9) AP Chief Minister urges ICRISAT to help more farming villages

During his visit to ICRISAT-Patancheru on 3 August, Dr YS Rajasekhar Reddy, the Hon. Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (AP), urged ICRISAT scientists to develop and encourage farmers of the State to grow crops other than the water-intensive rice and sugarcane. He asked ICRISAT to help realize the goal to solve the twin problems of poverty and unemployment by helping more farming villages in the state.

Director General Dr William D. Dar and members of the Management group welcomed the Chief Minister and other dignitaries, and accompanied them on a visit to the demonstration plots and the watersheds. Later Dr Dar outlined a new deal for the rural poor of Andhra Pradesh. He stated that ICRISAT had already made a difference in AP with improved varieties and hybrids of mandate crops, and is now using modern tools to make further improvements. In AP alone, sorghum farmers have gained an annual income of $18.8 million, and there is great promise of ethanol from sweet sorghum that grows in 4 months compared to sugarcane, which requires 11 months to grow. Seed production of pearl millet yielded $1 million from every summer crop, and the short-duration chickpea varieties have resulted in an addition of $59 million to the GDP of the State.

Dr SP Wani spoke about integrated watershed management as an entry point to increasing productivity and incomes of dryland farmers, and the recent initiative on bio-diesel plantation. He also mentioned the VASAT initiative. Dr SN Nigam presented a recipe for success of groundnut cultivation in Ananthapur, and Dr Barry Shapiro described the Agri-Science Park @ ICRISAT.

In his address to the staff and later to the media the Hon. Chief Minister emphasized that villages should benefit from the experience of all the scientists. He was enthusiastic about the advantages of sweet sorghum for ethanol production and the bio-diesel plantation. The CM directed officials of the State to make sure that sweet sorghum is promoted on a very large scale to help the rural poor. Talking about ICRISAT's contribution, he said that ICRISAT plays an important role in the production of foundation seeds of its mandate crops. ICRISAT will also be helping the state in promoting the integrated watershed management in thousands of villages. Regarding the groundnut crop failure in Ananthapur, he said that alternative crops or other livelihood opportunities have to be identified and to be promoted. Replying to a question on private extension, he said that the government is committed to set up various kiosks and information service centers which could be used as tools by the farmers.

The Honorable Chief Minister was accompanied by other State ministers – N Raghuveera Reddy, Minister Agriculture; Geetha Reddy, Minister Tourism and Sugar; M Marappe, Minister for Lift Irrigation, Groundwater, AP Rainshadow Area; and Mohd. Fareeduddin, Minister for Minority Welfare; Members of the Legislative Assembly; and other dignitaries.

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