Novel ways are being explored to make nutrition interventions more effective and efficient in Kenya. The ICRISAT nutrition behavior change team recently used ‘Photovoice’, a methodology to assess the impact of activities implemented in one of the counties in Kenya.
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Photovoice is a qualitative research method that uses photography for social action, to raise awareness and to stimulate behavioral change. “We are trying new methods to not only increase the accuracy of monitoring diets but also to make it fun and interactive,” notes Ms Christine Wangari, Smart Food Coordinator for East and Southern Africa.
The intervention was carried out in Tharaka Nithi, as part of the Accelerated Value Chain Development Programme (AVCD). “We used photographs as a tool for data collection,” says Ms Catherine Mwema, Researcher, ICRISAT. “We generated samples from two areas – a treatment site where nutrition activities had taken place and a comparison site where no activities had taken place.”
The team worked in partnership with the Tharaka Nithi Department of Health. “With the help of Public Health Officers, we selected 30 respondents of mixed gender and ages, based on random sampling, from each area to get a more representative sample,” says Mr Cornellius Muendo, Public Health Officer, Tharaka Nithi County. “Since 2016, we have been implementing nutrition activities in this county, specifically targeting Marimanti ward, and Chiakariga and Igambangombe counties within Tharaka Nithi County. For the assessment, we compared Marimanti and Gatunga wards.”
The respondents were taken through a full-day photography training with a certified trainer, Mr John Wambugu, and were given cameras to use for their ‘homework’ which was to capture photos of all foods consumed for the next 24 hours.
Mr Wambugu introduced the respondents to the IXUS 175 and IXUS 177 digital cameras and demonstrated how to operate them. “They learned to tell a story using a camera,” he says.
On Day One, the 30 participants were introduced to photography and the power of photography in society to tell stories. They were then given an assignment after they had learnt how to caption pictures.
“On Day Two we went to see what they were doing and what they were capturing. It was very interesting to see them trying to implement what they had learnt,” says Mr Wambugu.
After the pictures were printed, the respondents went to the data collection point and used the photos to enter information about the food and ingredients used.
It was found that the photographs of foods consumed in the last 24 hours were an effective evidence-based approach that eliminated the challenges of the recall method.
Mr Simon Nyaga, Nutritionist, Tharaka Nithi, says that he found the exercise very useful. “It captured information about foods that mothers and their children consumed in their homes. They did not have to strain to recall what they ate. The photos were a ready reference for us to assess the legume/cereal ratio and to understand if the meal was balanced,” Mr Simon adds.
Results from the assessment showed that dietary diversity scores for women of reproductive age and children were four points higher for children and 1.8 points higher for women in the treatment area as compared to the non-treatment area. The Photovoice exercise found that most women were not using diverse food groups.
There was a significant difference between the utilization of sorghum, millets and legumes in Gatunga (control or ‘no treatment’ site) and that in Marimanti (treatment site). Mothers from Marimanti used a greater variety of food groups in addition to the cereals and legumes. Mr Simon says, “Apart from legumes like cowpea and pigeonpea, they were taking vegetables and fruit. Mothers from Marimanti were also adding protein from animal sources, which is highly recommended.”
“We need evidence-based reporting wherein researchers are sure that what happened on the ground is exactly what is reported by the respondent,” says Mr Muendo.
Photovoice fulfilled this precise requirement of the researchers in Tharaka Nithi with very satisfactory results.
A project that aims to strengthen research in crop-livestock systems, to substantially change lives and livelihood of farmers in Western Africa, was launched earlier this month. There has been little investment in research and development for crop-livestock systems with market linkages. This is why this launch is significant as it not only brings in US$ 1.25 million investment in research awarded by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, it also aims to leverage several times more funding with support of partners.
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The project called ‘Enabling Value Chains to Create Sustainable Income for Vulnerable People in Crop-Livestock Systems of Burkina Faso and Niger’ aims to build resilience and incomes in rural communities in Burkina Faso and Niger, where more than 80% depend on livestock and rainfed agriculture for livelihood.
Speaking at the launch in Niger, Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director, Innovation Systems for the Drylands, ICRISAT, said innovation was key to this initiative. “Research shows that Animal Source Foods (ASF) are set to grow exponentially over the next decade with the livestock revolution taking place in West Africa. We believe that the project has the ability to drive transformational change from the current systems to profitable and market oriented crop-livestock systems.” Dr Malick Ba, Country Representative – Niger, West & Central Africa Program, ICRISAT, highlighted that “this project, brings together scientists from different programs and partner institutions to create greater impact.”
Efforts will be made to increase production of ASF through integrated management of crop-livestock systems with the participation of small-ruminant livestock keepers in value chains. There will be an innovation platform approach for bringing together multi-stakeholder value chain players to bring about more market oriented crop-livestock systems through the introduction of technology, capacity development and policy impact. Scenario analyses using modelling and analytics will be used to determine the highest impact of interventions across farms or regions.
Led by Dr Vincent Bado, Principal Scientist – Dryland Systems and Livelihood Diversification
West & Central Africa Program, ICRISAT, the project will also be implemented by The Institut de l’Environnement de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) in Burkina Faso, The Conseil National de Recherche Agronomique (CNRA) in Niger and the New Mexico State University (NMSU). These efforts are aligned to an on-going USAID-funded initiative Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel–Enhanced Resilience (REGIS-ER) as well as the Association pour la Promotion de l’Élevage au Sahel et en Savane (APSS). The project will leverage the advantage of collaboration between ICRISAT and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) along with Feed the Future.
