT-Samanko in Mali. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

New EU-funded project to improve food and nutrition security in Mali to benefit 40,000 people

A new project aimed at improving food and nutrition security in Mali by enhancing crop productivity and climate resilience was recently launched by ICRISAT in Mali. The five-year EU-funded project is set to benefit around 40,000 people in Kayes, Koulikoro, Ségou and Mopti regions of Mali. The project also aims to strengthen seed-systems through public-private partnership.

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The project, ‘Enhancing Crop Productivity and Climate Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security (APSAN–Mali)’, will target to improve food and nutrition security, climate resilience and agricultural productivity by delivering pearl millet, sorghum, groundnut and cowpea cultivars through modernized breeding programs. It also targets strengthening seed systems around new improved varieties and hybrids through public-private partnership, to facilitate the exchange of genetic material and data at regional scale and to durably reinforce research teams in modern breeding approaches.

According to Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-WCA, the project has strong synergies with the Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA) project and with another regional project, West Africa Breeding Networks and Extension Empowerment (ABEE), which is also funded by the EU and coordinated by CORAF.

“We have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a major project aimed at improving food and nutrition security as well as the incomes of thousands of Malians,” Dr Tabo said, speaking about the projects underway.

The project will be in partnership with Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER). During the launching of APSAN-Mali, Dr Abdoulaye Hamadoun, Director General, IER, highlighted the efforts to improve food security even as he recognized the support provided by ICRISAT to the national research institute in developing appropriate technologies to tackle climate change.

Mr Olivier Lefay, representative of the delegation of European Union, described APSAN –Mali as first agronomic research project of its kind. The work done by ICRISAT in the past in the region, particularly in Niger to regenerate degraded land, and the land development work carried out by the IER in Mali, led to partnership with these institutions, he said.

Mr Seydou Keita, Technical Advisor, representing Mali’s Ministry of Agriculture, stated that the improvement and adoption of high-performance varieties is a major step towards the qualification of crops in terms of productivity and commercial outlets.

He urged all partners to double their efforts in the development of varieties, which are better adapted to the diversity of ecosystems and to the demands of farmers and end users. He stated that the Government of Mali will remain available to all to support sustainable agriculture for enhancing food and nutritional security, increasing farmer incomes and improving the resilience of the poorest farmers to climate change and economic vulnerability.

Dr Baloua Nebie, a sorghum breeder at ICRISAT, will coordinate the project. The project will be executed by an interdisciplinary team comprising breeders, socio-economists, climate change impact and system agronomist, gender, communication and Smart Food specialists from ICRISAT and partnering institutions.

To know more about ICRISAT’s work in Mali, click http://exploreit.icrisat.org/profile/Mali/346

Project: Enhancing Crop Productivity and Climate Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security (APSAN-Mali)

Funder: Development-Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture Initiative (DeSIRA)’ program of European Union

Partners:  Institut d’Economie Rurale, farmers organizations (Union locale des producteurs de céréales-ULPC, Sene Yiriwaton, Coopérative des producteurs de semence du Mande – COOPROSEM, Union des Agriculteurs du Cercle de Tominian -UACT, Union Nietaa, USCPMD), Agricultural extension, NGOs (Mali Agricultural Market Development Trust – MALIMARK, European Cooperative for Rural Development – EUCORD, Association Malienne pour la Souveraineté et la Sécurité Alimentaire – AMASSA, Centre d’Appui d’Autopromotion et de Développement – CADD, Association Malienne d’Éveil au Développement Durable  – AMEDD) and Seed companies (Société de Production de Semences Améliorées – SOPROSA, Camara Semence, Dounkafa, Faso Kaba)

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 7-decent-work 8-industry-innovation 13-climate-action 17-partnerships-goals 

Modernizing breeding

Dr Paco Sereme, Chair of the ICRISAT Governing Board and Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Research Program Director, WCA watching a poster presentation by phd student Ms Madina Diancoumba along with other scientists. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Dr Paco Sereme, Chair of the ICRISAT Governing Board and Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Research Program Director, WCA watching a poster presentation by phd student Ms Madina Diancoumba along with other scientists. Photo: N Diakite, ICRISAT

Nutrition, gender and breeding modernization focal points of West and Central Africa research agenda

The spotlight was on biofortification, gender equity and breeding program modernization at the recent Regional Planning Meeting of ICRISAT West and Central Africa (WCA), as members charted forward-looking plans.

With an emphasis on modernizing ICRISAT WCA’s crop breeding programs, the members discussed the need for greater investments in establishing and strengthening the Regional Crop Improvement Hub at Samanko, Mali. More collaboration between the Excellence in Breeding (EiB) platform and industry partners was recommended to streamline breeding methodologies (e.g. on standardized measure of genetic gain and other tools/metrics) and to incorporate mechanization. It was also decided that the national agricultural research systems (NARS) will be strengthened to improve their capacities to deliver on expected impacts from modernizing the breeding of mandate crops.

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Dr Jummai O Yila, Gender Specialist, ICRISAT-WCA.

Dr Jummai O Yila, Gender Specialist, ICRISAT-WCA.

Collaborative programs such as the DeSIRA (APSAN) and AVISA projects were highlighted by Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Program Director, WCA. “Partnership is crucial in delivering our goal and objectives. We, therefore, continue our efforts of strengthening collaborations,” he said.

