20) ICRISAT’s village dynamics studies to help reduce poverty in the drylands

Grassroots-based information articulating the voices of the poor can greatly help reduce poverty in the drylands. Along with this, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) will further improve global understanding of the dynamics of rural poverty through the recently launched Village Dynamics Studies (VDS) project.

Seeking to improve the quantity and quality of village-based information for better decision-making, the five-year project will be implemented by ICRISAT together with National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) in the humid tropics of East India, and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will implement it in Bangladesh in collaboration with Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and SocioConsult ( BRAC).

According Dr William Dar, ICRISAT's Director General, the purpose of this unique project is to decrease the incidence and severity of absolute poverty by markedly increasing the availability of time-series data at the district, household and individual levels. Dar also emphasized that tracking poverty using the data to be collected by this project will further inform and advance policy dialogue for the drylands.

“Access to accurate data will shape future agricultural development strategies,” said Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director of foundation's Agricultural Development initiative. “This project will give a voice to the poor and inform programs and policies that help smallholder farmers lift themselves out of hunger and poverty”, he added.

According to Dr MCS Bantilan, the Principal Scientist of the project, t his multi-disciplinary study builds on the unique databases already developed and will add considerable value to them. It will also provide a distinctive social science laboratory in each village under study.

Moreover, the project will draw the best and brightest in the social sciences globally to conduct research on the most impoverished regions of the developing world, and serve as an example for other national programs in developing countries.

The VDS project builds upon the earlier village level studies, an international public good that has been cited more than 15,000 times. Today, village level studies is considered as one of ICRISAT's “jewels” and cited for its significance in providing valuable insights on rural development pathways in meeting global development challenges. Indeed, village level studies provide the opportunity to periodically revisit the same households and villages over the years and serves as a fertile environment for the generation of ideas to help empower the poor of the drylands.

This grant to ICRISAT is part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain from seeds and soil to farm management and market access-so that progress against absolute poverty is sustainable over the long term.

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