09) ICRISAT Governing Board launches platform for South-South collaboration and approves its
medium-term plan (24 March 2011)

New Delhi, India, 24 March 2011 – Launching the “ICRISAT South-South Initiative” (IS-SI) to boost India-Africa partnerships on agricultural research-for-development, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has further elevated its role as a bridge, broker and catalyst in the global fight against poverty and hunger.

The formation of IS-SI highlighted the 64th meeting of the ICRISAT Governing Board (GB) held in New Delhi on 21-24 March. Concluding the India-Africa Roundtable on agricultural development on Wednesday, 23 March, GB Chair Nigel Poole led in launching IS-SI as a platform for focused and systematic partnership towards a stronger and inclusive development cooperation between the two continents.

The roundtable meeting was attended by senior officials and private entrepreneurs from India and African countries such as Sudan, South Africa, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mali and Nigeria among others, and ICRISAT GB members, scientists and senior staff members. Setting the tone at the meet, Director General of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), S Ayyappan said India and the African continent should capitalize on common features such as climate, soil, water and small land holdings in boosting agriculture.

IS-SI aims to open more opportunities for increased financial and technical support and enhanced public-private-people partnerships on research-for-development. “A strong, ICRISAT-led South-South initiative between India and Africa is expected to promote better policies, more effective institutions, improved infrastructure, and better access to markets and to higher quality inputs for dryland farmers,” said ICRISAT Director General William Dar.

Setting the wheel of implementing ICRISAT’s new Strategic Plan into full motion, the GB also approved the Institute’s medium-term plan for 2011-13. The plan provides a three-year roadmap of specific actions to be taken by the Institute to pursue the targets of the Strategic Plan to 2020 and Business Plan (2011-15). Propelled by the concept of inclusive market-oriented development, the Strategic Plan will help the dryland poor to grow their way out of poverty through better access to markets and other support services. It also envisions more stability, security and productivity, allowing the dryland poor to escape the poverty trap for good.

Other decisions made and items approved during the Governing Board meeting include: the Institute’s US$ 56.3 M budget for 2011 and its efforts in sustaining financial health; an organized and strong engagement in the CGIAR reform process particularly in the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) planning and implementation; performance indicators on human resources, financials on governance and research; addressing gender and diversity issues; and enhancing resource mobilization.

Vigorous partnership on pulse improvement between ICRISAT and India

The Governing Board meeting also set forth more avenues of opportunities to further strengthen the already-strong ICRISAT and India partnership.

As an emerging economy, India’s agriculture provides food and nutrition, and is the means of livelihood for millions of poor households. Recognizing this, the Government of India (GoI) gives top priority to agriculture, and ICRISAT is a vigorous partner in this endeavor.

The Brainstorming Session on Pulses held on 22 March showcased the collaborative research partnership between India and ICRISAT in improving pulses production in the country. Over the last 34 years (1976-2010), 197 improved varieties of sorghum (35), pearl millet (80), chickpea (37), pigeonpea (20) and groundnut (26) have been released by ICRISAT with India, raising production and incomes of millions of smallholder farmers.

Pulses are grown on about 23 million ha annually, with a production of 14 million tons. However, the demand is around 17 million tons, leaving a gap of 3 million tons for importation. This is the challenge that the brainstorming session hoped to address.

The session gathered together scientists and experts from ICRISAT and ICAR, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR), Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), National Center on Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM), and Department of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

Some recommendations drawn during the session for India to achieve self-sufficiency in pulses include: empowering farmers with available technologies and knowledge; enhancing availability of quality seeds of improved, high-yielding varieties; improving farmers’ access to inputs; providing supportive policies for better price support; and enhancing public-private partnerships.

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