Low-cost agri interventions to make the drylands greener

Photo credit: ICRISAT

Mr Tippeswamy in his pigeonpea field showing robust crop growth with soil test-based
balanced fertilization. Photo: G Chander, ICRISAT

Drylands get greener with low-cost agri interventions and shared resources in Andhra Pradesh, India

Farmers in the drylands of Andhra Pradesh, who previously struggled to sustain their groundnut and pigeonpea crops during long dry spells, are now witnessing an increase in food grain production by 30 to 40% and fodder production by 10% to 30%. They are also raising mango plantations and growing vegetables. This has been possible through low-cost agricultural interventions such as building farm ponds and replenishing degraded soils with micro and secondary nutrients and sharing of farm resources such as machinery and pasture lands.

These learnings were shared at field days that had Innovation Platform experts interacting with about 300 farmers (100 were women) from the Dryland Systems (DS) sites in Anantapur and Kurnool that receive only about 540 mm of annual ra infall. The topics discussed included water conservation, soil health, gender mainstreaming, fodder promotion, small-scale vegetable cultivation, managing common lands and mechanization.

Read the full story: ICRISAT

Sorghum as fish feed


Kenyan farmers embrace improved sorghum cultivars and explore its use as fish feed

Farmers in eastern Kenya are taking to sorghum cultivation to tide over poor harvests of maize. Since many of the farmers are also into aquaculture, they are evaluating sorghum varieties which are suitable as fish feed.

Most famers experience food shortages due to their reliance on maize. But farmers who plant sorghum and pearl millet always get a harvest even with the lightest rains. These observations made over a period of time were confirmed by Mr Kyalo Mwengi and a group of farmers during a sorghum field day held on Mr Mwengi’s farm at Kiboko along the Kiboko River.

Apart from growing sorghum for food, Mr Mwengi and his group are members of the Kenya Aquaculture Association and own several fish ponds. However, they have experienced a shortage of fish feed and want to use sorghum in their fish feed formulations. The group which has already received a feed pelleting machine from the national government will work with ICRISAT and Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to identify a variety suitable for fish feed.


Read the full story: ICRISAT

Pigeonpea for enhanced incomes and improving soil fertility

Photo credit: ICRISAT

Women farmers group from Rampuravas village of Jaipur district at the planning meeting.

Women encouraged to take up pigeonpea cultivation

In a region where pigeonpea had completely disappeared, farmers, especially women, are being encouraged to again grow pigeonpea for enhanced incomes and improving soil fertility.

In Jagmalpura and Rampuravas villages of Rajasthan, India, farmers have been convinced to grow early-duration pigeonpea varieties on 200 ha. At a training-cum-planning workshop, Dr Anupama Hingane, Special Project Scientist, Pigeonpea Breeding, ICRISAT, gave detailed information about benefits of pigeonpea crop, and requested men to support their wives and daughters to actively participate not only in farm activities but also in post-harvest processing and marketing of pigeonpea. She also encouraged women groups to participate in initiatives like mini dal mills, making baskets from pigeonpea stalks, post-harvest processing and making products like pakodas(fritters) from pigeonpea flour.

A group of 50 young women from Rampuravas led by village head Ms Ghyani Devi, expressed their willingness to take up pigeonpea cultivation and seed production on their farms. Dr Hingane shared the success story of Padasoli village where women farmers participate in activities like dalprocessing and other post-harvest processing activities.

Earlier this region used to produce pigeonpea, but local varieties were susceptible to diseases and took 160 days to mature. As a result farmers could not prepare the land in time for rabi (post-rainy) sowing. Another problem was availability of quality seed. Over time pigeonpea cultivation vanished from these regions.

Read the full story: ICRISAT

How to restore a degraded landscape in Ethiopia ?