With respect to biofortified crops, apart from further partnership with the Smart Food initiative, other focus areas for the future were higher palatability of livestock feed and better tools to measure feed digestibility. Moreover, bioavailability of nutrients in pearl millet was also noted to be a key point in the research agenda.

Dr Paco Sereme, Chair of the ICRISAT Governing Board: “Positively looking at the future of ICRISAT and the CGIAR, we are hopeful and enthusiastic about the aspirations of the System. We are keen to contribute and collaborate with our stakeholders to make and sustain greater impacts in the drylands.”

Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Research Program Director, WCA: “Advancing South-South collaboration is critical and we should utilize every opportunity available to share resources and work together.”

Dr Peter Carberry, Director General: “The quality of science delivery in WCA and especially the integration with the global programs is great. Yet, we need to work harder on resource mobilization.”

Dr KK Sharma, Deputy Director General – Research: “We need to continue working with digital agriculture, and we also need an agri-business innovation champion from West Africa.”

Participants deliberated on technology dissemination approaches using case studies of past and current projects such as the Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement (HOPE II), the Tropical Legumes (TL III), the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) projects. Learnings from these projects could be helpful in providing solutions for several issues, it was felt. For instance, Dr Michael Vabi, Socio-economist, WCA, and M&E Specialist HOPE 2 Project, suggested, “Standardization of our social science questionnaires in WCA and ESA would address the adoption issue by emphasizing one factor. For example, using the opportunity of ICT or a business model with credit balance could improve adoption.”

Following a presentation on Gender equity by Dr Jummai O Yila, Gender Specialist, ICRISAT WCA, discussions on the topic concluded understanding potential customers and their priorities through gender analysis was essential. Dr Yila called for greater intermeshing between crop researchers and gender scientists to make gender mainstreaming deliverable in all activities.

Ms Agathe Diama, Head, Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA.

Ms Agathe Diama, Head, Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA.

Among other topics covered were the operations of the genebank in WCA, making agriculture in the Sahel less risky for greater adoption of yield-increasing technologies, and so on.

While underlining trust and partnerships as important factors in resource mobilization, Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Assistant Director General, External Relations, also highlighted that communications and the Smart Food initiative provide a wide range of tools, products, messaging etc. that can be used for fundraising, partnership building and uptake of research technologies.

The principle of One CGIAR and what it means to the institution going forward, was also deliberated upon.

The Regional Planning Meeting for the WCA region was held from 19-21 February at Mali. Staff from ICRISAT Hyderabad joined the meeting virtually due to travel restrictions at the time.

For more on our work in WCA, click here

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
2-zero-hunger 4-gender-equality 17-partnerships-goals 

Digital agriculture

File photo: ICRISAT

File photo: ICRISAT

Farmer uptake of agro-meteorological advisories steadily growing in India

There has been a doubling of farmers who have volunteered to use the Intelligent Agricultural Systems Advisory Tool (iSAT) weather advisory, while the Meghdoot app, providing crop-specific advisories, has scaled up from 150 districts in 2019 to nearly all of India (718 districts). Advisories are now provided in nine Indian languages and English. ICRISAT worked with a range of partners to develop and test these technologies and with farmers to adopt and use the information for on-farm decisions.

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iSAT has been providing concise and accurate phone-based advisories to farmers in Anantapur and Kurnool districts of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh since 2016. During the last two years, the number of farmers who have volunteered to receive advisories and participate in pre-season and post-season analysis of the tool’s efficiency and use has more than doubled, going up from 400 in 2017 to over 1,700 by the end of 2019. Additionally, around 20 chickpea farmers from Kurnool joined 30 registered farmer-users of iSAT during a visit to ICRISAT in January this year, to learn more about the tool and to register for its use.

Mr Ramesh Reddy, a farmer from Panyam village of Kurnool who visited to learn more about iSAT, said, “Last year we gathered weather information from the registered farmers of Hussainapuram all through the season. This year, we are keen to get the weather advisories in Panyam and have asked the iSAT team to include us.”

“We have been spreading the word about the tool’s benefits among other farmers,” said C Nazeer Ahmed of Hussainapuram village in Kurnool, where around 200 farmers get the messages.

Farmers like Mr Ahmed, who invest to lease out land to farm, in addition to farming their smallholding, are taking a significant financial risk when compared to farmers who only farm their own lands. iSAT has not only been helping farmers make on-farm decisions related to sowing or harvest, but it is also helping farmers like Mr Ahmed decide whether they should invest at all in leasing land to farm for higher produce and profits.

“Timely delivery of actionable climate and weather information not only supports the farmer in managing climate risks, but it also helps in scaling up farming and maximizing profits if farmers know a good season lies ahead,” said Dr Ramaraj, Associate Scientist, ICRISAT.

iSAT inspired the development of Meghdoot, an app that was built by ICRISAT jointly with the India Meteorological Department, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and Indian Council of Agricultural Research. Meghdoot provides crop-specific advisories by aggregating information from agro-met field units across India. Over the last five years, around 5,000 farmers in India have used ICT-enabled climate information services provided by ICRISAT and its partners for planning and management of their farms. Not only that, new ways are constantly being explored to put the tool to better use.

To know more about our work involving information and communication technology, click here.

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
2-zero-hunger 8-industry-innovation 17-partnerships-goals 

Open data is the gateway to machine learning

Data-driven decisions are one of the key drivers for high-impact research. Usually, the most expensive and time-consuming part of any research study is the design and collection of data. Post collection, quality check and data analytics are the stepping stones towards data-driven research decisions.

