Tag Archives: India

Inspiration for agriculture in India and the world

A standing ovation for Prof MS Swaminathan

A standing ovation for Prof MS Swaminathan

It was a real honor to sit next to Prof. MS Swaminathan this week during the plenary lectures marking the Silver Jubilee Foundation Day of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences – an organization he started in 1990, of which I am pleased to say, ICRISAT is now a member.

Listening to details of M.S. Swaminathan’s career was amazing. In his presentation I was impressed with the clarity in which he remembered names, events and feelings over his 60 year journey in agricultural research for development. His passion for inclusion of women, preserving our planet by calling for an Evergreen Revolution in agriculture, and for helping tribal people who are the most disadvantaged in India, was an inspiration to me – and to the world.

Meeting with current and past leaders of India’s most influential agriculture institutions gave me a rich and deep perspective of the people behind the science that drove the first Green Revolution and in positioning young scientists to realize the Evergreen Revolution in India over the coming years. 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

Getting up to speed on local rice research

I had the privilege of visiting and engaging with researchers at the Indian Institute of Rice Research in Hyderabad last week.

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

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