India strengthens ties with CGIAR institutions in Ethiopia and Kenya

Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, Mr Krishna Byre Gowda (extreme right) visiting a farmer’s field near Holetta in Ethiopia. Photo: ICRISAT
Mr Krishna Byre Gowda, Honorable Minister of Agriculture, Government of Karnataka, paid a visit to Ethiopia and Kenya to gain an understanding of the work being carried out by CGIAR centers based in Africa and to identify best practices and information that can be used to strengthen the ongoing developmental programs in the state of Karnataka in India.

Interacting with representatives of the centers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Addis Ababa on 24 December, the Minister said, “Though the state of Karnataka made significant progress in improving the productivity of agriculture, in recent years, growth had stagnated. Intensive cultivation had led to a rapid decline in soil nutrient levels, leading to micronutrient deficiencies.

“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of ICRISAT and the State agricultural department, some of these issues were identified and corrective actions were taken. Karnataka has now returned to a positive growth rate in agriculture. This demonstrates the need for science-based interventions in identifying problems and in implementing appropriate solutions,” he added.

Mr Byre Gowda also stressed on the importance of improving agriculture in developing countries such as India and Ethiopia despite its diminishing share in GDP due to the sector’s crucial role as a source of livelihood for a majority of the poor people.

The interactions gave the Minister a clear overview of various projects and activities that the centers are pursuing in Ethiopia. Among the activities that were found to be highly relevant to the conditions in Karnataka include efforts on sustainable intensification through expansion of small-scale irrigation and strategic improvements in rainfed agricultural systems by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI); the soil health program of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); mapping of soil nutrient status using satellite imagery by the International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) in collaboration with US’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES) project of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with support from the Canadian International Development Agency and efforts to improve resilience of dryland systems by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).

Mr K Byre Gowda interacts with representatives of CGIAR centers with country offices in Ethiopia. Photo: ICRISAT
Mr Byre Gowda’s visit focused on wide ranging discussions with the representatives of eight CGIAR centers based in Ethiopia – ICRISAT, ILRI, IWMI, ICRAF, CIMMYT, ICARDA, Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The Minister also visited the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and met with its Director General Dr Fentahun Mengitsu, who briefed him about the Institute’s research network and major programs and those implemented by the Government of Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia has made significant progress in the past 10 to 15 years and is one of the few countries in Africa that is spending more than 10 per cent of the national budget on agriculture,” Dr Mengitsu explained. He went on to elucidate on his country’s historical relationship with India and its contribution to capacity building. The sustainable land management initiative, similar to the watershed programs in India, is one of the flagship programs currently being implemented by the Government of Ethiopia to support smallholder farmers.

Concluding the meeting, the Minister said: “Farmers in India and Ethiopia are facing very similar problems. Some of the problems that India is facing now could be Ethiopia’s problems in the future. There are lessons that each of us can borrow from the other’s work. A strong collaboration between the two countries will be mutually beneficial”.

The visit was organized by ICRISAT on behalf of the Consortium of CGIAR centers that is working closely with the Government of Karnataka, Ministry of Agriculture in implementing the “Bhoochetana Plus” program.

Mr Byre Gowda also visited farmers’ fields and a commercial flower farm near Holetta, in Ethiopia.

In Nairobi, Kenya, the Minister interacted with representatives of CGIAR centers located in the country. He toured the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) campus and interacted with the local farmers.

The visit was facilitated by Drs Moses Siambi, ICRISAT’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA); KPC Rao, Principal Scientist, ICRISAT; and NVPR Ganga Rao, Senior Scientist – Breeding, ICRISAT.

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