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Researchers are generally good at creating good data design, collecting high-quality data, and performing advanced data analysis to provide a high impact on research. However, often what researchers are not very good at, is ensuring reusability of the data. Several researchers who share research data find that FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable) data is a major challenge.

Non-availability of research data in open access has led to many new projects repeating similar data generation activities and collecting similar data sets over time. This issue crops up not just among organizations but even within an organization because of data unavailability. Although researchers are willing to share data, it’s often not findable and accessible and hence, fellow researchers are unable to locate it. This happens more often when a researcher moves on to another organization and his/her data remains buried in the hard disk of the previous organization. These hurdles can be easily overcome by assigning a persistent identifier such as Date of Issue (DOI) on an institutional data repository.

Considering this as a top priority, in order to avoid data availability gaps and to promote open data, ICRISAT took effective measures and implemented a Data Management Policy in 2014, implementing Open Access in ICRISAT. Later, ICRISAT’s Statistics, Bioinformatics and Data Management (SBDM) theme took on the task of promoting good data practices across ICRISAT and of advising researchers on data management workflow and open access.

SBDM provides complete data management support to researchers and projects from data design, curation and analysis to sharing.

After ICRISAT’s data management policy became effective, SBDM established several data repositories for different kinds of data, including ICRISAT Open Access Data Repository (http://dataverse.icrisat.org).

The infographic below highlights the large number of data sets that ICRISAT has stored in open access in a short span of time.

As mentioned earlier, availability of FAIR data ensures that future research is built on top of past research efforts, so that young researcher do not have to start from scratch and can replicate research results and learn from them. Now is the time for the international community to move rapidly forward and bring more data into open access.

To raise awareness on the benefits of open data, SBDM theme is organizing an “Open Data Day 2020” on 10 March 2020. On this day, we will conduct several interactive hands-on sessions on crop ontology, FAIR principles, digital breeding data management, genomic data management and various other aspects of open data. The sessions will be broadcast online to ICRISAT staff across all locations. Data clinics will be organized in East and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa (WCA) at a later date.


About the author:

Dr Abhishek Rathore
Theme Leader -Statistics, Bio-Informatics & Data Management
EiB Module 5 – Biometrics & Bioinformatics CoP Coordinator

Capacity building

Center of Excellence staff make vegetable grafts. Photo: A Seshadri , ICRISAT

Center of Excellence staff make vegetable grafts. Photo: A Seshadri , ICRISAT

How scaling up vegetable grafting is helping Indian farmers reap 30% more yields

More than 400 vegetable producers in India’s Andhra Pradesh state have taken to cultivating grafted vegetables in an attempt to double their incomes through increased yields. Farmers are reporting around 30-50% increase in yields from use of grafted varieties over traditional varieties.

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The farmers, from villages around Kuppam town of Chitoor district, are being provided grafted seedlings as part of an ICRISAT-led project, ‘Doubling farmers’ income through grafted vegetable seedlings in Andhra Pradesh, India’. At a Centre of Excellence in Kuppam, from where the project is being coordinated, farmers are trained in the basics of managing grafted vegetables like tomato, capsicum, chili, bitter gourd, cucumber and snake gourd. Mr Chowdappa, a farmer from Ramkuppam village said he took to cultivating bottle gourd (grafted variety). Despite bad weather conditions in November last year, he noticed that the crop was vibrant and better than the local variety. He harvested 20 tons per 0.4 hectare (one acre), up from 15 tons that older varieties gave.

Another farmer, Mr Mohan Reddy from Chowdepalli village, has been growing grafted tomato on 0.4 hectare land. He is set to harvest 35-40 tones, against 30 tons that non-grafted varieties yield. Mr Reddy says he will continue grafting.

Chili farmer Mr Damodar Raju from Karvetinagar village said he received 1,000 saplings of grafted chili which gave him 400 kg yield from just 0.08 hectares. The vegetable was of good size and color. Non –grafted varieties gave just about 300 kg, the farmer remarked.

The project aims to benefit 1,200 farmers during its course. Early successes in the project prompted a senior government representative to call for its replication in all the districts of Andhra Pradesh.

What is grafting?

Grafting is a horticultural technique where tissues of two plants are joined to continue their growth as a single plant. The upper part of the grafted plant is called ‘scion’ while the lower part is called ‘rootstock’. Grafting is beneficial to tackle biotic and abiotic stresses by increasing the plant vigor, yield and quality in different crops. It also enables vigorous rootstock that provides the plant with greater strength in comparison to a non-grafted plant. Although grafting is quite popular in fruit trees like mango, cashew etc, it involves different techniques when comes to vegetables like tomato, brinjal, chilies etc. The technique being employed in vegetables was developed by the World Vegetable Center.

“I am extremely happy to see the research outputs. The project now needs to be scaled up to all the 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh,” said Mr Chiranjiv Choudhary, Commissioner of Horticulture for Andhra Pradesh Government, at a recently held review meeting organized by ICRISAT Development Center.

“The aim of the PPP is to scale-up at cost effective rates and create entrepreneurs,” he added.

The Government of Andhra Pradesh, YSR Horticulture University and ICRISAT are technically supporting entrepreneurs with cutting edge research and technical advice. The project aims to train 1,200 farmers during its course.

The initiative has been taken up in collaboration with Department of Horticulture, Andhra Pradesh, and Heirloom Seedlings and Plants Pvt. Ltd.