Building the capacity of the National Agriculture Research and Education System (NARES) and Non- Governmental Organizations to manage multi-actor activities between research and livestock-extension institutions, opportunities to enhance participation of youth and women in income generating enterprises will be included.
Mr Steven Humphreys, representing the USAID funded Responsible Value Chain Marketing – REGIS AG Project, at the inception workshop was optimistic: “There are definitely great opportunities to positively impact livelihoods of livestock keepers across the Sahel with these interventions. The REGIS-AG project looks forward to close collaborations to improve the availability of feed resources,” he said.
“ILRI recognizes the central role of livestock in supporting livelihoods in the Sahel – empowering small ruminant producers who are often women to market and sell their stock for higher prices and increase throughput are key factors which will reduce poverty’ said Dr Augustine Ayantunde, representing ILRI.
Mr Abderrahmane Outmani, Expert coordination sectorielle – Elevage, Embassy of Belgium, reinforced the Belgian support in this initiative. “This project is a topical issue that meets the real needs of Sahelian countries like Burkina Faso and Niger. We have launched an initiative on livestock value chain in Niger and we are looking forward to close collaborations through this project,” he said.
The main outcome over the next three years will be to develop improved value chains rooted in crop-livestock systems at national and regional levels that are productive, profitable and equitable, resilient and sustainable to contribute to food security and poverty alleviation.
Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems supports research in developing countries to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. It invests in evidence creation for family farms, nutrition from animal-source foods, disease management, and policy-enabling environments. Its vision is to sustainably intensify smallholder livestock systems in order to improve human nutrition, health, livelihoods and incomes.
J’ai rejoint le mouvement et vous? I’ve joined the movement, and you?
Aissatou M’Baye, the Senegalese culinary blogger based in Paris, became an ambassador for Smart Food in 2017.
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Using millets, sorghum and groundnut, Aissatou created five Smart Food recipes under her label ‘Aistou Cuisine’ and shared them through her social media channels. Her aim with the social media campaign was to reach women and men living in West Africa, but quickly her recipes became popular in Europe as well, especially in France.
Once Aissatou decided to join hands with ICRISAT to help bring back millets into the mainstream, she started publishing her recipes and the nutritional benefits on the blog Aistou Cuisine.
Soon after, the first Smart Food social media campaign was launched between 12 October and 27 December 2017. The campaign gained 4,73,222 views and attracted more than 8,00,000 comments.
“The response was overwhelming. Many viewers wanted to know how they could obtain millets and sorghum in Europe. In West Africa, especially in Senegal and Mali, viewers were quite happy to learn new ways of cooking millets, ” adds Agathe Diama, Smart Food Co-ordinator, West and Central Africa.
By December 2017, the video recipes registered 2,19,000 views with an estimated viewing time of 1,438 hours. The simple Sorgho Soufflé was a big hit attracting 70,000 views.
“Although, the official social media campaign has ended, the interactions continue around the videos and articles published on the blog,” says Aissatou M’baye.
“Millets and sorghum are rich in micronutrients and yet have been neglected from our diets for a long time and so it was necessary to think of new recipes to transform these Smart Food into a savory menu. We managed to create some cool recipes and at the same time communicate the benefits of Smart Food,” adds Aissatou.
Often referred to as traditional and sometimes ‘old-fashioned’, cereals such as millets and sorghum have long suffered from unpopularity in the mainstream food culture. Yet these grains are endowed with immense potential to manage some of the planet’s major challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, diabetes, climate change and environmental degradation.
In 2017, ICRISAT partnered with the culinary blogger to help spread the benefits of the forgotten coarse grains, now officially termed by the Government of India as ‘Nutri-Cereals’.
Building on this success, several Smart Food initiatives are being planned to strengthen culinary research by working with research institutes including food and nutrition laboratories and Universities in Africa, Europe and the USA. Smart Food is being promoted in schools, for example, through school feeding programs and through health experts to enhance the awareness of mother and infant nutrition.
At the grassroots level, it is important to sensitize communities on the importance of dietary diversity, nutritionally balanced diets and the health benefits of Smart Food. One way to achieve this effectively is by using innovative behavior change communication.
“We will be using social media campaigns, Smart Food reality TV cooking shows and foster champions like Aissatou on Smart Food recipes,” says Agathe Diama as she calls for strong partnerships to improve nutrition in rural and urban areas of the Sahel.
To read more about Aistou Cuisine, click here
To read more about Smart Food and recipes, click here
To read more about ICRISAT’s work on millets and sorghum, click here
For more information on the ‘Aistou Cuisine’, write to email@example.com
Over 70% of sub-Saharan Africa’s one billion people are under the age of 30. While most rural households engage in agriculture, more and more young people have chosen to migrate to cities and away from farming. This trend has significant implications for research and investment efforts underway to transform sub-Saharan Africa’s agriculture.
