Formalizing the CGIAR and ICARDA’s partnership with Abu Dhabi

Formalizing the CGIAR and ICARDA’s partnership with Abu Dhabi


At a ceremony in Abu Dhabi late last year, ICARDA’s Director General, Dr. Mahmoud Solh, signed an agreement with H. E. Mr. Rashid Khalfan Al Shariqi, the Director General of Abu Dhabi’s Food Control Authority (ADFCA), which formalized the Emirate’s membership of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This was done in the presence of Dr. Tony Kalm, Deputy Head of the CGIAR’s Fund Office.

The move sets the stage for an advanced program of agricultural research activities designed to raise the productivity and sustainability of Abu Dhabi’s farmers who are forced to contend with extremely harsh and arid conditions.

In collaboration with Abu Dhabi’s Food Control Authority (ADFCA), ICARDA and the CGIAR will be rolling-out strategies to enhance extension and technology transfer systems – getting new technologies into the hands of farmers, fast; introducing integrated pest management; providing capacity strengthening programs that target ADFCA researchers and technicians; and promoting protected agriculture – optimizing growing conditions in greenhouses.

Also present at the ceremony were ADFCA staff and ICARDA’s Regional Coordinator for the Arabian Peninsula, Dr Azaiez Belgacem. ADFCA had selected ICARDA as the Emirate’s main collaborative CGIAR center, reflecting a close pre-existing relationship. Planned activities were subsequently formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding.

H. E. Mr. Rachid Khalfan Al-Shariqi (seated, left), of ADFCA, signing an MoU with ICARDA’s Director General, Dr. Mahmoud Solh (seated, right), in the presence of Dr. Tony Kalm, Deputy Head of the CGIAR’s Fund Office (Center).


Improving the effectiveness of agricultural research for development in North Africa

Improving the effectiveness of agricultural research for development in North Africa


The world faces a struggle to grow sufficient food for its growing population: food demand is expected to increase by 60 percent over the coming decades; while the actual cropping area is expected to grow by only 10 percent. Overcoming this deficit in food production will have to come from improvements in yields - by at least one percent annually.


Much of this increase will have to come from the Dry Areas. However, these regions, covering more than 40 percent of the world’s total agricultural area and home to more than 2.5 billion people, are also some of the most marginal environments in the world, characterized by frequent droughts, land degradation, and desertification.


ICARDA’s decentralization is an on-going effort to adjust to this reality – managing agricultural research and capacity development for increased efficiency and effectiveness. The Center has established research platforms and thematic research sites in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, and North Africa.


Within this framework, and to build upon and strengthen on-going research activities, ICARDA scientists met recently with partners and collaborators in North Africa to review the progress of their collaborations and plan a strategic research agenda that could help the region’s countries produce sufficient food against a backdrop of climate change and increasingly scarce water resources.


A discussion led by country representatives addressed three significant questions related to the region’s agricultural research for development: the main constraints to agricultural development; the relevance of agricultural research strategies; and the main impacts these research strategies have had on improving food security and the welfare of farmers.


The consensus suggested that while significant advances had taken place, research continued to lack a long-term, strategic view, was often too narrowly focused, and did not always involve non-research partners in the formulation of research needs and the mobilization of resources.


In response, working groups were formed to identify necessary improvements in the following areas: fund raising and partnerships; new opportunities for agricultural research and development; and capacity strengthening. A series of priority areas were also identified, including adaptation to climate change, drought, water scarcity, markets, strengthening technical and economic efficiencies, and capacity development, particularly among the region’s young agricultural professionals.


ICARDA has a number of on-going initiatives working across the North Africa region to raise production: the Food Security in Arab Countries Project, funded by the Kuwait Fund for Economic Development (KFED) and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD); Conservation Agriculture in North Africa, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Australian Center for International Agricultural Development (ACIAR); Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC), funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB); and the Middle East and North Africa Water and Livelihood Initiative (WLI), with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).




Using innovation platforms to promote wheat technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa

Using innovation platforms to promote wheat technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa


Scientists from the ICARDA-led SARD-SC initiative, funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), have been using the ‘innovation platform’ (IP) approach to demonstrate the usefulness of improved wheat varieties and technologies. Innovation platforms bring together individuals from different stages of an agricultural value chain to boost understanding and increase uptake of technological solutions.


Working with farmers and other stakeholders in three hub countries, the SARD-SC team has used the IP approach to showcase new wheat varieties and management techniques. During the same period, other SARD-SC partner countries in East, Southern and West Africa have starting adopting the IP approach.