“We co-developed the grafting technology with ICRISAT. All our root systems are drought, salinity, heat and disease tolerant, resulting from 12 years of research. Around 18 grafted vegetable varieties have been developed. We are now in the process of starting similar projects in Maharashtra and Odisha with ICRISAT Development Center,” said Mr Krishna Kishore, Head of Operations, Heirloom Seedlings. Mr Kishore was trained in the grafting technique at World Vegetable Center in Taiwan before scaling up the technology.

“IDC provides technical support and training to the farmers on the practice of packages to be used to grow the grafted seedlings, along with scaling up and developing the technology,” said Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, IDC. “In this initiative, the Government of Andhra Pradesh, YSR Horticulture University and ICRISAT are technically supporting entrepreneurs with cutting edge research and technical advice.”

To learn more about the ICRISAT Development Center, visit http://idc.icrisat.org/

Project: Doubling farmers income through grafted vegetable seedlings in Andhra Pradesh, India

Funder: Government of Andhra Pradesh

Partners: Department of Horticulture AP, Heirlooms seedlings Pvt. ltd and ICRISAT

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 7-decent-work 17-partnerships-goals 

Participants of the Feed the Future India Triangular Training Program at Adarsha Watershed in Kothapally. Photos: ICRISAT

Participants of the Feed the Future India Triangular Training Program at Adarsha Watershed in Kothapally. Photo: ICRISAT

Training the present to feed the future in nine countries

Twenty-five agriculture extension officers and trainers from nine African and Asian countries learnt about the latest in agriculture practices, agribusiness, food safety and Smart Food during the recently concluded 42nd Feed the Future India Triangular Training program (FTFITT).

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Following multiple sessions covering about 36 topics over two weeks, the participants said the key takeaways from the FTFITT program, Good Agriculture Practices for Sustainable Agriculture in Developing Countries’, were the solutions to problems in food production faced in their home countries.

“Aflatoxin contamination of foods is a big challenge in Kenya. Owing to lack of awareness about grain drying, storage and testing soil, the toxin is taking a toll on human health. At ICRISAT, we were shown how the crop can be dried without touching the soil and the extent to which the grain should be dried. We also learnt about proper storage,” four participants from Kenya said when asked about learnings from the workshop.

The training program was held at ICRISAT, Hyderabad, in collaboration with National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad.

FTFITT is a collaborative program of USAID, India, and the Government of India, represented by MANAGE, Hyderabad. It aims at building the capacity of public and private functionaries in agriculture and allied sectors of 17 partner Asian and African countries in emerging areas of agriculture development.

The 42nd program saw participants from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kenya, Mozambique, Liberia, Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda. Resource persons from ICRISAT, CIMMYT, IRRI, ILRI, World Veg and PJSTAU trained the participants. The sessions focused on sustainable agricultural practices both in agriculture and allied sector including vegetable cultivation. Visits to National Institute of Plant Health Management, ICAR-Indian Institute Millets Research, ICAR-Indian Institute Oilseeds Research, MANAGE, ICAR- Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture in addition to ICRISAT’s Adarsha watershed in Kothapally were made.

Participants also learnt about the latest in agribusiness at the Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP). Exposure visits to the Charles Renard Analytical Laboratory, Genebank and Farm Engineering Services helped provide an overview of agricultural practices in vogue.

Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, said during the program’s inaugural that it is an opportunity for both Asia and Africa to share experiences. Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Assistant Director General, External Relations, spoke about the Smart food program and announced the selection of a Smart Food correspondent for Kenya from the group.

Dr Pooran Gaur, Research Program Director, Asia, discussed climate resilient varieties for sustainable agriculture, emphasizing pulses cultivation. Dr Sreenath Dixit, Head, ICRISAT Development Centre shared the experience of scaling-up research innovations in India.

Ms Jayalakshmi, Director General, MANAGE, handed the course completion certificates to the participants during the valedictory session. Dr Mahantesh Shirur, Deputy Director General, MANAGE, said the evaluation tests of the participants showed that the program contributed to a significant knowledge generation among the participants.

Drs A H Anantha, Senior Scientist, IDC, and D Kumara Charyulu, Senior Scientist, MIND, coordinated the program during 11–25 February, 2020, at ICRISAT, Hyderabad.

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
1-no-poverty 2-zero-hunger 8-industry-innovation 17-partnerships-goals 

Stakeholder engagement workshop at ICRISAT. Farmers from Neerukulla and Katakshapur villages of Warangal (R) district of Telangana state. Photos: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

Stakeholder engagement workshop at ICRISAT. Farmers from Neerukulla and Katakshapur villages of Warangal (R) district of Telangana state. Photos: L Vidyasagar, ICRISAT

Stakeholder engagement in South India to bridge the science-policy gap

Why are Indian youth averse to taking up agriculture despite knowing of ways to succeed? Has the role of women in agriculture, and the drudgery associated with it, changed owing to advances in mechanization? These and many other questions pertaining to the role of agriculture in rural livelihoods are being probed by a team of researchers in India’s Telangana state for over a year. More recently, farmers were engaged as a group to deliberate on these at ICRISAT.

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The farmers were participating in a stakeholder workshop at ICRISAT which was held as a part of the TIGR2ESS program, an India-UK initiative which has brought together crop science, hydrology, social science and policy to transform India’s Green Revolution. As part of the Flagship Project 1 in the program, ‘Sustainable and Transformative Agrarian and Rural Trajectories’, social scientists of ICRISAT have been conducting focus group discussions and interviews with women, men and youth since April 2019 in Warangal (Rural) district of Telangana.

