The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is celebrating its golden jubilee, in Mali, marking 50 years of agricultural scientific innovation and impact since its establishment in 1972.
The celebrations in Mali, home to the Institute’s regional offices in West and Central Africa, build upon earlier festivities launched by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi at ICRISAT’s global headquarters in Hyderabad, India in February.
ICRISAT which won the Africa Food Prize in 2021, has an illustrious history of developing higher yielding and drought tolerant crop varieties, essential to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics.
The Institute’s specialty crops include sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, groundnut, pigeonpea and chickpea which help underscore the food security of millions across the African Continent.
Addressing the celebration in Mali, ICRISAT Director General, Dr Jacqueline Hughes said the agricultural sector has a crucial role to play in the long-term development of most African countries, and that any strategy for sustained growth and poverty reduction must center on the rapid growth of this agricultural sector with a focus on partnerships.
“Achieving ICRISAT’s vision of a prosperous and resilient food secure dryland cannot be realized without the support of its valued collaborators and partners” said Dr Hughes.
“Building inclusive and sustainable resilient dryland food system would serve all sections of society and would contribute to food and nutrition security to help achieve the sustainable development goals which is a priority for ICRISAT especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“As ICRISAT moves forward into our next fifty years, we strongly believe that partnerships are the best way in which most global challenges can be tackled and the best local solutions created.
“ICRISAT will build on our 50 years of research impact and experience; we will build on the coveted Africa Food Prize 2021 awarded to ICRISAT for our research and scaling with numerous partners which resulted in 266 improved legume varieties and over 380,000 tons of certified seed produced for planting over four million hectares across Sub-Saharan Africa” said Dr Hughes.
Dr Hughes concluded by stating that the Institute would build upon its foundation around “Smart Food” via the Smart Food Consortium as it builds momentum for the UN International Year of Millet 2023.
“ICRISAT will transcend research and delivery boundaries to build productive, resilient, sustainable, inclusive, healthy and profitable food systems for the dryland” concluded Dr Hughes.
ICRISAT and Mali
The partnership between Mali – through the Institute of Rural Economy (IER) – and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) began in 1979 with the establishment of the ICRISAT Mali bilateral program for research on sorghum and millet, with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
From the 1990s, the scope of collaboration between IER and ICRISAT widened to include areas of research such as improved soil fertility management, to productive tree cropping systems, safer and more inclusive agricultural value chain options, as well as approaches to improving family nutrition and the status of women in agriculture.
This partnership, which falls within the framework of Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D), has experienced significant successes in the development and large-scale dissemination of improved varieties of millet, sorghum and groundnut, which played an important role in the fight against poverty, hunger and environmental degradation in the country.
The Mali ICRISAT partnership has evolved over the decades to become a model of collaboration between national and international agricultural research organizations for development.
In 2011, the ICRISAT Regional Office for West and Central Africa (WCA) was transferred to Mali due to the dynamism of the national partners, led by the IER, and with the aim of strengthening resource mobilization efforts in the region. These are designed for the benefit of agricultural research for development initiatives in Mali and those undertaken in other countries such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
“The partnership between Mali and ICRISAT is based on the willingness of all stakeholders to unite and work towards the positive transformation of the country’s agricultural sector.
Public-private partnerships are an essential component of development in the country, especially for scaling up technological interventions and science-based solutions for millions of smallholder farmers” said Dr. Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-West and Central Africa.
Looking back over the 50 years of ICRISAT’s existence is first of all to recall that ICRISAT has made a major contribution to food and nutritional security in Africa and Asia said Mr Modibo Keita, Minister of Rural Development.
“Mali congratulates ICRISAT for its 2021 African Food Prize, received in recognition of its work in agricultural research and development that has improved food security in 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We welcome the ‘Smart Food’ initiative which aims to exploit the full potential of local, climate-resilient and highly nutritious crops such as millet and sorghum.
“We join those who believe that millet, sorghum and groundnut crops – essential in the diet and life of the Sahelian population – deserve increased funding and development.
“On the occasion of the International Year of Millets scheduled for 2023, my Department stands ready to support all efforts in favor of millet and sorghum cereals and legumes crops, which have the potential to significantly improve the food and nutrition security, as well as the incomes of our smallholder farmers.
“Improved varieties of cereals and legumes have contributed a lot to the community. We are considered as equal partners with scientists as we are involved in the whole process through participatory varietal development” said Minister Keita.
Confirming the positive local impacts, Mrs Aissata Traore, a member of ULPC – a local farmers union, based in Dioila region of Mali said she and fellow union members are not only beneficiaries of project actions but we are also participants and contributors to the research activities.
Some of the successful multidisciplinary initiatives implemented in Mali led by ICRISAT include:
- Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING, funded by USAID).
- Improving crop productivity and climate resilience for food and nutrition security in Mali (EU funded).
- Integrated development of the seed sector in the Sahel (ISSD/Sahel).
- WFP and ICRISAT collaborative project (WFP resilience program).
- SERVIR West Africa 2 (SERVIR WA 2), funded by USAID over a period of five years.
- Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement of Sorghum and Millets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (HOPE)
- The Tropical Legumes Projects funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)