Drought-tolerant crops need to be promoted on large scale to fight poverty, world food crisis, says director general for International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

Andrew Rogers

Andrew Rogers

HYDERABAD, India , October 18, 2011 (press release) – With nearly a billion people malnourished, and 70 million more people pushed into extreme poverty throughout the world by the current rising food prices, ICRISAT further elevates its role as a bridge, broker and catalyst in the fight against global poverty and hunger.

On this year’s World Food Day (16 October) and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October), ICRISAT takes a serious look at its mission in reducing poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the dryland tropics through partnership-based international agricultural research-for-development on five highly nutritious, drought-tolerant crops – chickpea, pigeonpea, pearl millet, sorghum and groundnut.

Most of the world’s poor and malnourished are smallholder farmers, particularly in the dryland tropics of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. ICRISAT works across these regions which are homes to more than 600 million poorest of the poor. The dryland tropics are characterized by very low yields, degraded soils and poor social and physical infrastructure. With existing knowledge and technology, ICRISAT and its partners worldwide have proven that the average yields of its nutritious and climate-resilient crops can be increased two to three-folds.

Since ICRISAT’s inception in 1972, over 735 improved crop varieties have been released with partners in more than 78 countries, contributing to sharp increases in crop productivity.

Aligned with this year’s poverty eradication day theme "From Poverty to Sustainability: People at the Centre of Inclusive Development," ICRISAT Director General William D Dar stressed on the need for inclusive market-oriented approach to fight poverty and hunger.

“To fight poverty and the world food crisis, we need to promote drought-tolerant crops on a large scale, convince farmers that these are their best bets for higher income, and enable them to set up strategic food reserves to cope with future crises in food,” he emphasized.

Through a strategy called Inclusive Market-Oriented Development or IMOD, ICRISAT seeks to help the poorest of the poor to connect to markets and enable them to achieve sustainable food security, as well as to reduce the vulnerability of dryland communities especially during emergencies like drought.

Along this line, Dr Dar added that the international development community must go beyond quick fix solutions by pursuing science-based sustainable approaches to fight poverty and hunger.

In India, over the last three decades, the collaborative research between ICRISAT and national partners has resulted in the improvement of pulses production in the country. From 1976-2010, 197 improved varieties of sorghum (35), pearl millet (80), chickpea (37), pigeonpea (20) and groundnut (26) have been released by ICRISAT with Indian partners, raising production and incomes of millions of smallholder farmers.

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