Farmer engagement in research reduces the gap between science and policy. It also helps prioritize and deep-dive into more research that policies may need for support, while corroborating other field research activities through data validation. Also, the credibility and acceptability of a study hinges on farmer participation. Farmer engagement can help contextualize observations, like the implications of the efforts to mechanize farms, and in turn, have a bearing on future policies. Further, involving farmers in research discussions can speed up the research process and reduce the transaction cost to carry out further field research.

India’s farmer population is ageing without healthy signs of taking over by a younger workforce. The elderly in agrarian households do not see agriculture as a viable livelihood option for their children, while the young are averse to venture into it given the risks associated and the perceptions about farming as an occupation, which are deeply entrenched.

“We want our children to be well educated and have a secure job. It is fine even if they have a petty business in the corner of a city but we do not want them to do agriculture,” said Satya Narayan, a smallholding farmer from Neerukulla village.

“Earlier, agriculture and agricultural land that one possessed carried weight, but now educational qualifications and the type of job a male does is considered when matchmaking efforts are undertaken. Therefore, youth do not want to come to agriculture as it is not seen as attractive in society,” another farmer, Narasimha Reddy, said.

Though it is known that migration to cities may not be the best alternative, the prospects of better education and a job providing regular income motivates rural youth to migrate to urban locales. This reduces the workforce in rural areas, setting off a cascade of socio-economic consequences.

However, the youth are also aware of what it takes to make agriculture alluring. They cite the need for training and information about new varieties, soil health and market information. Handling farm machinery is seen as a profitable venture and the youth seek training and support for such enterprises in Warangal (R) district. They also aspire for financial support in setting up poultry and fish farms, in addition to robust support prices for the crops they cultivate.

Nearly all participants in the group agreed that women’s role in agriculture is decreasing in recent years due to arrival of machines to do jobs such as harvesting of paddy, weeding, spraying etc., in intensive crop production areas like Warangal (R). However, women are working just as much as they did before, even if not necessarily on the farm. Their socialization is restricted to interactions within self-help groups or during meetings organized for women.

The farmers also expressed that field exposure visits to innovative farms, research institutes etc. were absolutely necessary. Training on good agricultural practices for region-specific major crops was sought even as they appreciated a practice manual in local language. Engagement of farmers in research and exposure to research institutes can reduce the incidence of farmers being deceived by fake inputs (mainly seeds and fertilizer) suppliers in the rural area, as fake seeds and fertilizers are among the main reasons why farmers face losses.

Project: Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies (TIGR2ESS)

Funder: Global Challenges Research Fund

Partners: ICRISAT, Cambridge University, University of East Anglia, MSSRF, PRADAN

About the authors

Dr S Nedumaran
Senior Scientist – Economics
Markets, Institutions, Nutrition & Diversity
Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program

Dr Ravi Nandi
Associate Scientist (Agricultural Economics),
Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program

What’s next for CGIAR?

If you don’t know what CGIAR is, stop reading or ask Bill Gates (“you’ve probably never heard of CGIAR, but they are essential to feeding the world”). CGIAR with its 15 research institutions around the world, mostly Global South, is on a reform path. Some old hands will smile, again? Yes, again. Some institutional reform gurus will applaud: you should never stop renewing and reinventing yourself.

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CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food secure future dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources. It is basically behind the Green Revolution but has expanded post-Rio (1992) beyond the improvement of the major global food crops (and animals) to include forests and agroforestry, biodiversity and water management and general tropical agricultural systems. It is funded by a large group of donor countries and some foundations, such as the one of Bill & Melinda Gates.

Last year a working group from across the system (funders, research centers and programs) was asked to look at possible improvements to the efficiency of the system. To everybody’s surprise they agreed not to tweak the system, but suggested a complete overhaul to “One CGIAR”.

The five recommendations, now unanimously agreed by the principal funders, are the following:

  • One compelling SDG2 research strategy and program for 2022-2030 around five impact areas: nutrition, poverty, gender, climate and environment.
  • One unified governance structure around a Common Board and an empowered executive management team.
  • Institutional integration with integrated operational structures, one set of system policies and services (like HR, audits, financial management etc.), and crucially, One CGIAR at country and regional level, coming together locally to make a real difference not just around the research project, but servicing country needs and challenges.
  • All of which requires a new research modality structure.
  • And requires donors as well to behave collectively with more and pooled funding (targets 50% pooled funding by 2022 and 70% pooled funding by end 2024).

Would it stand a chance? How to agree among 15 independent research centers, chasing their own interest rather than their collective power, to trade some of their independence not only for the sheer survival of the group and several of the smaller centers, but even more importantly to live up to the impact on poverty and food security that we all need?

Moving ahead is inevitable

However, the sense of the inevitable is on the rise. The collective research budget of 15 independently governed centers (roughly USD 850 million) is not larger than that of a single advanced research institute or university. The lack of investment power starts to affect the quality of the research. Although we now have large cross-center research programs (CRPs), everybody acknowledges there is still a lot to improve on their internal coherence, let alone on joined-up impact of a set of CRPs. Coordination at the country level is inadequate. Internal competition and duplication is a problem. That leaves the potential of CGIAR’s impact underutilized, both at the global level of food system debates and the SDG challenge, as at the national level in supporting the national policy debate or creating impact on practice (like extension systems) or locally integrated innovation systems.