Photo credit: ICRISAT

The local government, Wollo University and ICRISAT are working on restoring the degraded landscape around Lake Haik and improving agricultural productivity in the region.. Photo: J Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT

Protecting and improving productivity of fragile landscapes in Ethiopia

Increasing agricultural productivity while improving the ecosystem and managing the fragile landscape around Logo Haik (Lake Haik) of the Amhara region in Ethiopia was the key issue discussed at a workshop that brought together policy makers, researchers, development partners and academic institutions in the region.

Soil erosion and water scarcity in the upstream areas, siltation, and deterioration of water quality downstream are the major issues.

Speakers highlighted the need for initiating a new joint watershed management initiative in the degraded landscape around Logo Haik, a crater lake. This initiative is expected to jointly develop strategies to enhance agricultural productivity (mainly sorghum) and food security upstream, while protecting the ecosystems of Logo Haik downstream through integrated watershed management. Developing a learning site for intensification of dryland sorghum-based systems in Ethiopia is another important objective.


Read the full article: ICRISAT

Financially empowering women farmers

Photo credit: Food Tank

With the support of an ICRISAT Integrated Watershed Management Project, farmer Janki Bai was able to construct a rainwater harvesting pond to bring water to her community living in the semi-arid state, Madhya Pradesh.

Making Strides in India: Helping Women Farmers Generate Income

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, women are responsible for 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. Yet women rarely reap benefits from their contributions. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a nonprofit organization promoting sustainable agricultural practices in India and Africa, is working to change that. ICRISAT has made notable strides for women in India, working against gender inequality in the rural sector. The organization has supported 23 watershed projects in nine Indian states, expanding accessibility to services that “financially empower women farmers.”

In India, 70 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture, while 51 percent of agricultural land exists in areas with low rainfall and poor soil composition. ICRISAT’s Integrated Watershed Management Projects work to bring water to these arid lands—structuring its initiatives to promote economic growth for female farmers to transform them into businesswomen. Through partnerships with public and private sector institutions, the ICRISAT watershed projects provide poor female farmers with low-interest loans, financial guidance, and training in nutrition, health, and crop management.

Read the full article: Food Tank

Drought-tolerant sorghum and millet in Malawi

Photo credit: ICRISAT

Farmers at a Participatory Varietal Selection trial for sorghum at Salima in central Malawi.
Photo: E Manyasa, ICRISAT

New sorghum and finger millet cultivars ready to take off in Malawi

Three early-maturing sorghum cultivars are in the process of getting released in Malawi, while the introduction of three finger millet varieties selected by farmers are expected to resurrect a crop that has ‘disappeared’ in the southern region of the country.

The three sorghum varieties earmarked for on-farm testing and release – KARI Mtama 1, R8602 and IESV 23006 DL – are suitable for food and for brewing beer. In the case of finger millet, farmers wanted access to seeds of Gulu E, ACC 32 and KNE 1124 varieties, so that they can start growing the crop again.

Farmer-preferred traits and potential for sorghum

Field days were held at four Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) sites – Salima in central Malawi, Supuni and Magoti in southern Malawi, and Nyanje near the Mozambique border. The farmers at all the sites expressed their desire for early-maturing varieties. Drought tolerance, early and high yield, sweet taste (especially green grain) and good grain size and color (white for food and brown for beer) were the key traits considered in sorghum variety selection.

The potential also exists to increase brown grain sorghum production for brewing through high-yielding varieties. The current sorghum grain production for brewing stands at 200 metric tons against a demand of 800 metric tons.

Farmer-preferred traits and potential for finger millet

High yield, light brown color and short duration were the traits preferred by farmers for finger millet. Demonstration of fertilizer use (both organic and inorganic) was appreciated as it showed visible significant yield advantage over nonusage of fertilizer. The high nutritive value of finger millet was highlighted and the demonstration of improved agronomic practices for increased production especially in view of the deteriorating soil and changing climatic conditions was appreciated by farmers.

