The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) continues its celebration of 50 years of scientific innovation and impact in drylands since its establishment in March 1972. The institute has held commemorative events at its global headquarters in India and across its African centers which include Malawi.
Awarded with Africa Food Prize in 2021, ICRISAT has been a pioneer in piloted scaling of farmer- and market-preferred drought-tolerant crop varieties by integrating public-private sector seed systems, extension of advisory services, and information on climate and markets through several projects in Malawi and the rest of the world.
The institute has an illustrious legacy in developing high-yielding and drought-tolerant crop varieties, essential to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the semi-arid tropics. ICRISAT’s specialty crops sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, groundnut, pigeonpea, and chickpea help achieve the food security of millions across the African continent.
Speaking from Lilongwe, ICRISAT Director General, Dr. Jacqueline Hughes said she was delighted to be in Malawi to mark the historic occasion in presence of staff of the Institute as well as the local and national partners.
“As ICRISAT moves forwards into the next 50 years, we strongly believe that partnerships are the only way in which global challenges can be tackled, and the best local solutions created,” said Dr. Hughes.
She added that ICRISAT’s 50th Anniversary globally, and 40 years in Malawi, is an occasion to rededicate ourselves to overcoming the challenges that lie ahead for smallholder farming communities and not just a celebration of what the institute has achieved so far.
Dr Jacqueline Hughes said, “While the world grapples with challenges posed by climate change and environmental degradation, there tragically remains one constant for dryland farming communities, and that is food insecurity and hunger. “
“With our deep expertise in dryland farming and recent scientific advances, ICRISAT will continue to serve as the global research leader to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition, and environmental degradation while making farming profitable.”
“We will also augment our scientific advances through new innovations and technology while working to influence good public policy – especially with a focus on women and youth who are central to developing a more equitable and sustainable agricultural sector” concluded Dr. Hughes.
ICRISAT Director General was joined by Dr Jerome Nkhoma, who represented the guest of honor, the Honorable Lobin Lowe, M.P., Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, at ICRISAT’s golden jubilee celebrations in Lilongwe.
During her visit, ICRISAT Director General also met the President of Malawi, His Excellency Dr Lazarus Chakwera, to discuss agriculture and the impact of ICRISAT’s scientific innovation in agri-food systems. Dr Hughes’ meeting with First Lady Her Excellency Madam Monica Chakwera remains a memorable one considering she has worked with the institute for nearly five years.
Dr Jacqueline Hughes’s meeting with former President of Malawi, Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda focused on the nexus between productivity, women’s empowerment, and a cropping systems approach including livestock in the region.
ICRISAT and Malawi
ICRISAT’s association with Malawi commenced in 1982 with a focus on groundnut improvement for the Southern Africa Development Community countries. The research for development (R4D) programs have since expanded to leverage other dryland crops such as sorghum, millets, and pigeonpea. ICRISAT works closely with the Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS) and the Department of Agriculture Extension Services (DAES) for technology development and dissemination, and several national and international partners, CGIAR centers, NGOs, development partners, and the private sector.
Some of the recent successful multidisciplinary initiatives implemented in Malawi led by ICRISAT include:
- The Malawi Seed Industry Development Project funded by Irish Aid
- MISST, funded by USAID through Feed the Future
- CLIM2 funded by the EU
- The Tropical Legumes Projects funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)