Funders are a problem too. Pooled and harmonized funding with the system constitutes only roughly 25% of total funding, while the rest is dispersed over 2500 projects agreed with centers. No wonder CGIAR is underperforming on its collective potential. No wonder centers are reluctant to release on their independence. But among funders the mood is changing too.

This article was first published on the Food & Business Knowledge Platform. Click to continue reading.

About the author

Wijnand van Ijssel is a senior policy officer for the knowledge agenda food security at the Inclusive Green Growth department of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affair in The Hague.

The staff posing with the theme gesture of the International Women’s Day 2020. Photo: ICRISAT

The staff posing with the theme gesture of the International Women’s Day 2020. Photo: ICRISAT

Commemorating 2020 International Women’s Day: Creating an inclusive workplace that embraces diversity and equal opportunity

An insightful panel discussion on building inclusive work spaces was the focus of International Women’s Day 2020 celebrations at ICRISAT, Mali, earlier this month. The panel discussion was a unique opportunity for staff members to share their concerns and views on initiatives to be put in place to support an inclusive workplace that embraces diversity and equal opportunity for work-life balance.

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The panel discussion was a unique opportunity for staff members to share their concerns and views on initiatives to be put in place to support an inclusive workplace that embraces diversity and equal opportunity for work-life balance.

My three take-home messages from this day are:
1) Protect women from all forms of violence
2) Everywoman should be financially independent
3) African countries should urgently adopt and apply the law on code of family and women’s rights.
– Dr Ramadjita Tabo,
Regional and Research Program Director,

The panel comprised of Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional and Research Program Director, ICRISAT- West and Central Africa (WCA); Dr Robert Zougmore, Team Leader, CCAFS in Africa; Dr Jummai O Yila, Scientist, Gender Research, ICRISAT; Mrs Binta Henriette Traore, Head, Regional Administration and Finance, World Vegetable Center-WCA; Dr Catherine Dembele, Tree Scientist/Domestication, World Agroforestry Centre; Ms Awa Drabo, entrepreneur, and Intern at ICRISAT; and Dr Birhanu Zemadin Birhanu, Senior Scientist, Land and Water Management, WCA to the panel was  moderated by Ms Agathe Diama, Head, Regional Information, ICRISAT-WCA.

Some of the key points of discussion were:

  • Can both female and male colleagues share their views about their biases about women in science?
  • What do you think about setting up a positive discrimination policy?
  • For effective and productive work outcome with a good balance on family and individual heath, how
    can a family-friendly work environment be created
    for young mothers with infants?
  • How can we make recruitment to top management position without gender bias?
  • Is the gender “equality” goal realistic?
  • Can you tell us about a time when you felt that your gender was impacting your job?

During the panel discussion, the issue of establishing a crèche to support young mothers at the workplace was deliberated on for a long time. The Women’s Forum noted with delight that the leadership was in favor of supporting this need. Consequently, the Forum set up a committee of four female employees to determine requirements for setting up the crèche.



Key quotes from the panelists:

Dr Robert Zougmore: I had other options when I got the offer from my current job. My wife advised me to join ICRISAT. She promised to support me in this decision and therefore stood by me. As they say, along with every great man is a great woman. Regarding positive discrimination to enhance women representation, I think we have good examples out there with UN system that ICRISAT and other centers can look up to.

Dr Birhanu Zemadin Birhanu: We have to redefine the mission of the international women’s movement which started in 1911. More than a century later, have we achieved the goal? Are we there? We found that in the rural areas, households headed by men are still heavily dominating the resources. In some communities when we improved the degraded lands, they were taken by village chief and given to male-headed households. There are many such difficult issues on the ground that we need to touch upon.

Dr Catherine Dembele: I think equality is not a mathematical equality. We have to go back to the basics, that is, equal rights. For instance, ‘He has the right to go to school; she has the right to go to school.’

Dr Jummai O Yila: It is important for women to identify their niche and strengths and capitalize on that while working on other areas of weakness. In addition, as women, we should find and surround ourselves with people who encourage us. A woman must believe in herself to be able to deliver in the different areas of assignments and aspire for better and higher position. Everyone around must recognize the need for women to be there, and actively find ways to bringin capable women for decision-making/leadership positions, because they can deliver.

Mrs Binta Henriette: I have had the chance to meet some supervisors and leaders who understood when I needed to make arrangements regarding my personal time. For me, equality is more about complementarity and finding ways of understanding each other needs.

Ms Awa Drabo: I would like to see a processput in place to enhance equity so that our particular qualities are considered, without each time putting us on the same equal footing, which does not make much sense.

The Women’s Forum on ICRISAT campus at Samanko research station, organized the celebration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) this year on 13 March.

The second activity took place at Camp Kangaba (in suburb of Bamako) and consisted of in-group discussions, family photo, lunch and various games and play by the women.



Women’s Day outreach events in Nigeria and Niger

Smart Food processing for household nutrition and income generation was the focus of an outreach event at Tofa Local Government Area, Kano State. Ms Hafsat S Ibrahim, Gender officer, ICRISAT-Nigeria, gave a talk and taught women how to prepare the very popular, highly nutritious and cost-effective baby food “Tom-brown” by mixing soybean, groundnut and sorghum. Participants also witnessed a sorghum doughnut demo. Photo shows the 26 participants in their customized hijabs with improved sorghum seed packages that they can try out on their farms.

