India’s ace agricultural body, the ICRISAT will join hands with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC) to ensure greater use of technology and mutual sharing of resources and research outcome among eight countries in South Asia.

Announcing that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the SAC and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) today, 24 August, ICRISAT Director General Dr David Bergvinson said that SAARC’s initiative to harmonise standards for foods in the region will be very important and will help farmers realise better prices through transparent grades and standards.

“ICRISAT welcomes this partnership with SAARC to accelerate the release of proven crop production technologies across South Asia, especially improved varieties as has been done for rice. Apart from accelerated release of improved varieties, ICRISAT sees additional opportunities in sharing best practice in seed systems and can work with SAARC on their new Seed Bank. We are keen to work with SAARC to achieve these important outcomes that will benefit smallholder farmers’ access better technology and consumers in accessing better nutrition through diversified diets,” he said.

Hyderabad based ICRISAT will look for opportunities, along with SAC, to carry out joint research in areas of mutual interest by sharing existing resources and results reciprocally, as well as facilitate policy changes in National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) to speed up the process of varietal release and dissemination in the region.

Under the collaboration, new and appropriate technologies will be adopted for maximizing production and to increase sustained productivity in stress prone areas through the extensive SAARC network. This will help smallholder farmers to adopt these new and improved technologies to increase food production and raise their incomes in areas of limited water.

SAC director Dr. Shaikh Mohammad Bokhtiar, who was present when the MoU was signed, noted that one of the biggest challenges for the region is food and nutritional security. “We will be working with the region to pull together a regional strategy for food and nutrition. We are also very sensitive to climate change which is a big issue. Being rice growing countries the large use of ground water is a big issue. We are also using and depleting so many nutrients from the soil, which will be a big problem for the next generation,” he summed up.

This collaboration will significantly contribute to the medium-term food and nutritional security in the region. The poor people of these areas are also the most vulnerable to climate change and variability. These areas are typified by low productivity and inadequate capacity for coping with risk due to climate adversities, poor soil conditions, and a lack of farming skills, knowledge and poor management practices.

SAC is the first regional agriculture center of the SAARC and aims to accelerate the process of economic and social development among member countries through promotion of agricultural Research for Development as well as technology dissemination initiatives for sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation in the region.

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