Category Archives: Eastern and Southern Africa

Eastern and Southern Africa

Mutual interests of ICRISAT and AGRA

AGRA’s Dr Joe DeVries.

AGRA’s Dr Joe DeVries.

My day started with a breakfast meeting with Joe DeVries, Vice President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).  I have known Joe since the late 1990’s when he was at the Rockefeller Foundation in Kenya.

Joe has always been passionate about supporting national breeding programs and seed companies. As a fellow maize breeder, Joe and I have shared many conversations about the crop improvement and the important role improved varieties and quality seed makes in the lives of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Joe has led the Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS) since the genesis of AGRA and has been very successful in supporting national breeding programs, seed companies, agro-dealers and capacity building of the next generation of breeders, agronomists, and seed system specialists on the continent.

Joe and I discussed how ICRISAT and AGRA could work together to support the implementation of national strategies by drawing on the comparative advantage from a wide range of partners in the public and private sectors and the long experience of ICRISAT scientists in the semi-arid tropics of Africa. Read more

Visiting valued friend and colleague – Segenet Kelemu

I was so excited to have the opportunity to meet with a long-time friend and colleague, Dr Segenet Kelemu who is the Director General of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

Meeting with Dr Segenet Kelemu, DG of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology

Meeting with Dr Segenet Kelemu, DG of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology.

My first visit to ICIPE was twenty years ago at a meeting of the CGIAR System Wide Program on Integrated Pest Management. Dr Kanayo Nwanze was among the participants and it was wonderful to learn about the economic importance of insects in the context of African agriculture, human health and livestock.

Segenet has a contagious smile and a passion to apply science to serve the poor that was influenced by her growing up in Ethiopia, a heritage she treasures. Read more

Supporting Kenya’s national agricultural priorities

I had a valuable meeting with Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Agriculture, Ms Sicily Kanini Kariuki, today.  She expressed her key priorities as diet diversification and nutrition, climate smart agriculture and value addition.

With Dr. Moses Siambi, Regional Director ICRISAT (left) and Ms. Sicily Kanini Kariuki, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Agriculture (centre).

With Dr. Moses Siambi, Regional Director ICRISAT (left) and Ms. Sicily Kanini Kariuki, Kenya’s Principal Secretary for Agriculture (centre).

This is helpful to know as ICRISAT works on how to best align our support to the national priorities in agriculture.

I gave the Principal Secretary an overview of the main focus of our work on millets, sorghum, chickpea, groundnut and pigeon pea, emphasizing our goal of creating economic opportunities for farmers.

I explained that we are working with entrepreneurs in Kenya using agriculture incubation platforms to build up the next generation of entrepreneurs who can identify processing and marketing opportunities for these commodities. Read more

Commitment to Malawi’s agricultural future

I see great opportunities in Malawi for ICRISAT to help catalyze increased smallholder incomes through growing improved sorghum and millets, to solidify our involvement in groundnut, and to help expand the footprint of pigeonpea and chickpea.

With important collaborations, ICRISAT is helping to create a new opportunity to increase the availability of an early maturing, drought tolerant pigeonpea variety by gifting 10 tonnes of seed that will service 2000 farmers and jump start the production of seed to reach more farmers.  The variety is called Mwaiwathualimi, which translates to “lucky” for farmers having access to a pigeonpea variety that matures early!

We are also testing and increasing the availability of improved chickpea varieties – I saw the material being tested in the field this week and it looks promising.

ICRISAT’s Patrick Okori and I standing in a nursery of promising finger millet varieties. Patrick ate finger millet porridge growing up and I didn’t. Could this be the reason for our height difference?

ICRISAT’s Patrick Okori and I standing in a nursery of promising finger millet varieties. Patrick ate finger millet porridge growing up and I didn’t. Could this be the reason for our height difference?

In the last two years we have also brought in new varieties of sorghum and finger millets, which I also saw in the field in Chitedze Research Station.  We are excited about opening up new opportunities for expanding the food basket with nutritious and climate smart crops like finger millet.

In my discussions with the Agriculture Minister he made a commitment to scale up the production of sorghum seed of Macia that was developed at our Bulawayo  station in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s. We are already making plans for the upcoming season to plant 10 hectares for seed production.

Groundnut work delivers for smallholders

I saw impressive gains being made through production of improved groundnut varieties by smallholder farmers in Malawi first hand today.

I need practice to catch up to the pace farmers can strip pods from groundnuts in Malawi.

I need practice to catch up to the pace farmers can strip pods from groundnuts in Malawi.

We spent the day visiting many smallholder farmers who showed us the agronomic practices they are using to grow groundnut, pigeon pea and maize.

The farmers walked us through their involvement in the production and distribution of the improved groundnut CG 7, which has 50 percent oil content and a large seed size making them suitable for both oil production and for confectionary nuts. Read more