1) ICRISAT honors FAO Director General

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) conferred the ‘Distinguished Fellow of ICRISAT' title on Dr Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at a function held at the ICRISAT headquarters at Patancheru on 4 January. Dr Diouf is the first Director General of FAO to visit ICRISAT.

Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, presented the citation conferring the ‘Distinguished Fellow of ICRISAT' title to Dr Diouf. Besides being a co-sponsor of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), FAO is a close ally of ICRISAT in helping end hunger in the developing world.

Dr Dar thanked the FAO for granting close to one million dollars to support 32 projects in the last five years. “ICRISAT is committed to pursue FAO's mission to help developing countries reduce the number of hungry people in the semi-arid tropics by half in 2015,” Dr Dar said “We do this by aligning our research programs with the Millennium Development Goals, especially the ones eradicating hunger and poverty. Our strategic focus is to empower the poor to become resilient, mitigate natural and man-made shocks and eventually become food secure,” Dr Dar added.

At the RS Paroda Genebank at Patancheru, ICRISAT holds in trust under agreements with FAO more than 110,000 accessions of seeds of sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut and minor millets. This is 96% of the 114,870 accessions stored in the RS Paroda Genebank, which is among the biggest public-funded international genebanks.

ICRISAT's germplasm collection and preservation efforts ensure that plant breeders across the world have free access to valuable genetic traits as a global public good. To date, ICRISAT has supplied more than 672,000 accessions free of cost to scientists in 143 countries for their research.

With FAO support, a warrantage credit facility was initiated three years ago in sub-Saharan Africa to remove barriers in restoring soil fertility. The warrantage scheme provides easy access to credit and enables farmers to purchase inputs such as fertilizer. Through this system, farmers stock their produce at harvest with a local entrepreneur and receive cash on credit. Together, they sell the produce about four months later. This enables the farmer to make 40% additional profit.

In Niger, the FAO/ICRISAT warrantage project has involved 5,000 farm households, which have adopted natural resources management (NRM) technologies. The NRM technologies include hill placement of small amounts of mixed organic/inorganic fertilizer (microdosing) and mulching with residues to prevent erosion. In just one village with 800 participating households this program has resulted in a ten-fold increase in fertilizer use in just three years, where no fertilizer was used before. This program, is now being extended to Mali with the support of FAO, NGOs, and the Syngenta Foundation.

With technical support from FAO, ICRISAT and the Catholic Relief Services in Zimbabwe established junior farmer field schools with funding from Sweden. As a result of the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS leading to sickness and death of farming parents, there is an increasing loss of local agricultural knowledge. The junior farmer field schools bridge the gap by providing young people with knowledge, skills and experiences needed to become productive community members.

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