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2-Plants: ICRISAT launches new non-GE fast-maturing and drought-resistant crops

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TITLE:  New Crops that could Help Prevent Famine Launched
SOURCE: Reuters, by George Obulutsa
DATE:   22 Sep 2005

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New Crops that could Help Prevent Famine Launched

NAIROBI - A research group on Wednesday launched newly developed fast-
maturing and drought-resistant crops it said could help prevent the type
of food shortages experienced in West and Central Africa.

The India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid
Tropics (ICRISAT) said new varieties of "pearl millet" and "pigeon pea"
crops were now available for use by poor farmers in semi-arid areas.

"The famine in West Africa could have been averted or could have been
reduced significantly with the use of science and technology," ICRISAT's
West Africa director Saidou Koala told a news conference in Nairobi
during the crops' launch.

"We, from ICRISAT, have developed millet varieties that, if they were
used, would have contributed to offset the negative effects that we have
seen on television," he added.

Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali have all been suffering food
shortages this year, with images of malnourished and starving children
again shocking the world.

About 300 million people worldwide -- including 80 million in sub-Saharan
African -- earn their livings from agriculture in dry non-irrigated
areas. But governments were neglecting them, ICRISAT said.

A non-profit body that researches crops grown in semi-arid areas for
cultivation by poor farmers, ICRISAT works in 48 developing countries
affected by arid conditions. It is funded by over 50 governments,
foundations and development banks.

"Today dry land farming is not very well endowed in terms of investment
by governments," said William Dar, ICRISAT's director-general. "Out of
every $10 for example, they are only investing $2 to $3 to dryland
farming while the rest is invested in irrigation agriculture."

Governments worldwide put only scant investment into agriculture because
they treat it as if it were for subsistence only, another ICRISAT member said.

"Farming is a business. If you do not invest in dryland farming, you keep
the subsistence farmer subsistent," said Ozu Mokwunye, chairman of
ICRISAT governing board.


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