Demand for other drought-tolerant crops:

The farmers requested for more PVS sites and inclusion of other drought-tolerant crops like pearl millet, groundnut and pigeonpea. The village chief at Magoti site, who is a woman farmer said, “We want to end hunger in this village. The rainfall we receive is not enough to raise a maize crop. We therefore depend on drought-tolerant crops for food.’’

Read the full article: ICRISAT

Striga and drought

Photo credit: ICRISAT

Photo: A Habtamu, ILRI

Coping with Striga and drought in sorghum

Field visits of crop research work in Ethiopia (ICRISAT)

Striga and drought are the two major constraints that sorghum farmers are struggling to cope with. While there are several farmer-preferred improved varieties and hybrids, their adoption by farmers is low due to lack of resistance to these constraints. In contrast, there are many landraces and wild sorghum varieties which are resistant to Striga and also moisture stress.

The trials in Ethiopia are an attempt to introduce Striga and drought tolerant traits into high-yielding varieties and hybrids through introgression of wild sorghum and landraces with resistance/tolerance genes. The trial involves four varieties and four hybrids with farmer-preferred traits and 40 wild sorghum varieties selected from a collection of 5,100 accessions and 16 landraces from Ethiopia and Sudan. Other trials include selection for dual purpose sweet sorghum and high lysine sorghum with non-shriveling property. Available sweet sorghum varieties are not good for grain and high lysine sorghum varieties suffer from shriveling when dry and hence have low marketability.


Agricultural research and development in the drylands of Ethiopia

Photo credit: ICRISAT

(L-R) ICRISAT Principal Scientist and country representative Dr KPC Rao; ICRISAT Director General Dr David Bergvinson; EIAR Director General Dr Fentahun Mengistu; ICRISAT’s Director for Strategic Marketing & Communication Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, and an EIAR staff at a meeting held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: EIAR

Priority investments set for agriculture in the drylands of Ethiopia

New approaches and priority international investments have been agreed for agricultural research and development in the drylands of Ethiopia. This comes from a series of strategy meetings between the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Four areas with greatest opportunities have been identified: intensification of legumes for better human and environmental health; ; expanding  cereal production  by promoting  the industrial potential of sorghum and other millets, including tef; scaling up of watershed management for more intensive agriculture;  and new approaches to help farmers manage climate variability.

“These identified  opportunities can only be tackled through partnership at all levels on the value chain and making sure each step on this vertical chain has what it needs to act,” said Dr Fentahun Mengistu the Director General of EIAR.

Read the full article: ICRISAT

Family farming in Mali


Photo credit: Google

Traditional agriculture in Mali


Investing in agri sector top priority:

Mali President Stresses on food sovereignty and family farming

The basis of our economic takeoff is certainly in agriculture and this is clearly a priority,” said His Excellency Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita, President of Mali to Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, when the latter called on him while on an official trip to Africa.

In countries where an overwhelming majority of the population relies on rain-fed agriculture, drought can have serious consequences. - http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3113/2679820046_9358ccc8da.jpg
In countries where an overwhelming majority of the population relies on rain-fed agriculture, drought can have serious consequences. – http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3113/2679820046_9358ccc8da.jpg

President Kéita said that 15% of the government’s budget was allocated to agriculture. “We are pleased that many compatriots have understood the importance of investing in the agricultural sector as a source of income and many ‘conversions to agriculture’ are happening to demonstrate this interest,” he said.

The Malian President also discussed climate change and challenges to land and water resources management. “Food sovereignty is important for a country and we appreciate ICRISAT’s work on family farming to help households improve their productivity, nutrition and livelihoods,” he emphasized. Dr Bergvinson spoke about translating the watershed management experience gained from India in West and Central Africa, especially in Mali, to target challenges with regard to water and land management issues.

Dr Bergvinson reiterated ICRISAT’s commitment to support smallholder farmers through a demand-driven research for agricultural development to improve their livelihoods through a close partnership with Institut d’Economie Rurale, NGOs and the private sector. “As ICRISAT delivers science findings to farmers, nutrition of farming households, especially of women and children remain a key driver,” he said. He also stressed on the importance of strategies like Inclusive Market-Oriented Development that could enable better inclusion of youth and women in the agricultural sector.