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In Niger, the ICRISAT women’s group visited students of Sadore village primary school and donated cleaning material, sponges, chalk pieces, buckets and books. Dr Clarisse Umutoni, livestock scientist, encouraged young girls of the school to persist in their studies.

Photos: P Srujan, ICRISAT

Photos: P Srujan, ICRISAT

When fun and inspiration were equally enabled

International Women’s Day celebrations at ICRISAT-India.

From caring for one’s health and the environment to taking inspiration from stories of the accomplished and pledging for a better future, meaningful and exciting activities defined the International Women’s Day, which was observed at ICRISAT-India on 6 March.

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From caring for one’s health and the environment to taking inspiration from stories of the accomplished and pledging for a better future, meaningful and exciting activities defined the International Women’s Day, which was observed at ICRISAT-India on 6 March.

A 2-km walk around the campus and planting of samplings set off the activities. This was followed by the staff taking a pledge to do their part in making the world an equal space, irrespective of the gender.

A panel discussion followed on the topic ‘An equal world is an enabled world’, which was also the theme of the International Women’s Day 2020. Panelists included Dr Mahtab Bamji – a scientist, Dr Jaideep Sharma – a doctor, and Ms Kavita Mishra – a farmer, who brought in their own unique perspectives to the discussion that was moderated by Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT.

Dr Bamji, an honorary scientist of the Indian National Science Academy, has worked to improve nutritional status of rural populations in India, especially addressing malnutrition in women and children. She emphasized the need to focus on the wellbeing of the female child right from birth throughout her life, for a strong and resilient society.

Dr Jaideep Sharma, Founder, Dr Jaideep’s Diagnostic Centres, spoke about the rich contributions of women to the heritage as well as the future of India. Speaking about certain ills in Indian society that impacted women and girls very adversely, he urged all to take steps to fight the ills and care for the physical, mental, emotional and social health of women.

Ms Kavita Mishra, a sandalwood farmer from Raichur district, Karnataka, held everyone spellbound with the story of her struggles to gain a footing as a farmer in a harsh environment, facing the challenges of crop loss, debts etc. She inspired as well as gave hope to the younger generation, asking them to take up life’s challenges as ways to improve themselves and prove their abilities to the world.

Fascinating life stories and inspirational lessons were shared during a story sharing session that followed the panel discussion. Dr Lalitha Raghuram, Country Director, MOHAN Foundation, informed the audience of the urgent need for organ donation in India. Ms Anmol Rodriguez, social media influencer, shared how she went from being an acid attack survivor to a successful TEDx speaker and Instagram celebrity.

A dress code of white or green set for the staff, including colleagues at the New Delhi office, marked the day.

Latest videos

Videos reflecting the collaboration between University of Cambridge and ICRISAT in two large multi-institutional projects-Tigr2ess and MillNET_i- were recently produced. The TIGR2ESS project aims to transform India’s Green revolution through research in crop science, hydrology, social science and policy. MillNET_i is focused on improving iron nutrition status in Ethiopia and The Gambia by assessing the bioavailability of iron in millets. Bioavailability trials for pearl millet and finger millet are set to begin soon in Africa.

New publications

Genomic Designing of Pearl Millet: A Resilient Crop for Arid and Semi-arid Environments

Authors: Serba DD, Yadav RS, Varshney RK, Gupta SK, Govindaraj M, Srivastava RK, Gupta R, Perumal R and Tesso TT

Published: Genomic Designing of Climate-Smart Cereal Crops. Springer, Cham, Switzerland, pp. 221-286. ISBN 978-3-319-93381-8


Marker Assisted Foreground Selection for Identification of Striga Resistant Backcross Lines in Sorghum bicolor               

Authors: Afolayan G, Aladele SE, Deshpande SP, Oduoye OT, Nwosu DJ, Michael C, Blay ET and Danquah EY

Published: Covenant Journal of Physical and Life Sciences, 7 (1). pp. 29-36.


Scaling up Land Restoration Approaches to Reclaim the Hardpans of Niger for Agriculture using Sentinel 2 Imagery

Authors: Irshad Ahmed M, Anil Kumar H, Laminou S, Mohammed IA, Bado BV, Fatondji D, and Whitbread AM

Published: In: World Soils User Consultation Meeting, 2-3 July 2019, Frascati (Rome), Italy


Landscape positions dictating crop fertilizer responses in wheat-based farming systems of East African Highlands

Authors: Amede T, Gashaw T, Legesse G, Tamene L, Mekonen K, Thorne P and Schultz S

Published: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (TSI). pp. 1-13. ISSN 1742-1705


Reducing child undernutrition through dietary diversification, reduced aflatoxin exposure, and

improved hygiene practices: The Immediate Impacts in Central Tanzania

Authors: Anitha S, Muzanila Y, Tsusaka TW, Kachulu L, Kumwenda N, Musoke M, Swai E, Shija J, Siambi M, Monyo ES, Bekunda M and Okori P

Published: Ecology of Food and Nutrition (TSI). pp. 1-20. ISSN 0367-0244


Discerning combining ability loci for divergent environments using chromosome segment substitution lines (CSSLs) in pearl millet

Authors: Subudhi PK, Basava RK, Hash CT, Mahendrakar MD, Kishor PBK, Satyavathi CT, Kumar S, Singh RB, Yadav RS, Gupta R and Srivastava RK

