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Strategies formulated for semi-arid regions

By G. Venkataramani

CHENNAI, FEB. 14 . The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), at Patancheru in Andhra Pradesh has formulated strategies to alleviate poverty in the semi-arid tropics of Asia and Sub-Saharan region.

It has initiated programmes to strengthen its position as the centre of excellence for biotechnology and crop improvement for Asia, and for integrated genetic and natural resources management in sub-Saharan Africa.

"We are moving forward with renewed dynamism towards scientific excellence in our service to the poor people living in the semi-arid tropics of the world," the ICRISAT Director General, William D. Dar, said here recently.

The Asia programme will focus on biotechnology and crop improvement (BCI) using upstream science and newer tools. "ICRISAT will strengthen strategic partnerships with the private sector, and help in capacity-building for BCI in the national agricultural research systems and the non-governmental organisations. Brokering knowledge and germplasm transfer and extracting international public goods from applied research will be part of our overall strategy to accomplish this," Dr. Dar said.

The Africa programme will concentrate on developing new varieties of ICRISAT-mandate crops suited to the natural endowments of the region. "It will foster dynamic interventions such as market-oriented production and value-addition for small farmers. There will be strategic partnerships with international, regional and national organisations in the public and private sector," he said.

The biotechnology research carried out at the Patancheru centre is also targeted at the needs of the African farmers, and it has already developed some products that can be transferred to Africa for testing and evaluation purposes.

As part of the biotechnology initiative in Asia, ICRISAT has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Andhra Pradesh to set up an agri-biotech park, which will be a part of the State Government's Genome Valley Project, according to Dr. Dar.

ICRISAT's other initiative at Patancheru is the commissioning of an agri-business incubator, which will help in the blooming of agri-business ideas.

The incubator project was initiated with corpus funds from the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India and infrastructure facilities of ICRISAT. "Entrepreneurs can use this facility to test technologies before they can be commercialised," he said.

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