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Promoting sustainable feed resources in North Africa and West Asia

ICARDA is working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to initiate a new research for development network that will assess livestock feed supplies and consumption rates across the Near East and North Africa (NENA). The availability of feed is a critical problem within the region: increasing demand for livestock products imposes a significant strain on feed resources, and a combination of bio-physical factors – including scarcity of land, the limited availability of soil and water, and climate change – are challenging the sustainability of feed production systems.


The network – the Near East and North Africa Animal Feed Network – is a critical component in efforts to target sustainable feed production, providing the information that countries will need to effectively manage this resource. Feed assessments are not currently available in most NENA countries, and where they are available, tend to be outdated or limited in scope.      


Outlined at a recent regional workshop in Muscat, Oman, the network will pursue the following objectives: produce regularly updated inventories of feedstuffs with chemical compositions and nutritional values; characterize and map feeding systems; monitor prices and the trade of feed and feed ingredients; assess and forecast feed demand and supply; develop guidelines on feed resource management and feeding strategies; and serve as a platform for the exchange of information.


Regional experts also identified knowledge gaps in feed assessments and the efforts needed to improve the characterization of feeding systems in NENA countries – discussions were subsequently held on appropriate methodologies and approaches and participants promised to finalize a standardized feed assessment by June 2014.


Planned initiatives to be taken forward by the Network include up-scaling and expanding knowledge on the use of salt and drought-tolerant plant species; the promotion of crop-livestock integrated systems with a focus on water-efficient plants; the restoration of rangelands; and the utilization of locally-adapted indigenous plant species.


Increasing demand for livestock products is imposing a severe strain on feed resources across the Near East and North Africa



Boosting domestic food production in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s growing dependence on food imports undermines its national food security and exposes ordinary Afghans to the vagaries of global commodity markets. Particularly vulnerable are the poor who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on food consumption - a sudden price hike could mean millions struggling to afford even the most basic food like bread or rice.


Conscious of this threat - and the social, political, and economic consequences it would generate – have spurred Afghanistan’s government into action. The country has declared food and nutritional security a top national priority and initiated efforts to boost domestic production and thereby reduce demand for food imports, estimated to total around 1 million tons every year.


ICARDA is supporting this endeavor through an IFAD-funded project that targets improved crop, feed and vegetable production. The Center is also contributing to the release of improved, high-yielding crop varieties and strengthening seed production systems, establishing 12 village-based seed enterprises. This 6.82 million USD initiative is being rolled-out across the provinces of Kabul, Logar, and Parwan, and targets 80,000 male and female farmers.       


The initiative is also focused on raising the capacity of scientists within Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL). In addition to training, national scientists will be empowered to take the lead after a period of two years.  ICARDA will provide continual support and technical backstopping as and when needed.


This is the latest in a series of collaborations with the ministry, which have encompassed a broad range of research activities, including livestock production, the promotion of drought-resistant wheat and food legumes, dairy processing, and water harvesting. ICARDA has also successfully facilitated the participation of women in training opportunities and capacity development initiatives.


The Project was recently launched at a function in Kabul, chaired by Afghanistan’s Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, Mr. Asif Rahimi, and attended by other notables, including the Deputy Minister, members of parliament, and the representatives of key international donors and organizations.


The project was launched at a function chaired by Mr. Asif Rahimi, Afghanistan's Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (Center-left)



Heat-tolerant legume varieties prosper in Sudan

Trials of heat-tolerant food legumes are demonstrating significant potential in Sudan, where ICARDA scientists are conducting on-farm demonstrations of faba beans, lentils, and chickpea varieties. Introduced alongside a package of interventions – including irrigation, integrated pest management, and Rhizobia inoculation – the varieties have doubled the yields that Sudanese farmers normally receive. In the case of improved chickpea, for instance, the varieties are generating an average yield of 3.5 tons per hectare.


These trials are being conducted as part of an initiative funded by the European Union (EU) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which tests, validates, and disseminates proven innovations to assist wheat and food legume farmers across West Asia and North Africa (WANA). The impressive performance of the varieties developed in Sudan – an ICARDA research hub for the production of heat-tolerant crops – was recently demonstrated to more than 300 farmers at five farmer field days in Nile River State and Al-Gezira.


Given that food legume production is often held back by a lack of technology and the limited application of new innovations, the EU-IFAD funded initiative is introducing mechanization to participating faba bean and chickpea farmers. The Project is promoting mechanical harvesting as a key component of its efforts to raise production. A capacity development program on the use of this technology will be rolled-out over the coming months.


The Project’s efforts to stabilize production and strengthen food security are being applied at targeted research sites in WANA countries. Successful interventions will be scaled-up and extended to farmers globally.


Faba bean varieties capable of tolerating high temperatures were demonstrated to farmers as part of an integrated package of interventions



ICARDA participates at major agricultural forum in India

ICARDA recently participated in the National Agricultural Fair, organized by India’s Ministry of Agriculture, which establishes a national science-policy dialogue and showcases new technologies and innovations with the potential to raise farmer productivity.


Attended by more than 700,000 farmers and key stakeholders from State and Federal governments, ICARDA used the occasion to present a paper on pulse production, arguing that a combination of improved varieties, quality seed, and new technologies could drive productivity growth, increase farmer incomes, and ultimately strengthen nutritional security.


The paper drew on the Center’s recent efforts to develop and distribute micronutrient-rich cultivars throughout countries in South Asia. The ‘systems’ or holistic approach presented in the paper is the key characteristic defining ICARDA’s approach to agricultural research for development throughout the world’s dry areas, including in India, where it is being applied at a recently-established research innovation platform, part of the Center’s decentralization.   


The technologies introduced by ICARDA to Indian farmers were also exhibited at the fair, including improved varieties of lentil, grasspea, chickpea, and barley. Cactus plants received significant attention from attending farmers. ICARDA is promoting this versatile, water-efficient, and nutrient-rich plant for animal feed. In addition to it being a sustainable alternative to traditional forage, cactus can be consumed by humans – in a fresh or processed form, anything from cosmetics to jelly and pickles.         


For more information on ICARDA’s research activities in South Asia visit:


The versatility and unique potential of cactus plants in India were discussed with farmers



Enhancing wheat research in Central and West Asia

The International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) is a key player in regional efforts to boost wheat production and strengthen the food security of an estimated 20 million wheat-dependent poor people living within its reach.


A joint program between the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and ICARDA, the facility distributes winter wheat germplasm to some 100 partners in 50 countries every year. In recent years more than 42 winter wheat varieties originating from IWWIP have been released, in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Iran and Tajikistan. 


An injection of new funding is set to strengthen the performance of this Turkey-based resource, increasing the development and exchange of winter wheat germplasm throughout Central and West Asia.The funding – provided by the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat – has upgraded the Program’s seed health facilities, strengthened key infrastructure, and provided more opportunities for staff training, including advanced pathology and seed health courses. A new seed heath unit will substantially enhance seed cleaning, washing, and treatment, ensuring that distributed seed meets the highest international seed health requirements.     


For more information on the International Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP) visit:


The extra funding will strengthen the work of IWWIP, enhancing the development and distribution of winter wheat varieties across Central and West Asia