Read the full article:  ICRISAT


Preventing land degradation and effective use of water resources

Photo credit: Google

Eleusine coracana is an annual plant widely grown as a cereal in the arid areas of Africa and Asia. Earliest Karnataka civilisation shows it was grown in Hallur in the later Iron Age. Wikipedia

Breeding climate-smart crops top priority for Indian state of Karnataka

Breeding climate-smart sorghum, finger millet, chickpea, pigeonpea and groundnut crops figure high on the agenda of the Government of Karnataka (GoK).

Chickpea (Cicer anietinum) - http://www.cilr.uq.edu.au/UserImages/Image/ImageGallery/larger_images/Chickpea%20flowers_big.jpg
Chickpea (Cicer anietinum) – http://www.cilr.uq.edu.au/UserImages/Image/ImageGallery/larger_images/Chickpea%20flowers_big.jpg

Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, Minister of Agriculture, GoK, said that Karnataka will soon sign an agreement with ICRISAT and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru, India, to produce non-GM varieties of the above five crops. A consortium would be formed for this purpose and will be funded by GoK.

Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) -   http://www.icrisat.org/what-we-do/crops/crops-pigeonpea/pigeonpea-asia.jpg
Pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan) – http://www.icrisat.org/what-we-do/crops/crops-pigeonpea/pigeonpea-asia.jpg

With 2015 being the International Year of Soils, he said that the upcoming Bhoochetana Plus program would lay great emphasis on preventing land degradation and effective use of water resources.

“Our soils are not just thirsty, they are hungry too,” he said referring to the micronutrient deficiencies that the soil tests have revealed during the first phase of the Bhoochetana project initiated by ICRISAT. He said the government aims to issue Soil Health Cards to all farmers in Karnataka by 2016-17.

Read the full article: ICRISAT

Sorghum, one of the ‘Climate Change Ready’ crops

Photo credit: ICRISAT

Members of a farmers group in Wote, eastern Kenya, evaluating their Sorghum trial field.
Photo: Christine angari, ICRISAT

Go for sorghum, say climate smart Kenyan farmers


Sorghum assures us of nutritious food for our families as well as cattle; sorghum fetches a better price than maize and gives more yield per acre. Sorghum has changed our lives for the better… say farmers in Wote, eastern Kenya, who have adopted sorghum-legume technologies instead of the traditional maize-bean intercrop. The farmers were addressing a group of journalists who visited their farms recently.

In 2013, the planting season in Gongo, Kenya started with heavy rains. But just as quickly as the rains had arrived, they faded.  - http://oneacrefund.org/uploads/all-files/_DSC0198.jpg
In 2013, the planting season in Gongo, Kenya started with heavy rains. But just as quickly as the rains had arrived, they faded. – http://oneacrefund.org/uploads/all-files/_DSC0198.jpg

“Sorghum adapts well to a wide range of environmental and soil fertility conditions and is considered to be one of the ‘Climate Change Ready’ crops. Also sorghum and legume cropping systems have inherent resilience to drought and therefore enhance food and nutrition security for households in the drylands,” said Mr Patrick Sheunda, Research Assistant, ICRISAT.

One of the three field trial sites for Moi University  - https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQOcCiNwcX7UZG5DqhNRL4PzpS6kf_ODaa_29InRQoGy59jXboO
One of the three field trial sites for Moi University – https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQOcCiNwcX7UZG5DqhNRL4PzpS6kf_ODaa_29InRQoGy59jXboO

Based on these findings, a group of partners which included the Kenyan Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO); the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Government of Kenya; and ICRISAT introduced sorghum and two legume crops (cowpea and green gram), with inherent resilience to drought, to improve the livelihoods of poor smallholder farmers. The project has so far reached 366 farmers in Wote, who have adopted the sorghum-legume cropping system.

Read the full article: ICRISAT

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