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The situation, however, is far more complex than the trend suggests. At a micro-level, not all rural households engaged in farming would like to continue farming if they had a choice and not all farming households that engage in non-farm activities plan to permanently exit agriculture. Farming is a complementary activity in a diverse set of income streams. Some see farming as a source of income to add to their non-farm activities, others might use non-farm activities to earn money to invest in their farm.
In this context, where most rural households engage in agriculture and yet many are looking to move away from farming, the important question is how and for which group can researchers design and target agricultural interventions in a way that they are also adopted.
In the latest publication, Dr. Kai Mausch, the lead author and Senior Scientist at ICRISAT, recommends that household’s aspirations play an important role in their choice of technology. Understanding these is as important as considering the agro-ecological context and market potential of new technologies.
The theoretical paper on households’ aspirations, proposes a novel research method of distributed ethnography linked with behavioral science to test the influence of household aspirations on technology choice at a larger scale.
Understanding household aspirations enable the design of interventions that are better suited to the needs of rural households aiming to achieve their long-term goals. This might prevent useful technologies from being under-adopted. More importantly, it might prevent the design of ‘useless’ technologies in the first place or incompatible technologies from being pushed onto households.
Kai stresses on moving beyond the traditional economic and biophysical analysis to incorporate ethnographic research combined with behavioral science to look at the complexity of household aspirations while designing and promoting context specific technologies for agricultural adoption.
“People’s choice of a specific technology and decisions at large are less predictable through traditional methods than expected. At times of uncertainty, people might not process all available information. Rather they fall back on what is familiar to them or the ‘rules of thumb’. Behavioral nuances and inherent biases must be understood and factored into our targeting strategy,” says Kai.
The study differentiates ambitions, as future welfare levels, from aspirations which gravitate around happiness, interests, skills or social status. Households might have medium-term goals to help bring them closer to the larger goal/s they aspire to achieve.
For example, households aspiring to exit farming or concentrating on off-farm activities are far less likely to adopt technologies that have medium and long-term outcomes, such as soil quality enhancement technologies. The effects of such technologies will only pay off after their aspired exit from farming. Households that view agriculture as a generator of capital for investment elsewhere would value technologies that require medium levels of inputs. These households might be willing to tolerate higher levels of risk and go for the expensive seed of high-value crops.
On the other hand, households that see their future in farming are more likely to adopt interventions with long-term pay-off periods.
The publication titled ‘Households’ aspirations for rural development through agriculture’ is online with Outlook on Agriculture. The research was undertaken in close collaboration with the Cynefin Centre, Bangor University and funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM).
In 2012 an agricultural scientist working with sorghum in Niger was in charge of 480 accessions (varieties/types) of sorghum seeds that were stored in a local repository. His organization applied for and subsequently obtained a US$1 million grant for a project on adaptation and improvement of these varieties. However, when the project team tried to regenerate the stored seeds, they discovered that none of them were viable anymore. Improper, inadequate storage conditions had destroyed the viability of the seeds. The project was in danger of being canceled and the grant revoked..
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Fortunately, the scientist-in-charge had had the foresight to duplicate all 480 accessions and have them stored at a different location – the ICRISAT genebank. The project workers were able to immediately retrieve the accessions, regenerate them and proceed as planned.
This is just one example of why seed conservation – and Gene Banks – are so important. Genebanks – repositories of genetic material (germplasm) of plants or animals – play a critical role towards a two-pronged goal: i) making the germplasm available for researchers, plant breeders and farmers in the short term and ii) ensuring that the genetic material for future food supply are preserved in the long term.
In other words, genebanks play a pivotal part in maintaining biological diversity, especially with the looming threat of climate change and other factors. The United Nations International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated on 22 May 2018 as a reminder to everyone that biological diversity is a global asset that is fast depleting, and its conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing could not be overemphasized. 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Over seven million plant germplasm accessions are currently conserved in 1750 genebanks around the world, and about two million are expected to be unique.
The ICRISAT genebank, spread across Africa and India, holds about 170,000 seed accessions. Characterization, regeneration and viability testing, followed by duplication of the accessions are some of the key activities of the genebank. Duplication enables multiple copies of seed accessions to be stored at different locations to prevent loss in case of any calamity at one location.
The goal of genebank scientists is not only to keep the accessions safe and viable but also to genotype them so as to understand the genetic diversity among the collection. Says Dr. Vania Azevedo, Incoming Head of the ICRISATGenebank, ICRISAT, “With rapid advances in technology, such as next-generation sequencing (NGS), genotyping has become more cost-efficient, accurate and standardized, compared to a decade ago. This has proved extremely valuable because genotype data forms a critical subset of the information required for every accession’s DOI (Digital Object Identifier) – a mandatory requirement as per the Nagoya Protocol for sharing of genetic material. DOI data enables accessions to be tracked, reported and documented during transfers globally.”
In countries such as Niger, where awareness about seed conservation is low, the genebank is also helping raise awareness among smallholder farmers about the benefits of depositing their landraces with the genebank. At Niamey, Niger, Dr. Hamibou Falalou and other genebank employees conduct awareness camps to inform farmers of how genebanks are useful. Breeders can use the genotyped seeds for breeding crops with better traits, obtaining better yields and returns for farmers. Moreover, by collecting wild varieties as well as landraces from farmer fields in different locations, the genebank assures a protected site for the indigenous genetic material, so that it is not lost due to disease, climate change or negligence. Dr. Falalou says, “When national breeders come to our fields and see the diversity of varieties available, they are very happy to select those favorable to their breeding program. This increases the distribution of seeds also. After all, conservation is good, but distribution is better.”
