The Highlands Regional Network coordinates collaborative activities in dry, medium to high altitude regions of West Asia and North Africa. The Network contributes to improving rural welfare in highland regions of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. The objectives of the Network are to:
- Improve crop production
- Provide options for farmers to diversify and improve their incomes
- Rehabilitate rangelands
- Strengthen research capacities.
Improving wheat yields in the winter wheat areas of the region
Turkey, CIMMYT, the CGIAR Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and ICARDA are partners in the International Winter Wheat Improvement Program (IWWIP), which aims to decentralize breeding and increase the speed of disseminating improved varieties.
More than 25 improved wheat varieties were released in the region that yield 10-30% more than the varieties farmers used previously.
Priorities for the region are to develop high yielding cultivars with tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses.
IWWIP provides genetic material to the breeding programs in the region in order to be used as direct cultivars or breeding materials in their breeding programs.
Human Resourse Development for NARS is an integral part of IWWIP, which provides training opportunities for NARS scientists.
Diversifying farm enterprises in the Taurus Mountains
Diversified farming in the Taurus Mountains resulting from this research program has raised farm incomes by up to 25%. This has been achieved through new crops introduced in the region, such as triticale and forage legumes, new varieties of wheat, barley and chickpea, and support to local enterprises to produce honey.
Agro-ecological zoning is being used to match crops to specific environments and give farmers opportunities to derive more profit from their land than they do at present.
Impact of new wheat cultivars in Turkey
New wheat cultivars’ impact have been determined in five provinces in Turkey. It has been found that yield was 20-30 % higher in new cultivars than older ones, and that the income of farmers who use the new cultivars were much higher than farmers still reliant on the old cultivars.
Both resource-poor and rich farmers were benefiting from the new cultivars’ extra income generation.
Improving dryland productivity in the Iranian highlands
In Iran, new varieties of barley, wheat, chickpea and lentil, and farming methods to raise production have been introduced to farmers in dry highland areas.
‘Saji’, a durum cultivar developed from ICARDA germplasm, was released in 2010 and 13 high-yielding lines of wheat, barley, chickpea, lentil, and forages from ICARDA-derived materials are candidates for release in 2011-12.
Strengthening research in Pakistan
In Pakistan the Network collaborates closely with national and provincial institutions. Most work takes the form of partnerships with community organizations for both men and women to narrow the large gap between yields achieved on research stations and those achieved in farmers’ fields.
Research focuses on watershed management, crop improvement (particularly wheat, barley, lentil, and chickpea), livestock feed and dairy goat management for women's livelihoods, and multiplying seed of improved varieties more quickly.
Improving food security in Afghanistan
Through the Network, ICARDA valuates improved varieties of wheat, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans, potatoes and rice in cooperation with researchers, farming communities and other partners in Afghanistan.
Improved wheat cultivars yield 14-20% more than traditional varieties. Production of wheat in Afghanistan increased from 1.7 million tons in 1993 to 2.8 million tons in 1998. Village-based seed enterprises in three provinces have produced over 80 tons of improved mung bean seed.
A project to boost production of dairy products aimed at women gave 1000 women dairy goats and trained 1740 others women in goat keeping, improved feeding, hygienic milk production, processing, and marketing. Goat mortality and abortion rates fell by as much as 80%, the shelf life of the milk doubled, and the women received 20% higher prices for their hygienically produced milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Dryland agriculture is the key to achieving food security in highland regions of WANA. The Network will continue collaboration to improve food security and make opportunities for rural communities to improve their incomes. This will involve:
- Introducing improved food and forage crops
- Increasing water productivity and harvesting
- Disseminating knowledge on crop–livestock intensification and diversification
- Introducing alternative livelihoods
- Providing opportunities for capacity development.