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Chairman J.S. Kanwar
Relevant interface research at ICRISAT
Interfaces: present and future
Interactions in food technology, agriculture, and nutrition
Research and development efforts to raise food production
Technological considerations in evolving strategies for varietal development of food grains
Generating multidisciplinary action: the importance of interface activity between agriculture, food science, and nutrition
The Role of Science and Technology
The approach for developing countries
The post-harvest phases
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, Patancheru. India
I have great pleasure in extending a warm welcome to the distinguished group of scientists who have responded to our invitation to participate in this workshop, which we consider a new milestone in our international co-operation.
It is praiseworthy that four leading research organizations, two of them international - the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the United Nations University (UNU) - and two national - the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) - have arranged this joint workshop to focus attention on the interfaces between agriculture, nutrition, and food sciences. ICRISAT has a mandate for crop research that aims at high and stable yields consistent with better quality in sorghum, pearl millet, pigeon-pea. chick-pea, and groundnut. NIN focuses its attention on human nutrition, CFTRI on food science, and the UN University on research and education in related fields. I am happy that this group of experts is assembling today to look at the interfaces between agriculture. nutrition, and food science, to help alleviate hunger in the world.
This is not the first workshop of its kind that has been sponsored by the UN University. Others have been held in Nigeria, the Philippines, and Guatemala. However, none of these covered the crops of concern to ICRISAT. nor did they touch on the problems of the semi-arid tropics and of the countries represented in today's workshop. This workshop will focus attention on food grains that form the staple diet of about 800 million people in the semi-arid tropics, but restrict its comments to the Indian subcontinent and its neighbouring countries. The workshop will review existing knowledge on the interaction between agriculture, nutrition, and food science, and evolve strategies for coordinated action. It will also aim at maximizing the utilization of existing resources through interaction between agricultural production, post-harvest technology, and its application to human nutrition.
Three other workshops held at ICRISAT in the last two weeks have set the stage for this one: the International Workshop on Sorghum Grain Quality, the International
Workshop on the Sorghum Millet Information Centre (SMIC). and the International Workshop on Sorghum in the Eighties.
All three are relevant to this one since they have looked at the problems of grain quality and nutrition in sorghum. One interface that is often overlooked relates to the dissemination of information to users; it is heartening that the Workshop on the SMIC has looked at this aspect critically. The problems and strategies for research and development in sorghum in the world have been examined by the other two workshops. Thus they provide an ideal setting for today's workshop.
Hunger and starvation caused by national disasters or political crises are not major problems in the world today. The true hunger problem of our time is chronic undernutrition - the problem of millions of men, women, and children who do not get enough to eat. This is a problem that does not make headlines, perhaps because the hungry have little or no political power and are not able to exert pressure on their own behalf. But the toll of malnutrition is immense. The US Presidential Commission on World Hunger in 1980 concluded that hunger is at least as much a political, economic, and social challenge as it is a scientific or technological one. In the Commission's estimate, as many as 800 million people do not get enough to eat each day and many more suffer from specific varieties of malnutrition.
It goes on to state that malnutrition - which results when people consume fewer calories and less proteins than their bodies need in order to live active healthy lives - diminishes physical and mental capabilities and makes people less energetic, less productive, and less able to learn. Malnutrition also increases susceptibility to diseases. At least one out of four children in the developing world dies before the age of five, mostly through nutrition-related causes, and 100,000 children go blind every year due to malnutrition, more particularly, deficiency of vitamin A. Those affected most by hunger are children and women, and the rural and urban poor. Sometimes benign governments do provide cheap food to urban poor, or fix lower prices for farm produce, which acts as a disincentive for increased food production and starts a chain reaction of more food shortage, malnutrition, poverty, and international indebtedness.
Most of the world's hungry live in the Indian subcontinent, South-East Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Many also live in the Middle East and parts of Latin America.
Despite the severity of the hunger problem its true dimensions are not understood for a variety of reasons.
Hunger offers the single most powerful point of intervention in the world of underdevelopment, poverty, unemployment, disease, and high rates of population growth.
The World Bank report lists the Indian subcontinent, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Burma, amongst the poorest countries of the world, with an average gross national product below US$250 per capita per annum. This is the region where the population explosion is among the highest and the calorie intake lowest. Not only is total food availability lowest, but even the quality of food is very poor and nutritionally imbalanced. Take India: the availability of pulses, which are the main source of protein for a majority of the population, has decreased from 60 9 daily per capita in 1950 to about 30 9 in 1980.
Future projections by Wortman and Cummings (1978) show that the food deficits in 1990 in India will be of the order of 18 to 21 million tonnes; in Bangladesh, 6.4 to 8.7; in Burma, 2.1 to 2.3, protein availability will fall still further. Unless these countries increase the productivity of the land twice as much as in the past, these shortages will not be reduced. No doubt India turned the corner by more than doubling its food production in the last 30 years, but, unfortunately, the population also has more than doubled in the same period and we are once again importing food. The production of pulses and groundnut has remained virtually stagnant, thus causing serious reduction in the availability of proteins per capita.
