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.
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 →
It was a great opportunity to see the exciting rice science being conducted, but also the focused commitment of IIRR Director, Dr. V Ravindra Babu, to demand-driven innovation to ensure the science of IIRR is focused on addressing the pressing needs of smallholder rice farmers.
Approximately 45 scientists toured with me and Dr Babu to see field experiments on climate change, low soil fertility, integrated pest and disease management and the application of molecular markers to support variety development. I was interested to see IIRR being a key partner in grants I managed while at the Gates Foundation; these include Stress Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia, Cereal System Initiative for South Asia, C4-Rice and Green Super Rice.
IIRR entomologists Drs Gururaj Katti and Chitra Shanker
In the field I saw trials of rice grown with a border crop of flowers to support bio-control agents and potentially reduce pesticide use in stem borer control. I was told rice farmers now contend with to up to 15 pests – while there were only three when the Institute first started in 1965! This is the result of crop intensification, climate change and increased global food movement. Read more →