Category Archives: Smallholder farmers

Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation


From April 12-14, I was in Ibadan, Nigeria for a very exciting meeting. I joined more than two hundred international and national partners from countries across Africa, including leaders from the African Development Bank (AfDB) and CGIAR centers, policy makers and the private sector to discuss a new initiative, “Africa Feeding Africa” or Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT). Read more

World Food Prize to build a coalition of the willing

This past week at the World Food Prize, I had the privilege of meeting Hunger Fighters of the past and future. This is a unique global forum that honors those who have contributed to humanity by following in the footsteps of Norman Borlaug to serve with passion, compassion and humility. There is a distinct feeling of innovation, partnerships and interdisciplinary teams – all coming together to improve the lives of farm families around the globe and to ensure safe, nutritious and accessible food for all.

20151016_135655This year that honor went to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed (standing next to me in the photo along with Dr. Kush the famous IRRI Rice Breeder), the founder of BRAC who nurtured the organization, staff and the people they serve, especially women and girls, to empower them to realize their full potential.

Starting off in Bangladesh in 1972, BRAC now operates in other parts of Asia and Africa, replicating its model of microfinance and empowerment, including helping the ultra-poor. I had the privilege of interacting with Sir Fazle recently at the Gates Foundation and was able to talk with him about collaboration with ICRISAT both in Africa and Asia. Sir Fazle is truly an inspiration to us all.

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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