The rapid urbanization and accelerated demand for milk, vegetables, and meat in urban areas is also seriously affecting the quality of food available to rural dwellers. Even the dairy development projects are accentuating this phenomenon.
A few of the grey areas that should receive the attention of research scientists but do not, are:
- Non-conventional types of grain. Red sorghums are reported to be less vulnerable to pests, diseases, and birds because of a high tannin level; probably they also have a high yield potential. The Indian subcontinent is biased towards white or yellow sorghum. The technologists should be able to offer inexpensive technology for making red sorghum also acceptable. We can take a cue from the Sudan and Senegal.
- Biological evaluation. ICRISAT has no facilities for biological evaluation of food. It would be excellent if NIN could join hands with ICRISAT in evaluating the breeding material on a routine basis to provide a sound basis for genetic engineering.
- Consumer acceptance. Dr. Murthy has initiated an international panel testing programme to ascertain the opinion of the consumers in different countries. It would be excellent if our neighbours were also willing to join in this testing programme so that acceptable material could then be considered by the countries concerned for production and distribution.
- Nutritional imbalances. The diet of the people does not consist of cereals alone. Could a co-ordinated effort be made to monitor the quality of diet of different sections of the society to see what other factors should be considered in our calculations? We have some evidence that the farmers have numerous ways of balancing their diets; this is worth studying.
- Mycotoxins. In the whole of this region groundnut and pulses are important foods. The problem of mycotoxins that can affect the quality of food needs joint study by food scientists, nutritionists, and agricultural scientists.
I do hope that this workshop will help in building bridges to facilitate joint efforts to solve the problems of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty of the region.
Many problems could be jointly tackled by the sponsors of this workshop. What we need is clear identification of common interests, working out joint programmes, and pooling resources. On behalf of ICRISAT, I can say that we would be happy to extend all co-operation in joint programmes of mutual interest to any of the participant scientists or institutions.
I have great pleasure in extending you my warm welcome. I thank the UN University, the Director of CFTRI, the Director of NIN, and the Director-General of ICRISAT, for making this workshop possible, and all of you for your participation.
I hope you will find the discussions useful and your stay enjoyable.
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics, Patancheru, India
I was extremely interested to read the worthwhile and comprehensive objectives of this workshop. On behalf of ICRISAT, I wish to confirm our whole-hearted support for it. We are all aware of the doleful projections being made for food supplies in developing countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly in Africa and Asia. We are aware also of the consequent fall in nutritional standards that can be expected. There is widespread concern and a spectrum of views on how the situation can be improved. Recently, we had a workshop at ICRISAT in which projections were made of total production for the sorghum crops for the 1980s and early 1990s. These showed quite clearly that in eastern Africa there was a slight positive trend in production of 0.95 per cent - but the population growth was 3.28 per cent. In West Africa the trend was disastrous - a negative 0.39 per cent for production and a population growth even higher, at 3.45 per cent. In India, which is a very bright spot, there is a positive production trend of 0.5 per cent, but the population growth at the moment is 1.73 per cent.
I hope that in the next two or three days we will be able to gain an insight into the possible approaches to solving the difficult problems that face us and identify areas where contacts between agriculture, nutrition, and food science are possible. Such interfaces and co-operation will be, of course, of vital importance in tackling the problems that now exist. In spite of voices raised in some quarters that land availability for production has reached its ceiling and that we are at the limits to possible technological improvements, I have no doubt that even with existing knowledge, significant increases in production and quality can be achieved. Much can also be achieved by increased research, and this fact is reflected in the confidence that the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) showed in setting up ICRISAT as one of 13 international centres of agricultural research.
The ICRISAT mandate is in many ways a difficult one, since it seeks to serve the semi-arid areas of the world where there is a pronounced and prolonged dry season of 4 1/2 to 7 1/2 months. These areas are notorious for their sparse and erratic rainfall and poor soils-areas where economic development has been limited, conditioned, in part at least, by their relative resource poverty. ICRISAT, in contrast to other institutes in the CGIAR. which concentrates on relatively few crops, has five crops in its mandate - sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeon-pea, and groundnut. These five crops provide the sustenance for a very large proportion of the population of between 600 and 800 million people living in the semi-arid areas of 48 countries, most of which are classified as developing, or, according to the latest classification, as least developed countries. Yet these crops, except perhaps for groundnut, have received very little research attention. The Institute includes in its mandate the important task of both examining the farming systems associated with these crops and developing new strategies to increase production and to identify and alleviate the socio-economic constraints to such increased production. In the nine years since the Institute began functioning - in old buildings in the village that formerly occupied its present site - many improvements have been made. Already improved genetic material is being supplied to the national programmes in India and elsewhere for widespread testing, and some material is already being released.
