Responding to the call for game-changing, sustainable agricultural innovations and showing how thinking out of the box can feed the world, ICRISAT shared its big ideas and innovations, such as the crucial role of agribusiness and entrepreneurship to build the economy, at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA).
“We at ICRISAT are working to create global awareness and build competencies on agribusiness incubation to promote start-up agribusiness ventures for the benefit of farmers by establishing agribusiness incubators. This, we believe, is one of the keys to our Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) strategy.”
This view was expressed by ICRISAT Director General Dr William D. Dar as one of the panelists in the plenary session on “Africa: The Frontier for Arid Farming” at the GFIA held on 3-5 February in Abu Dhabi.
“ICRISAT already has a proven model for agribusiness incubation based on our experience in setting up 22 agribusiness incubators in India, the same model that is now being adopted in setting up 6 incubators in Africa, the first one of which was launched recently in Mali. Five food processing business incubator centers and five food testing laboratories will also be set up in Africa through the initiative of the Government of India,” Dr Dar said.
“Our IMOD strategy to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation includes the development of equitable, sustainable, and resilient systems that connect African subsistence farmers to higher-value markets,” Dr Dar added.
Dr Dar then shared ICRISAT’s scientific innovations that can be scaled up to boost smallholder agriculture productivity, create jobs and improve livelihoods, as well as strategies to facilitate public-private partnerships and knowledge transfer, and create investment opportunities for smallholder farmers.
ICRISAT is now working on the Big Ideas concept, a collection of ICRISAT innovations and avenues for partnerships to tackle the biggest hurdles and opportunities critical for the development of agriculture and agribusiness in the drylands. Some of these ‘big ideas’ include: building climate resilient communities, a model for sustainable management of natural resources, dryland cereals and grain legumes breeds for the future, empowering women, center of excellence in nutrition and food safety, nutritional security for rural communities, ICT agro-advisories , and new opportunities for business and development.
GFIA 2014 with the theme “Driving Innovation for an Agricultural Revolution” served to showcase innovations and new technologies needed to drive the future of global agriculture. It brought together an unprecedented array of world-renowned innovators, investors, food producers, retailers, governments, scientists, and non-government and agricultural organizations. The multi-faceted event included an exhibition with over 125 exhibitors plus a 1,800-delegate conference comprising keynote sessions, panel discussions, an African Ministerial discussion and 150 innovation presentations by 180 speakers.
Addressing the assembled dignitaries via video address at the opening ceremony, Mr Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, used his speech to emphasize the significance of technological innovation in combating the problems of the poor.
“In a world where most of the poorest are farmers, investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty. To help the poorest seize agriculture’s potential, we need to unleash as much innovation as possible,” said Mr Gates.
Dr Frank Rijsberman, Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium, focused his message on why dry areas should invest massively on innovation to ensure food security. “History shows us that the most effective route to keeping global food prices low is to massively increase investment in agricultural innovations,” said Dr Rijsberman.
At the conference, Dr Dar took the opportunity to hold a series of Ministerial discussions with delegations led by: HE Rashid Pelpuo, Minister of State Private Sector Development and Public Private Partnerships, Ghana; HE Robert K Sichinga, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Zambia; and Ms. Anna Olivia, Agriculture Secretary, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya.
During the event, the African agribusiness incubation network initiated by UniBRAIN – Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in association with ICRISAT was launched by Dr Dar, along with Prof Wale Adekunle, Director of Partnership, FARA; Mr Alex Ariho, Facility Coordinator, UniBRAIN, and ICRISAT’s Agribusiness and Innovation Platform (AIP) team led by its CEO, Dr Kiran Sharma. This initiative will enhance the promotion and development of agribusiness incubation network in Africa through capacity building and communication on opportunities, and will be an association partner of the Global Agri-Business Incubation (GABI) network.
Dr KK Sharma also organized a round table session on “A developmental model of linking youth and women entrepreneurs: leveraging mutual strengths.” The session attracted a large number of delegates and was attended by Dr Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary, Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR); Mr Raman Sehgal, Managing Director, Misr Seeds, Egypt; Mr Alex Ariho, Facility Coordinator, UniBRAIN, FARA, Ghana; and Mr Amit Mehra, Founder and CEO, Reuters Market Light, India.
Dr K Sharma served as one of the members of the GFIA Steering Committee responsible for mapping out the GFIA agenda, composed of 20 international experts in the fields of academia, research and development, science, industry and investment.
Along with Drs Dar and Sharma, S Karuppanchetty and Aravazhi Selvaraj of AIP participated in the three-day event. ICRISAT also set up an exhibit booth during the conference showcasing AIP’s activities, services and achievements in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and joined in the CGIAR Consortium booth.