Published: PLOS ONE (TSI), 14 (8). pp. 1-23. ISSN 1932-6203 


Effects of compost manure on soil microbial respiration, plant-available-water, peanut (Arachis hypogaea l.) yield and pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination

Authors: Chalwe HM, Lungu OI, Mweetwa AM, Phiri E, Njoroge, SMC, Brandenburg RL and Jordan DL

Published: Peanut Science, 46 (1). pp. 42-49. ISSN 0095-3679 


Predicting aflatoxin content in peanuts using ambient temperature, soil temperature and soil moisture content during pod development

Authors: Hendrix MC, Obed IL, Alice MM, Elijah P, Jones Y, Njoroge SMC, Rick LB and David J

Published: African Journal of Plant Science, 13 (3). pp. 59-69. ISSN 1996-0824


Effects of postharvest handling practices on quality of groundnuts and aflatoxin contamination

Authors: Dambolachepa HB, Muthomi JW, Mutitu EW and Njoroge SMC

Published: Novel Research in Microbiology Journal, 3 (3). pp. 396-414. ISSN 2537-0294


Advances in Crop Improvement and Delivery Research for Nutritional Quality and Health Benefits of Groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.)

Authors: Ojiewo CO, Janila P, Bhatnagar-Mathur P, Pandey MK, Desmae H, Okori P, Mwololo JK, Ajeigbe HA, Njuguna-Mungai E, Muricho G, Akpo E, Gichohi-Wainaina WN, Variath MT, Radhakrishnan T, Dobariya KL, Bera SK, Rathnakumar AL, Manivannan N, Vasanthi RP, Kumar MVN and Varshney RK

Published: Frontiers in Plant Science (TSI), 11. pp. 1-15. ISSN 1664-462X


Gender Transformative Impacts from Watershed Interventions: Insights from a Mixed-Methods Study in the Bundelkhand Region of India

Authors:  Padmaja, R and Kavitha, K and Pramanik, S and Duche, V D and Singh, Y U and Whitbread, A M and Singh, R and Garg, K K and Leder, S

Published: Transactions of the ASABE (TSI), 63 (1). pp. 153-163. ISSN 2151-0040


Genetic Diversification and Selection Strategies for Improving Sorghum Grain Yield Under Phosphorous-Deficient Conditions in West Africa

Authors: Diallo, C and Rattunde, H F W and Gracen, V and Touré, A and Nebié, B and Leiser, W and Dzidzienyo, D K and Sissoko, I and Danquah, E Y and Diallo, A G and Sidibé, B and Sidibé, M and Weltzien, E

Published:  Agronomy (TSI), 9 (11). p. 742. ISSN 2073-4395


Using a Participatory Approach and Legume Integration to Increase the Productivity of Early Maturing Maize in the Nigerian Sudan Savannas

Authors:  Kamara, A Y and Ajeigbe, H A and Ndaghu, N and Kamsang, Lucy and Ademulegun, T and Solomon, R

Published: International Journal of Agronomy, 2019. pp. 1-8. ISSN 1687-8159


Identification of polymorphic SSR markers in elite genotypes of pearl millet and diversity analysis

Authors:  Kumar, S and Hash, C T and Singh, G and Basava, R K and Srivastava, R K

Published: Ecological Genetics and Genomics, 14. ISSN 2405-9854


Influence Of Tillage Practices And Residue Management Practices on Yield Attributes And Yield Of Maize In Maize-Based Cropping Systems Under Semi-Arid Tropics

Authors:  Kumari, A and Chander, G and Laxminarayana, P and Wani, S P and Reddy, S N and Padmaja, G

Published: The J. Res. PJTSAU, 47 (3). pp. 20-26. ISSN 2395-5945


A systematic dissection of the mechanisms underlying the natural variation of silique number in rapeseed (Brassica napus L.) germplasm

Authors: Li, S and Zhu, Y and Varshney, R K and Zhan, J and Zheng, X and Shi, J and Wang, X and Liu, G and Wang, H

Published: Plant Biotechnology Journal (TSI), 18 (2). pp. 568-580. ISSN 1467-7644 


Genetic variability, genotype × environment interaction and correlation analysis for grain iron and zinc contents in recombinant inbred line population of pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L). R.]

Authors: Mahendrakar, M D and Kumar, S and Singh, R B and Rathore, A and Potupureddi, G and KaviKishor, P B and Gupta, R and Srivastava, R K

Published: Indian Journal of Genetics and Plant Breeding (TSI), 79 (3). pp. 545-551. ISSN 0019-5200


Uptake of Climate-Smart Agricultural Technologies and Practices: Actual and Potential Adoption Rates in the Climate-Smart Village Site of Mali

Authors: Ouedraogo, M and Houessionon, P and Zougmore, R B and Partey, S T

Published: Sustainability (TSI), 11 (17). pp. 1-19. ISSN 2071-1050


Agriculture Extension System in India: A Meta-analysis

Authors: Nedumaran, S and Ravi, N

Published: Research Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 10 (3). pp. 473-479. ISSN 0976-1675 


Assessing soil nutrient change under long-term application of mineral fertilizer micro-dosing to pearl millet [Pennisetum glaucum (L.) R. Br.] on a sahelian sandy soil

Authors: Mahaman Sanoussi, S I and Dougbedji, F and Matthew, E and Okhimamhe, A A and Ibrahim, A and Sule, I

Published: EURASIAN JOURNAL OF SOIL SCIENCE (EJSS) (TSI), 9 (1). pp. 34-42. ISSN 2147-4249


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