With climate change threatening crop diversity across the globe, genebanks cease to be mere repositories of germplasm and take on the imperative role of being the source of biological genetic diversity; providing enhanced seeds that can stand up to disease, pests and a changing environment; and protecting the native agricultural heritage of farmers across the world.
The objectives of preventing biodiversity loss and promoting sustainable use of land and water ecosystems also resonate well with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 15.
About the author:
Communication Officer, Strategic Marketing & Communication,
The first meeting of the Groundnut Network Group-Asia (GNG-A) on 30-31 March 2018 at ICRISAT-India brought together 50 groundnut researchers to give a boost to rapid development of new groundnut varieties by enhancing genetic gain and operational efficiency.
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The use of modern tools and methodologies to strengthen the breeding, testing and delivery pipelines for groundnut in Asia was the focus of this interdisciplinary meeting. Breeders from six countries – Bangladesh, Laos PDR, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and India – are part of the GNG-A. The meeting focused on the need to develop efficient product development, prioritization and advancement pathways to boost groundnut production in the region.
With market demand for certain traits of groundnut on the rise, the GNG-A is expected to be a platform for product design, efficient breeding strategies, partnerships for site testing and adoption by farmers as well as for continuous exchange of knowledge and capacity building.
During the meeting, techniques and advances in phenotyping for seed quality traits, methods to characterize environments for products to adapt to, use of effective storage methods and more were discussed. The key takeaway of this meet was the unanimous agreement among the participants that building convergence for a greater impact on breeding was of highest priority, and this could be best achieved by pooling knowledge, resources and efforts.
It was also a unique opportunity for groundnut researchers from the Asian region to discuss challenges such as requirement for advanced breeding lines with key traits (disease resistance, high oleic acid, fresh seed dormancy), need for farm machines (battery-operated sheller, single plant thresher) and the requisite training and capacity-building of technicians and students. The group worked on development of product designs for target ecologies in the six groundnut growing counties. Besides, a set of activities and/or innovations identified by the collaborators will be implemented in their respective programs, and progress will be reported at the next meeting.
Dr. P. Janila, Principal Groundnut Breeder, ICRISAT, was hopeful that the group will help concentrate the efforts to develop and disseminate varieties with desirable, market-friendly traits that can improve nutrition and enhance incomes in the Asian countries. Dr. Maw Maw Naing, Groundnut Breeder from Myanmar, noted the systematic field layouts and experimental designs at ICRISAT and said that she intended to replicate the same in her home country. Dr. Radhakrishnan, Director, of ICAR-Directorate of Groundnut Research, emphasized the need for assessing genetic gain and urged researchers to use the GNG-A platform to exchange their experiences and feedback.
For more information on ICRISAT’s work done on groundnut, click here.
AgMIP, a unique community of practice for innovation, provided a pathway on addressing major global and national challenges at its 7th Global Workshop recently. Scientists from the CGIAR institutions who came together to discuss agricultural systems and outcomes, at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) here, looked at this as an opportunity for collaboration across the developing world.
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AgMIP (Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project) brings together diverse teams and creates platforms for innovation, new science and collaboration across the developed and developing world. Since 2010, the AgMIP has been evaluating and developing simulation models of agricultural systems. CGIAR is actively involved in this important community. The highlights of stakeholder engagement presented by Dr Sabine Homann Kee-Tui, ICRISAT, indicated that a range of scales was important for policies to support agricultural adaptation.
Possible farming system changes to cope with higher temperatures and variable rainfall predicted by the climate models, were shared by Dr. Dakshina Murthy, Senior Scientist-Systems Modeling, ICRISAT, based on cropping systems modeler experience from Central India through a DFID-funded project.
Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director – Innovation Systems for the Drylands, ICRISAT, who recently joined the AgMIP Executive Committee, emphasized on how the CGIAR should become even more active in this community. “To advance our mandates, collaboration with many world-class research institutes in AgMIP can facilitate access to first-class climate science and climate change assessments to combine crop, livestock, economic and climate modelling and enable integrated assessment of climate change impacts. Already, the DFID-funded program with regional teams from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has developed significant expertise in assessments for their regions to engage stakeholders and policy makers for the process of adaptation,” he said.
Crunching Big Data through the CGIAR Platform was Dr Gideon Kruseman, CIMMYT, while Dr Peter Craufurd, also from CIMMYT, discussed the practicalities of communicating climate information to stakeholders and the importance of institutions working together with their respective strengths and advantages.
AgMIP utilizes diverse crop, livestock, and economic models with state-of-the-science climate scenarios to conduct global and regional assessments of climate and other stresses. It also has advanced methods to integrate stakeholder-informed scenarios into global and regional assessments of current and future agriculture and food systems outlooks. This work motivates research for agriculture, land use, nutrition, shocks and other topics, with participation of over 1,000 agricultural modelers and stakeholders worldwide. AgMIP7 was yet another step forward towards innovation to facilitate a positive change for the developing world.
