18) Brainstorming a Brighter Future for Dry Areas of the Rural Tropics (July 2000)

On 25 July at its Headquarters in Patancheru, Andhra Pradesh, ICRISAT convened an in ternational Brainstorming Session on future development scenarios and how poverty might be reduced and food security ensured in the semi-arid tropics (SAT) of the world. As part of a global series of consultations, the discussions at Patancheru focused on Asia and especially India, which represents the major portion of the SAT along its central and northwestern backbone, providing a home for more than 160 million extremely poor people (living on an income of less than Rs. 44 per day).

This exercise will portray ICRISAT's vision and strategy in the new millennium in a white paper on SAT Futures, which will be developed by two experts of international repute -- eminent socio-economist and former Director General of ICRISAT, Dr. James G Ryan of Australia, and well-known Agricultural Economist, Dr. Dunstan Spencer of Sierra Leone, who were specially commissioned by the Institute for this purpose.

The event was inaugurated by ICRISAT's Director General Dr. William Dar, and attended by 90 members of the ICRISAT-Patancheru scientific community and senior members of the Administration. In his opening speech Dr. Dar reminded the staff about ICRISAT's commitment to the reduction of poverty and hunger in the semi-arid tropics of the world. He quoted authoritative global studies, which predict a doubling or more of populations in Ethiopia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and India by the year 2050. India's population alone is predicted to increase by 650 million, overtaking the population of China to become the most populous nation on earth. This could lead to increasing numbers of poor, food shortages and related calamities unless rural development keeps pace.

Dr. Ryan summarized the available information and projections and suggested a list of issues, trends, and facts to stimulate the discussions, which proved to be lively and thought-provoking. Studies by the World Bank demonstrate convincingly that economic growth in the rural sector, which is dominated by agriculture, can be a very effective tool for reducing poverty. Stimulating such growth will require many institutions working in close partnership to provide poor farmers with a wider range of technology and policy options to increase the profitability of farming. Improvements in the dissemination of technology will also be essential, for example through the use of information technology.

Dr. Ryan reminded the group that this session was only a beginning. Another brainstorming session with partner institutions from across Asia will take place in early August, and a symposium to summarize all the global consultations and the analyses of possible SAT Futures will take place in mid-November at Patancheru. The outcomes will be published and will guide ICRISAT's new Vision and Strategic Plan to be developed in 2001.


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