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Demand-driven Innovation for the Drylands to “deliver better nutrition for you and economic opportunity for smallholder farmers”

Moving up the value chain through processing

Dr. David Bergvinson is the Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), which conducts agricultural research for rural development in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Bergvinson has worked in international agriculture research for over 25 years and focuses on applying technology to improve lives and crops.

The original goal of ICRISAT was to improve food availability in drought-prone areas. More recently, this goal has shifted to include creating and sustaining rural livelihoods. The organization combines crop commodity research, including specialized breeding and integrated genetics, with natural resource management practices.

Food Tank (FT): What are some of the challenges faced by farmers in the semi-arid tropics and how is ICRISAT working to overcome them?

David Bergvinson (DB): Dryland areas of the world face high levels of poverty, malnutrition, and environmental degradation. The challenges faced by farmers in the drylands of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia are many. Climate variability manifests in extreme weather events and shifts rainfall patterns (intensity, onset, and duration). Arable land loss and depleting soil nutrients on available land. Water stress as agriculture consumes over 70 percent of the available fresh water. Lack of access to improved seeds, fertilizers, farm equipment, and other essential inputs, such as extension services, to optimally use inputs to maximize profit and reduce risk. Lack of access to credit, insurance, and markets. Resource scarcity as farmers lack the means to invest in technology. High transaction costs due to information asymmetry. Lastly, agriculture is not attractive to youth—we urgently need to make the agrifood sector a viable business for women and youth.

ICRISAT works on multiple fronts using a holistic approach as shown in the diagram below:

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Read further the whole interview and learn more about :

ICRISAT focuses on the entire agricultural value chain. Why is this important instead of just focusing on production?

How can digital technology improve the lives of smallholder farmers and consumers?

How is climate change expected to affect agriculture in the semi-arid tropics and how can farmers adapt?

A focus of international agriculture development is on providing cheap calories at the expense of a diverse, nutritious food supply. How can this system be improved?

How can smallholder agriculture compete with international companies?

With increased urbanization and globalization, what do you think is the future of semi-arid tropical agriculture?

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