Recommendations to improve farmers’ incomes through sustainable production and marketing of legumes, marked the 7th International Food Legume Research Conference (IFLRC-VII). Held in Marrakech, Morocco, in May, the emphasis was on stronger multidisciplinary research partnerships and enhanced cross-country collaborations to develop and promote improved varieties for nutrition security.
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More than 300 scientists and big data experts joined policy makers, traders and entrepreneurs in various discussions and workshops to come up with recommendations on strengthening research on legumes. These were:
Highlights of the conference
The global trend shows increased consumption of legumes and availability of value-added products; in parallel, there is an increasing trend of legume production in many countries (e.g. India, Canada, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Australia and USA) driven by either area and/or productivity. Success stories of chickpea in Myanmar, Ethiopia and southern India and pigeonpea in Tanzania with improved cultivars and production technologies for increased production and income, were shared.
The availability of short-duration varieties (e.g. chickpea and lentil) helped in expanding area of legumes to new niches and sustainable intensification of cropping systems. Evidences of progress on biofortification in some of the legumes (e.g. lentil, pea) and in development of genomic resources for food legumes were shared. The need for greater use of these genomic resources in breeding programs of food legumes was emphasized.
Dr Peter Carberry, Director General (Acting), ICRISAT, emphasized on strengthening interdisciplinary research collaborations to enhance farmers’ income from legumes. As a plenary speaker he also made a presentation on “A global research initiative on grain legumes: priorities, programs and partners”, to enhance awareness on the CGIAR Research Program – Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP GLDC) and broaden partnerships to achieve the objectives of CRP-GLDC.
The conference had technical sessions that ranged from the production and consumption scenarios to marketing, nutrition breeding and genomics. Workshops on specific legumes as well as on data and analytics were organized. A team of 15 scientists led by Dr Carberry, participated in the conference in various capacities.
The bid by ICRISAT and the University of Nairobi to host the next IFLRC was successful. IFLRC-VIII will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2022.
IFLRC-VII was jointly hosted by ICARDA and INRA from May 6-8, 2018. There were 320 participants representing 42 countries. CRP-GLDC and Tropical Legumes-III projects supported the participation of over 20 NARS partners.
The IFLRC was started in 1986 to disseminate current knowledge and achievements of research and development in food legumes and identify research needs, new scientific approaches and partnerships. ICRISAT is a founder member of IFLRC.
The day-out started with 25 young boys and girls, aged 8 to 16, from the neighboring Ethandweni Children’s Home and homeschoolers from Bulawayo, together with their guardians, seated in scientists’ chairs in the ICRISAT conference room.
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The students study agriculture as part of their curricula, and all have an affinity for plants and animals, which prompted their guardians to contact the institute to arrange the visit. Jonathan, a curious gardener, likes experimenting with plants and dreams of becoming a botanist. He feeds his chicken with fodder that he grows himself. Carlos, whose career goal is to protect rhinos, also loves pigs. His parents use pigs to rehabilitate degraded lands, enabling crops to grow again. At Ethandweni, the children grow their own vegetables and crops; they also have plans in the future to raise goats.
Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui introduced the students to ICRISAT, its mission and its ethos that agriculture makes a crucial contribution to rural communities around the world. “Your future is in your hands; live up to your aspirations, nurture and grow through your desire for knowledge.” Dr Andre van Rooyen said addressing them.
The group learned that Matopos Research Institute, hosting ICRISAT Bulawayo, is the largest research station in Africa with about 28,000 ha land, 2,000 cattle, 600 goats, 100 pigs and 300 chicken, among other livestock.
The students also learnt about soils in the ICRISAT soil laboratory where, on arrival, experiments were underway to establish the carbon content of a soil sample. The students saw how ICRISAT measures the soil’s mineral content, particle size and the soil’s natural fertility, so farmers can be advised how much fertilizer they need to add.
In the food laboratory they learned all about the characteristics of crop grains for good food. In the adjoining lab another type of experiment was being carried out: Recipes to encourage the use of sorghum and millet which, although healthier than maize, have unfortunately lost their popularity in modern diets. A loaf of bread was baked using sorghum instead of wheat flour and analyzed for its nutritional value and visual appeal to consumers. Sorghum and millet digest slower in our bodies, giving us a feeling of being full for much longer, achieving less weight gain and more nutrition. During the field visit, the students also learned about crop breeding.
Hayley Sherfield, one of the mothers on the tour, commented: “One of our students opened a discussion on aflatoxins, which most of us had no idea about. We learned that aflatoxins are produced in grains as a result of a certain mold. Groundnuts and grains must be stored properly to avoid aflatoxins spoiling the food. Aflatoxins cannot be eradicated from your body and simply build up over the years and can cause cancer. We came to know that inspections are carried out at farms and advice given to farmers on how to produce and store grains to avoid aflatoxin.”
At the pig and chicken pens at Matopos Research Institute, the students were taught how the livestock naturally rehabilitate degraded land: Free range pigs and chickens, on rotational grazing, improve soil fertility through their trampling and feces, without chemical fertilizer, prepare land of poor soil quality for subsequent crop growth. The children showed great interest and expressed a desire to come back to see the impact of intensive grazing on grass and crop regrowth in the next rainy season.
