Dr Nigel Kerby, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair, with farmers and scientists in Malawi groundnut and pigeon pea intercropped fields. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

Strategic investments and Scientific Award announcements mark ICRISAT’s 84th Board Meeting

Dr Nigel Kerby, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair, with farmers and scientists in Malawi groundnut and pigeon pea intercropped fields. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

Dr Nigel Kerby, ICRISAT Governing Board Chair, with farmers and scientists in Malawi groundnut and pigeon pea intercropped fields. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

The announcement of new strategic investments for research, marked the 84th meeting of ICRISAT’s Governing Board. Held at Lilongwe, Malawi, from April 16 – 18, 2018, the meeting also saw the announcement of ICRISAT’s highest scientific award.

The strategic investments of US$ 200,000 each were for an innovative collaboration with Dow-DuPont and for support to socio-economics research. The new Systems Biology and partnerships for research as well as the significant Master Alliance Agreement with Dow DuPont were presented by Dr Rajeev Varshney while Dr Michael Hauser emphasized the need for more socio-economic research.

For the ICRISAT Science Awards 2017, The Doreen Mashler Award for scientific achievement was awarded to Dr. Mamta Sharma and Dr. Pooja Bhatnagar-Mathur.  ICRISAT Governing Board recognized the scientific achievements of Dr Baloua Nebie as the ‘Promising Young Scientist Awardee 2017’. A presentation on scientific contribution and outputs was made by Dr Nebie. Drs Sharma and Bhatnagar-Mathur will make their presentations at the next Board meeting in September 2018.

At the Program Committee where ICRISAT’s ongoing and future research was highlighted, the Board applauded the ongoing work in Malawi presented by Dr Patrick Okori, on revolving seed funds model, citing this as a learning opportunity for other institutions. The achievements from the CGIAR Research Program-CCAFS by Dr Robert Zougmore, emphasized the importance of partnerships in achieving outcomes for climate change in Africa. The suggestion of greater engagement of ICRISAT in integrative CRPs – WLE, PIM and CCAFS in Asia, by Dr Anthony Whitbread was agreed to. Dr Peter Carberry added that ICRISAT’s contribution to other CRPs and Platforms – A4NH, Genebank, Excellence in Breeding and Big Data, to be presented at the next Board meeting.

At the previous Governing Board meeting in September 2017, a Smart Food Endowment Fund was approved, with US$ 2M committed from ICRISAT. During this meeting, the business plan defining the Smart Food Vision and mission as a catalyst for nutrition, the environment and in breaking the food system divide was presented by Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka. The Board approved the governance structure and the business plan, recommending a Business Advisory Committee to be established for this globally acclaimed initiative.

Snapshots of CRP GLDC by Ms Neena Jacob, modernization of ICRISAT Crop Improvement by Dr Jan Debaene, and nutrition research by Drs Gichohi & Anitha received suggestions from the Board on value chain as well as on diversity of work.

A new way of sharing performance indicators using the MEASURE program developed in collaboration with ICRISAT ihub startup Verdantum, was presented by Dr Carberry. Dr Paco Sereme, Chair, Program Committee appreciated the MEASURE program and congratulated Dr David Bergvinson and colleagues for this new way of presenting data.

The Board took this opportunity to interact with farmers on the field. Visiting groundnut fields intercropped with pigeonpea, Dr. Nigel Kerby, Governing Board Chair, highlighted the strength of applied science at ICRISAT, which could be witnessed firsthand in Malawi. “It is inspiring to be surrounded by farmers and scientists and see the rapport and respect on all sides, and the real change to communities, dependent on agriculture,” he remarked. “You only need see this to know that all our efforts in governance are worth it.”

The Governing Board presented a Plaque of Appreciation to Ms Oluwande Muoyo for her service to ICRISAT, as Governing Board Member and Audit and Risk Committee Chair, from July 2012 – April 2018. Ms Muoyo, a former Hon Commissioner for Budget and planning in Ogun State, Nigeria, is succeeded by Ms Folashade Ogunde, also from Nigeria.  Ms Muoyo has retired from ICRISAT Board and will venture into farming. She was inspired by ICRISAT’s mission in helping smallholder farmers contribute to sustainable agriculture and farming systems. “I’m passionate about the change I can bring to the community and thank my colleagues for making me understand the importance of a food secure future,” she said.

At a dinner with partners during, Dr Kerby, shared his pleasure at the valuable link between ICRISAT and partners in Malawi, especially the government. “ICRISAT is proud to see the progress and impact of the collective contribution to science and farming systems and we are positive that we will accomplish more to benefit smallholder farmers,” he said.

Participants at the Board meeting included Dr Kerby, Dr Sereme, Board members, Dr Paul Anderson, Dr Wendy Umberger, Ms Muoyo, Dr Sissel Rogne, Dr Laurie Tollefson and Ms Ogunde along with Dr Carberry, and senior ICRISAT management and research staff.

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