Category Archives: Drylands

drylands

Celebrating Professor MS Swaminathan’s 90th birthday and the Zero Hunger Challenge

Dr David Bergvinson, Director General of ICRISAT recently attended a conference in Chennai which felicitated Professor MS Swaminathan on his 90th birthday.

Professor Swaminathan is a world renowned geneticist and international administrator who played a leading role in advancing India’s own Green Revolution in agriculture.

At the event he urged colleagues and well wishers to support the UN’s Zero Hunger Challenge, which aims to ensure that every man, woman and child has the Right to Adequate Food.

This involves empowering women, giving priority to family farming, and ensuring that food systems are sustainable and resilient.

From genebank to farmer’s hands

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Viewing pre-breeding of crops with Dr Shivali Sharma

Last week I viewed the pre-breeding lines of chickpea, pigeon pea and groundnut at ICRISAT with senior scientist in genetic resources, Dr Shivali Sharma.  The lines were produced by crossing some of the unique resources from ICRISAT’s genebank to build varieties resistant to the pests, diseases and environmental stresses that farmers’ face.

It was great to see what Shivali has been doing as I did similar research while developing insect resistant maize at CIMMYT some years ago.  She showed me lines that are being especially selected and bred to resist:

  • Late leaf spot in groundnut;
  • Ascochyta blight and Botrytis grey mould in chickpea; and
  • Pod borer in pigeon pea

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Taking time to engage with investors

My first priority when joining ICRISAT was to visit all of our country offices and see our work on the ground with partners and engage directly with farmers. I learnt so much from these visits.  My attention has recently focused on meeting more donors to understand their perspectives and needs in relation to what ICRISAT can contribute towards a shared vision of prosperity through agriculture research for development.

There was strong donor support for ICRISAT’s program during meetings on my recent visit to the USA. This both confirmed the importance of our work and the opportunities for us to improve the delivery of technical, actionable, measurable and relevant research.  While in the US, I met with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MARS, Tata Trust, USAID, World Bank, IFAD and the Clinton Climate Initiative.

Holistic model Diagram_1a SmallI explained how we are taking steps to improve the efficiency of our operations, facilitating work across programs and disciplines, and integrating work in Africa and Asia.  We are also linking work across the whole agricultural R4D chain in service of national priorities to empower farmers to become profitable and manage risks.

ICRISAT has developed this agricultural R4D value chain graphic to represent the holistic approach  we take working from the land and water management all the way through to agribusiness and market development. Read more

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Enterprising ‘climate smart’ villages

I recently had the opportunity to visit two villages close by the ICRISAT headquarters in India which have begun to stem the tide of people leaving the farm, by developing a wider diversity of livelihood options on the farm.

The villagers of Nandyalagudem and Boringthanda in the state of Telangana have been supported by the National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) to (1) better manage rainfall variability and (2) become commercially viable through changing their farming techniques and introducing new enterprises for both women and men.

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It was fascinating to see how farmers are engaged in the research for development process. This was eloquently demonstrated through the introduction of new strains of silk worm and drip irrigation of mulberry (above left). Other women were getting involved in backyard poultry enterprises (above right). These initiatives dramatically increased the income of farmers and created economic opportunities to attract youth to return to their villages. Read more