Next the students went on to tour the cattle and goats: Big money, they were told. Cattle and goats are critical in drylands as they provide farmers with income and food security when crop harvests fail. The station keeps different breeds, indigenous and exotic, to test and develop their best traits in terms of adaptation to the environment, reproduction and meat production.
Of particular interest was the maggot production. Maggots are raised in the residues from livestock production. They can be grown at low cost and provide high-quality chicken feed.
“The visit had been extremely inspiring, with the students enjoying an interesting morning during which we gained a great deal of knowledge, invaluable hands-on information on nature, food science and livestock,” said Hayley.
Other positive comments after the visit:
About the authors:
Dr Sabine Homann-Kee Tui,
Senior Scientist, Markets, Institutions, Nutrition & Diversity,
Innovation Systems for the Drylands Program, ICRISAT;
Violette Kee Tui,
Freelance writer/Media consultant
A global partnership on technologies to potentially benefit millions of smallholder farmers across Asia and Africa, was signed on May 25, 2018 in Mumbai.
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The Netherlands-based agricultural biotech company KeyGene and not–for-profit scientific research organization, the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) signed a Letter of Intent (LoI), for research and co-development on legumes and cereals. The two institutions will work together using novel crop innovation solutions based on KeyGene’s proprietary technologies and know-how.
The signing took place at a high profile trade mission hosted by the High Commission of The Netherlands, in presence of the Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (The Netherlands) Ms Carola Schouten, in Mumbai. The LoI was signed by Dr. Kiran K Sharma, Deputy Director General Research (Acting), ICRISAT and Dr. Arjen van Tunen, CEO, KeyGene.
KeyGene and ICRISAT will work together on innovative approaches for trait development and gene discovery. KeyGene will share its knowledge and expertise on crops and the use of KeyGene’s crop innovation platforms. This includes KeyGene’s Sequence Based Genotyping (SBG) and mutation breeding technologies. The genetically diverse grain legume resources of ICRISAT will serve as a reservoir for the identification and exploitation of useful traits. These will be used as a starting point for crop breeding and mutagenesis programs. Capacity building and skill development of start-up entrepreneurs is also envisaged in this collaboration through ICRISAT’s BioNEST-Bioincubator “BioNCube”.
“We look forward to this collaboration with ICRISAT to combine scientific expertise from both organizations. The applications of KeyGene technology in the germplasm of ICRISAT’s mandate crops can help develop highly productive and resilient crops for food and nutrition security of the poorest populations in India and Africa”, says Arjen van Tunen, CEO KeyGene.
“As part of this partnership, we are hopeful to see rapid improvements in the applications of technology and its translation into next-generation agricultural products to benefit smallholder farmers in the drylands. We also believe that the combined knowledge will enable building capacity to foster innovation in agriculture”, says Peter Carberry, Director General (Acting), ICRISAT.
The collaborative efforts are aimed at improvement of the crops such as chickpea, pigeonpea, and groundnut. It reflects the mission of both institutions – where KeyGene has been supporting organizations for R&D challenges in agriculture and ICRISAT has been partnering private sector capabilities for public good.
Breeding high nutritional varieties of chickpea and pigeonpea just got easier. With new technology, genomic processes that could have taken years, have been completed in just a few months. This has been possible by work of scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) headquartered in India, in collaboration with NRGene, Israel who have helped create multiple assembly lines of pigeonpea and chickpea genomes. This means scientists can not only better understand crop traits, they can also significantly speed up work on improved varieties.
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With this technology from NRGene, ICRISAT has chickpea and pigeonpea genomes to a reference level quality, that researchers can use. This would help maximize favorable nutritional properties of these high-protein legumes.
“The developing world has long faced the pressures of food security with limited farmland,” says Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director, Genetic Gains and Director, Center of Excellence in Genomics & Systems Biology, ICRISAT. “For effective use of genomics-assisted breeding, we need reference genomes of several varieties of a given crop. Therefore, new assemblies of chickpea and pigeonpea lines by NRGene and ICRISAT will allow our scientists and partners to better understand plant traits to breed more nutritional varieties.” ICRISAT in partnership with other institutions, has already decoded and documented genomes of pigeonpea and chickpea (Nature Biotechnology 2013, Nature Biotechnology 2012)
Traditional methods would have required years to complete each individual assembly. NRGene’s DeNovoMAGICTM 3.0 delivered multiple assemblies in a matter of months.
“While DeNovoMAGIC has been successfully deployed by the world’s leading seed companies and academic institutions, implementing this for organizations like ICRISAT enhances our mission of making an impact on the world food supply,” says Dr. Gil Ronen, CEO of NRGene. “Chickpea, pigeon pea, and other protein-rich legumes will be even more critical crops in the years to come and we are glad that our technology can be used to improve the nutrition status of the world.”
Chickpea and pigeonpea have 15-22 grams of protein per 100 grams and are a critical food and nutrition source in India, Africa, and the Caribbean. India produces 64% of the world’s total chickpeas and 63% of the world’s pigeonpea. However, protein hunger, an important aspect of malnutrition continues to be a major concern in Asia.
The drylands, covering 55 countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and inhabited by 2 billion people, 644 million of whom are poor, is most vulnerable to climate change with very little rainfall, degraded soils and poor social infrastructure. ICRISAT through scientific research aims to find solutions for the nutrition security of people in these regions.
