6) ICRISAT and the World Vegetable Center strengthen collaboration to improve crop diversity for farmers

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) are strengthening research collaboration to diversify the food basket for the farmers from the developing countries of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Combining the strengths of ICRISATís research on dryland cereals and legumes, and of the World Vegetable Center on vegetables, the two Institutes aim to provide resource poor farmers a larger basket of opportunities to improve their agricultural productivity and income.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, many farmers neither have the ability to withstand risks nor the resources to seek technical help from multiple sources. By combining the strengths of ICRISAT and the World Vegetable Center, farmers will be able to choose more crops to grow during different seasons to reduce the risk impact and increase the productivity of their land.

Dr Dyno Keatinge, Director General of the World Vegetable Center, said that vegetables are higher value crops that not only improve the nutrition of farm families but also give them a more sustained income throughout the year.

Collaboration in Asia

In Asia, the collaboration between ICRISAT and the World Vegetable Center was cemented with the establishment of their South Asian Regional Office within the Patancheru campus of ICRISAT. The first joint activity undertaken by the two research Institutes was the successful organization of the International Conference on Indigenous Vegetables and Legumes in December 2006.

ICRISAT and AVRDC are also collaborating in the integrated watershed management program, which aims at providing a package of scientific interventions for farmers working the land within a micro watershed. Both Institutes are working on one project each in Jharkhand state of India, with funding from the Tata Trusts, where both would support and supplement each otherís activities. Building on this collaboration, new joint proposals will be developed on high value crops for the watershed areas in the coming years, as a way of diversifying income sources.

Since January 2008, ICRISAT and AVRDC are working together on a project to improve the heat and drought tolerance in tropical tomato using genetic, physiological and molecular approaches. This project is funded by the German funders GTZ and BMZ.

ICRISAT and AVRDC are also building synergies in their research to overcome pest and diseases in the crops that they work with. This is through collaborative research in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which uses appropriate combination of weapons in the arsenal to deal with pest and disease attacks. Breeding crops to develop host plant resistance; using natural plant products, bio-pesticides and natural enemies; and developing appropriate agronomic practices offer a potentially viable option for integrated pest management (IPM).

Collaboration in sub-Saharan Africa

There are two ongoing initiatives between ICRISAT and AVRDC in sub-Saharan Africa.

The first initiative is AVRDCís project on vegetable breeding for poverty reduction in Africa. This project began in December 2006, and aims to alleviate constraints to the availability of quality seeds of vegetable crop species through a combination of breeding research and advocacy for conducive regulatory systems using platforms of public-private partnerships. ICRISAT is contributing its expertise in developing seed systems in Africa to strengthen this project.

The second initiative is the Canadian-funded breeding program for the Sudano-Sahelian Zone. This joint ICRISAT-AVRDC project operating out of Niamey in Niger is helping develop vegetable varieties that will fit into the cropping schemes of the Sudano-Sahelian zone. O kra (ladies finger) was chosen as the best-bet species, and subsequent work resulted in the assembly of 145 accessions, and development of improved varieties.

Way ahead

ICRISAT and AVRDC will work together to strengthen crop breeding through the use of agri-biotechnological tools. The two Institutes will also strengthen agricultural systems in the semi-arid tropics in which vegetables are grown along with cereals and legumes by farmers.

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