Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Agricultural revolution in Africa in the offing: Icrisat to set up technology incubators

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Indian scientists and farmers have geared up to
play a major role in converting barren Africa into a granary of future
food needs of humanity.

The Indian agricultural experiment, which pushed the country from
“begging bowl” to “granary godowns”, will be replicated in Africa to
boost agricultural production in the backward continent. “In the next
few years we hope Africa will be able to feed itself, and then it will
grow to feed the world,” said Ms Idit Miller, vice-president, Growing
Partnerships for Africa (EMRC).

The city-based International Crops Research Institute for the
Semi-Arid Tropics (Icrisat) is going to set up five agricultural
technology business incubators across the African continent to boost
agricultural growth there. “Africa has many untapped reserves while
India has many success stories from agriculture. Vast stretches of
land in Africa are yet to be utilised to their potential. If Indian
seed companies go there, new crops can be introduced,” said Dr Kiran K
Sharma, principal scientist, Icrisat, and chief executive officer of
Agribusiness and Innovation Platform.

He said small innovations by Indian farmers and research strategies
and technologies by local scientists could be put to experiment in
Africa. Officials of African governments and African farmers on
Thursday interacted with Indian teams in the city to build a road map
for the future granary in the continent. Icrisat and EMRC conducted a
business-to-business meeting between Indian and African teams to
explore business opportunities in agriculture as part of the 2nd
Africa-India Agricultural Economic Mission.

Dr Kiran emphasized the need for India-Africa agricultural
coordination in research. He said India has 11 technology incubators
in agricultural universities and ICAR centres, the largest number of
such centres for any country in the world. The success rate for is as
high as 90 per cent in these centres. They are now being linked with
one another for transfer of technologies.

 Citing an example how small farmers could turn into producers of
branded seeds, Dr Kiran said about 70 farmers trained at Icrisat are
now able to produce seeds of legumes like groundnut, chickpea and
pigeon pea and selling them to other farmers. These high quality seeds
produced through natural pollination are now being commercially grown
in fields for the first time, and the results are quite encouraging.

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