Dr Manish K Pandey, Senior Scientist-Groundnut Genomics, accepting Associate Fellowship of Telangana Academy of Sciences (TAS) from Prof K Narasimha Reddy, President, TAS on 28 April 2018 in Hyderabad. Dr Pandey was recognized for his outstanding achievements in crop genomics and molecular breeding.
Major step forward in chickpea and pigeonpea research – reference genome data assembled
Scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) headquartered in India in collaboration with NRGene, Israel, have helped create multiple assembly lines of pigeonpea and chickpea genomes. This means scientists can not only better understand crop traits, they can also significantly speed up work on improved varieties. Read more
ICRISAT, KeyGene ink research partnership
Netherlands-based agricultural biotech company KeyGene and not–for-profit scientific research organisation, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) for research and co-development on legumes and cereals. The two institutions will work together using novel crop innovation solutions based on KeyGene’s proprietary technologies and know-how. Read more
Cooking Show proves Smart Foods can be Tasty, Healthy, and Fun
ICRISAT created the Smart Food reality TV show to raise awareness, increase knowledge, and change popular attitudes about these Smart Food grains. It is now gaining popularity. Read more
Promotion of small grains pays dividends for farmers
ICRISAT is working with local communities in Zimbabwe to promote small grain production and cattle feed production in various districts. It has held varietal seed trials in various districts to identify the most suitable crop for the dryland region. Read more
Title: Networking4Seed: Growing sustainable seed systems by learning from experiences across Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger
Funder: The McKnight Foundation, USA
Duration: 1 Jun 2018 – 31 May 2022
Principal Investigator: Dr Baloua Nebie
Research Program: Western and Central Africa
Development of AhMITE1 markers through genome-wide analysis in peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.)
Authors: Gayathri M, Shirasawa K, Varshney RK, Pandey MK and Bhat RS
Published: 2018, BMC Research Notes, 11 (1) (10). pp. 1-6. ISSN 1756-0500
Abstract: In peanut, the DNA polymorphism is very low despite enormous phenotypic variations. This limits the use of genomics-assisted breeding to enhance peanut productivity. This study aimed to develop and validate new AhMITE1 and cleaved amplified polymorphic sequences (CAPS) markers. These marker resources will be useful for various genetic studies and mapping in peanut.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10466/
Chitosan nanoparticles having higher degree of acetylation induce resistance against pearl millet downy mildew through nitric oxide generation
Authors: Siddaiah CN, Prasanth KVH, Satyanarayana NR, Mudili V, Gupta VK, Kalagatur NK, Satyavati T, Dai XF, Chen JY, Mocan A, Singh BP and Srivastava RK
Published: 2018, Scientific Reports, 8 (1) (2485). pp. 1-14. ISSN 2045-2322
Abstract: Downy mildew of pearl millet caused by the biotrophic oomycete Sclerospora graminicola is the most devastating disease which impairs pearl millet production causing huge yield and monetary losses. Chitosan nanoparticles (CNP), synthesized from low molecular weight chitosan having higher degree of acetylation, were evaluated for their efficacy against downy mildew disease of pearl millet caused by S graminicola. Laboratory studies showed that CNP seed treatment significantly enhanced pearl millet seed germination percentage and seedling vigor compared to the control. Seed treatment with CNP induced systemic and durable resistance and showed significant downy mildew protection under greenhouse conditions in comparison to the untreated control.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10469/
Breeding Progress for Grain Yield and Yield Related Characters of Kabuli Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) in Ethiopia Using Regression Analysis
Authors: Tadesse M, Funga A, Fikre A, Degefu T, Eshete M, Korbu L, Girma N, Bekele D, Mohamed R, Bishaw Z, Gaur PM and Ojiewo CO
Published: 2018, Journal of Agricultural Science, 10 (2). pp. 1-11. ISSN 1916-9752
Abstract: The genetic progress in seed yield and yield-related characters of 10 kabuli chickpea varieties released by the Ethiopian Chickpea Crop Improvement Program from 1974 to 2017 was assessed during the main cropping season. The varieties were evaluated in the Randomized Complete Block design at Debrezeit Agricultural Research Center experimental research farm. Hundred seed weight revealed the most dramatic response to breeding for the last 43 years. It is, therefore, strategically advisable that breeding efforts in the future should give due attention to yield related traits of kabuli chickpea varieties.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10470/
Molecular and phenotypic diversity among chickpea (Cicer arietinum) genotypes as a function of drought tolerance
Authors: Sachdeva S, Bharadwaj C, Sharma V, Patil BS, Soren KR, Roorkiwal M, Varshney RK and Bhat KV
Published: 2018, Crop and Pasture Science, 69 (2). pp. 142-153. ISSN 1836-0947
Abstract: Diversity as a function of drought tolerance may be identified by morphological characters, and molecular tools used to find the most divergent genotypes for breeding programs for drought tolerance in future. The narrow genetic base of chickpea can be circumvented by using diverse lines in breeding programs. Forty chickpea genotypes were studied for their morphological and molecular diversity with an objective of identifying the most diverse drought-tolerant lines.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10472/
Capturing genetic variability and selection of traits for heat tolerance in a chickpea recombinant inbred line (RIL) population under field conditions
Authors: Paul PJ, Samineni S, Sajja S, Rathore A, Das RR, Chaturvedi SK, Lavanya GR, Varshney RK and Gaur PM
Published: 2018, Euphytica, 214(2) (27). pp. 1-27. ISSN 0014-2336
Abstract: Chickpea is the most important pulse crop globally after dry beans. Climate change and increased cropping intensity are forcing chickpea cultivation to relatively higher temperature environments. To assess the genetic variability and identify heat responsive traits, a set of 296 F8–9 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of the cross ICC 4567 (heat sensitive) × ICC 15614 (heat tolerant) was evaluated under field conditions at ICRISAT, Patancheru, India. Therefore, the traits that are good indicators of high grain yield under heat stress can be used in indirect selection for developing heat tolerant chickpea cultivars. Moreover, the presence of large genetic variation for heat tolerance in the population may provide an opportunity to use the RILs in future-heat tolerance breeding program in chickpea.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10473/
Plant Genetics and Molecular Biology: An Introduction
Authors: Varshney RK, Pandey MK and Chitikineni A
Published: 2018, In: Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology. Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology book series. Springer, Berlin, pp. 1-9.