In East and Southern Africa, the hub countries Ethiopia and Sudan have spearheaded the innovation platform approach. In Sudan, SARD-SC brought together more than 3,200 stakeholders, including policy makers, farmers, financial institutions, researchers, extension workers, and representatives from financial institutions and the media. SARD-SC also trained more than 160 individuals from the wheat value chain.


Field days demonstrated that high-performing varieties and new crop management techniques are capable of increasing yields by 1.5–4.8 t/ha. These increases have persuaded policy makers to triple Sudan’s wheat-growing area in order to reduce food imports and improve food security.


In Ethiopia, 2,394 farmers participated in IP demonstrations. Of these, SARD-SC selected 60 ‘champion’ farmers to produce wheat seed for sustainable production; more than 150 tonnes is expected.


Five other countries in East and Southern Africa have started to implement the IP approach: Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Eritrea. With the help of SARD-SC, farmers and other stakeholders in these countries have established new IPs. In addition, 450 farmers in Tanzania participated in ‘farmers’ field days’.


In West Africa, Nigeria has held three key IP events for a total of 175 participants. One of these events, a workshop jointly organized with the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), noted that Nigeria has seen a significant increase in wheat production as a result of interventions by SARD-SC and ATA.


Three other countries in West Africa have started to implement the IP approach: Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. In these countries, SARD-SC has held consultations with stakeholders and identified suitable sites for demonstrating new wheat technologies.


More information on the SARD-SC initiative can be found by visiting the Project’s website: http://sard-sc-wheat.icarda.org/


Innovation platforms are bringing together individuals from different stages of agricultural value chains.



Securing Arab Food Security

Securing Arab Food Security


Food security is a critical issue for the Arab World. The region struggles to produce sufficient food for its growing population – and as a consequence, is the largest cereal importer of cereals globally, exposing its people to the vagaries of global commodity markets. Change is therefore desperately needed.


ICARDA works across the Arab World to help its production systems rise to this challenge – despite the constraints posed by climate change and other constraints. In recent years, these activities have included two major research programs targeting the improved production of strategic crops – one funded by the European Union (EU) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) targeting food legumes, and the other promoting wheat production, with support from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD).          


The EU-IFAD funded food legumes initiative has tested, validated, and disseminated proven technologies and techniques to assist smallholder farmers; the AFESD wheat program is using large-scale interventions to improve yields and stabilize wheat production in dryland countries across North Africa and West Asia. Over the past few years the initiative has benefited over 25,000 farmers; achieved an average wheat yield increase of 28%; and introduced innovative practices such as Conservation Agriculture.


These successes were shared with delegates at the eleventh Arab Congress for Plant Protection, held in Amman, Jordan, late last year. Co-organized by the Arab Society of Plant Protection (ASPP) and the Balqaa Applied University, the event brought together over 300 participants from across the Arab World, Europe, and the United States.


ICARDA, represented by Dr. Majid Jamal, Assistant Director General, and Dr. Mustapha El Bouhssini, Entomologist within the Center’s Biodiversity and Integrated Gene Management (BIGM), met with HRH El Hassan Bin Talal, to brief the Prince on future plans for Jordan and the rest of the Middle East.


The Arab Food Security Project is using large-scale interventions to improve yields and stabilize wheat production across the Arab World.


New chickpea variety a ‘game-changer’ for Iran’s highland farmers

New chickpea variety a ‘game-changer’ for Iran’s highland farmers


Farmers across the highlands of Iran who rely on chickpea production face a number of constraints during the cold winter months, including extreme cold, ascochyta blight, and weed infestation. Yields suffer and many opt instead to plant in the spring and avoid crop failure.


In collaboration with Iran’s Agricultural Research Education and Extension organization (AREEO), ICARDA has released a new variety of high-yielding winter chickpea, which is tolerant of cold temperatures and resistant to ascochyta blight. The variety – named ‘Saral’ – is being disseminated to farmers across the highland regions of West and North-West Iran.


In trials over the past twelve years, Saral has achieved a mean yield of 1350 kg/hectare – a 25 percent increase over local varieties. Coupled with integrated pest management practices, the variety could be a game-changer for farmers - promising higher and more stable yields, and greater incomes. Adoption would also improve water productivity – helping to achieve ‘more crop per drop’ – and enhance soil health.


Saral was developed from a single cross – ILC3470 X ILC8617 – and selected as FLIP00-86C at ICARDA, before being shared with Iran’s Dryland Agricultural Research Institute (DARI).


The high-yielding winter chickpea variety, Saral, can tolerate extreme cold, and is resistant to ascochyta blight.