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South Asia and China Regional Program

South Asia, particularly India, and China have strong national research programs.

The South Asia and China Regional Program, which covers India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and China, aims to build on strong synergies between ICARDA and the national agricultural research systems in India and China for the benefit of the region and for dryland agriculture in all countries of South Asia.

Improving livelihoods

ICARDA has been working to improve the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers in the arid regions of India by introducing and promoting multiple-use cacti. Fifty accessions of six spineless cactus species collected from around the world have been grown at the Central Arid Zone Research Institute in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.

Additionally,  over 525 accessions of primitive landraces and wild relatives have been introduced in South Asia to use in broadening the genetic base of lentil, chickpea, wheat and barley to construct new genetic materials for climate change adaptation.

Providing Nutritional Security

Iron and zinc deficiency is common in South Asia, leading to anemia and impairing physical and mental growth, and learning capacity. Lentil bio-fortified with iron and zinc can reduce these deficiencies.

A number of improved iron- and zinc-rich lentil varieties, for example Barimasur-4, Barimasur-5, and Barimasur-6, each with more than 80 parts per million of iron and 55 parts per million of zinc, have been cultivated on 110,000 hectares in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India.

These varieties produce 140,000 tons of lentil with an average yield of 1.3 t/ha (a 90% yield advantage on the national average). The crop is now available to Bangladeshi consumers and is contributing to their nutritional security.

In India, projects underway include pre-breeding in chickpea and lentil to broaden the genetic base, enhancing lentil production for food and nutritional security, and enhancing grasspea production to provide food and fodder.


In India, meetings, seminars, training sessions, and travelling workshops up and down the country help farmers improve the productivity of their pulse crops. Travelling workshops and field days on the production of pulses to improve food and nutritional security target farmers in Nepal and Bangladesh.

Future directions

Proposed initiatives build on complementary strengths and include diversifying food legumes in South Asia, production technologies for cultivating pulse crops in the rice fallows of north-east India, incorporating pulses for diversification and sustainable cereal-based production systems, and improving pulse production technology for food and fodder in rainfed areas.