As an important part of ICRISAT efforts, a network of co-operating centres has been set up in various parts of the world. ICRISAT scientists work in Africa in various areas - Senegal, Mali, the Upper Volta, the Niger, Nigeria, the Sudan, and the United Republic of Tanzania. We also have a programme in the Syrian Arab Republic, as many of you may know, working on chick-pea and one in Mexico working on cold-tolerant sorghums suitable for use in tortillas as a substitute for maize. A range of disciplines is covered at Hyderabad and overseas. Many types of interaction exist between our breeders, physiologists, and entomologists. It is important, in our view, to look forward and develop further these multidisciplinary interfaces to the nutrition and food science area.
An important area of work at ICRISAT is to gather together the building blocks of improved cultivars, the available germplasm. Thus sorghum and millet germplasm are the raw materials with which we work, and they contain a range of cryptic characteristics for nutritional factors such as proteins and minerals and storability, in addition to resistances to stress factors. We are regularly mounting collection trips and steadily increasing the number of accessions. It is important to conserve germplasm for the future, as many lines are being lost with the introduction of new cultivars, which push out existing landraces. We are also collecting germplasm of the other three crops, in addition to that for sorghum and millets. Some work at ICRISAT in the groundnut crop involves utilization in breeding programmes of wild close relatives of cultivated groundnuts, as these have important disease-resistant characteristics not present in cultivated types.
Another area where work is being carried out is in entomology and, paradoxically, we are doing a certain amount of work on actually feeding and breeding pest insects. Techniques have been developed for rearing insects for use in our fields, so that we can submit the germplasm and breeding lines to very heavy insect attack to identify resistance genes. In addition, we are studying the factors related to the ecology and biology of the pest insects on the crop. An insect trap has been devised in which we are using female pheromones to attract pest insects and thereby get some idea of the numbers of the pests present at certain crucial crop periods. The chemicals may possibly be developed for use in control at a later date.
In the field of plant pathology one of the very important diseases being studied at ICRISAT is downy mildew, which has had a serious effect on millet production. Our physiologists are also looking at various aspects of this crop including its drought-resistance characteristics. Another serious disease that is being looked at is sorghum downy mildew. We are developing various methods of screening so that we can pick out resistant lines to both disease and drought and thereby increase the yields.
We are very fortunate at ICRISAT in having available on the site both red soil, which is so common in the semi-arid tropics, and black soil. We are examining fertilization techniques and water-retention characteristics and experimenting on management of these soils. We are very pleased that some of the work in this research area is already being put to use on farmers' fields in India. Besides these studies, we are of course working on inter-cropping, which is an extremely important part of the farming systems of resource-poor farmers in the semi-arid tropics. We are examining the effect of plant populations and different crop combinations on yields. In this programme, we are looking in addition at improved methods of mechanization to enable easier cultivation of larger areas to timely sowing of the crop to increase yields. A whole range of types of machinery is being developed and tested.
One of the very important problems constantly touched on in the literature is that of the abnormal rise in fertilizer costs. Our microbiology unit is looking at nodulation in groundnut and at rhizobia in cereals to see how yields can be improved without fertilizers, and study what effects legumes have on subsequent fertility of the soil.
In the Economics Programme village-level studies are being carried out, in which staff members are actually posted in the villages to enable us to get an insight into the complex systems that the farmers use to ensure adequate food supplies for themselves and their families. Resource allocation is often far more carefully worked out than is imagined. Important in this context are marketing systems. I believe that this is one area that has not been fully covered in the formal programme before this workshop. I hope that in discussions this important programme area will be examined from the point of view of constraints placed on production by marketing systems.
Of particular interest to this group is the fact that our breeding programmes are paying attention to traditional food preparations. Our programme in Mexico is looking at qualities necessary for sorghums for use in preparation of tortillas, and our programme in Africa at sorghums for to, ugali, and kisra, among others. We ask our trainees from all over the world to help us with early taste evaluations on our early-generation breeding material. A conference here two weeks ago looked particularly at the situation with regard to food quality and covered various points from mould deterioration to satisfactory kernel characteristics. Work at the Hyderabad Centre has been concerned with the protein characteristics of cereals and pulses, and we will hear more about this later in some of the papers.
Before closing I must mention a very important part of our work here, that of training. It is only through having skilled, competent, and confident people in strong national research programmes that genuine improvements will be obtained in production and research in food crops. We have been privileged to receive a large number of trainees from all over the world in various categories. The trainees range in qualifications from young high school graduates to Ph.D.'s, from production men to research scientists seeking specialized training in the very latest techniques relative to their disciplines. So far, in the short time that we have been functioning, 32 research fellows from 32 countries, 57 research scholars from 18 countries, and in all 326 people from 54 countries have passed through our in-service training. The numbers, however, are very small compared with the magnitude of the task that we are facing, particularly in Africa.
On behalf of ICRISAT I wish you all a very stimulating and useful meeting in achieving the worthy aims of this conference.
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