Abstract: Rapidly evolving technologies can serve as a potential growth engine in agriculture as many of these technologies have revolutionized several industries in the recent past. The tremendous advancements in biotechnology methods, cost-effective sequencing technology, refinement of genomic tools, and standardization of modern genomics-assisted breeding methods hold great promise in taking the global agriculture to the next level through development of improved climate-smart seeds. This book will serve to update the scientific community, academicians, and other stakeholders in global agriculture on the rapid progress in various areas of agricultural biotechnology. This chapter provides a summary of the book, “Plant Genetics and Molecular Biology.”
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10474/
Cross-genera transferability of rice and finger millet genomic SSRs to barnyard millet (Echinochloa spp.)
Authors: Kalyana Babu B, Sood S, Kumar D, Joshi A, Pattanayak A, Kant L and Upadhyaya HD
Published: 2018, 3 Biotech, 8 (2). pp. 1-10. ISSN 2190-572X
Abstract: Barnyard millet (Echinochloa spp.) is an important crop from nutritional point of view; nevertheless, the genetic information is very scarce. In the present investigation, rice and finger millet genomic SSRs were used for assessing cross transferability, identification of polymorphic markers, syntenic regions, genetic diversity and population structure analysis of barnyard millet genotypes. We observed 100% cross transferability for finger millet SSRs, of which 91% were polymorphic, while 71% of rice markers were cross transferable with 48% polymorphic out of them. The results of population structure analysis were similar to cluster analysis.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10498/
Allelic relationship between restorer genes for A1 and A4 CMS systems in pearl millet
Authors: Govindaraj M, Gupta SK, Yadav D, Atkari D and Rai KN
Published: 2018, Indian Journal of Genetics and Plant Breeding, 78 (1). pp. 90-94. ISSN 0019-5200
Abstract: Understanding the allelic complementation of restoration among the stable restorer lines will contribute to a robust pearl millet restorer breeding program. Thus, the present study aimed to test allelic relationship between four diverse restorer lines each for A1 and A4 cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) systems to find linkage between restorer genes carried by different restorers of each CMS systems. This single gene system within A1 and A4 provides the opportunity to breeders to incorporate this allelic restorer gene into any of the advanced lines for its rapid conversion into new restorer lines besides to search for new restorer gene for future diversification.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10499/
Is farmer-to-farmer extension effective? The impact of training on technology adoption and rice farming productivity in Tanzania
Authors: Nakano Y, Tsusaka TW, Aida T and Pede VO
Published: 2018, World Development, 105. pp. 336-351. ISSN 0305750X
Abstract: Agricultural training is a potentially effective method to diffuse relevant new technologies to increase productivity and alleviate rural poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, since it is prohibitively expensive to provide direct training to all the farmers in SSA, it is critically important to examine the extent to which technologies taught to a small number of farmers disseminate to non-trained farmers. This paper investigates the technology dissemination pathways among smallholder rice producers within a rural irrigation scheme in Tanzania. Our results suggest the effectiveness and practical potential of farmer-to-farmer extension programs for smallholders in SSA as a cost effective alternative to the conventional farmer training approach.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10500/
Antixenosis Mechanism of Resistance to Helicoverpa armigera (Hub.) in Chickpea (Cicer arietinum Linn.)
Authors: Sree Latha E and Sharma H C
Published: 2018, International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences, 7 (2). pp. 1233-1238. ISSN 23197692
Abstract: The oviposition preference of H. armigera moths towards different genotypes of chickpea was studied under no-choice, dual-choice and multi-choice conditions in the laboratory at ICRISAT. Desi type genotypes (ICC 12475, ICC 12476, ICC 12477, ICC 12478, ICC 12479, ICC 12490 and ICC 14876) were not preferred for oviposition compared to kabuli type genotypes (ICC 12491, ICC 12493, ICC 12494, ICC 12495, ICC 12968, ICC 4973 and ICC 4962). The lines showing high and stable resistance to H. armigera can be used in chickpea improvement programs. The resistance mechanisms involved in these genotypes can be exploited to develop varieties resistant to H. armigera in chickpea.
OAR link: http://oar.icrisat.org/10501/