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Food security project makes strides getting technology into the hands of Arab farmers

Dec 08,2015

Participants of the Technical Committee and Steering Committee Meetings of the Arab Food Security Project in Rabat, Morocco.

Results of the Phase I of ICARDA’s project on Enhancing Food Security in Arab Countries were presented at a ministerial meeting, held at Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development (AFESD) headquarters in Kuwait City on 11-12 November 2014. It was attended by Ministers of Agriculture and representatives of several donors. The first phase of the project was funded by AFESD, Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID).

Impressed by the project results, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has entered into a new partnership with ICARDA by signing an agreement on 18 November 2015, to support the second phase of this multi-country initiative, funded by AFESD, KFAED and BMGF. The BMGF funding will support activities related to the dissemination of improved production technologies for wheat-based systems to farmers, post-harvest losses studies, monitoring of adoption of technologies by farmers and impact studies as well as human capacity development. The grant is for three years and covers seven countries including Iraq.

It will build on the success and achievements of the first phase (2011-14) of this ICARDA coordinated project which has been hailed as a “flagship”—both as a model for successful research for development and the large-scale dissemination of new and improved technologies to local farmers. The project draws on ICARDA’s 35 years of experience in integrated solutions and partnership with NARS in enhancing self-sufficiency through sustainable intensification of wheat production systems.

“This project has shown that reducing the yield gap for farmers is not a utopic goal and it can be achieved,” said Dr. Mohamed Badraoui, Director General, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), in Rabat, Morocco, in October where representatives from six Arab countries, namely Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan and Tunisia, had met to review the results of the first season of phase II of this project.

The Food Security project used a number of different approaches to disseminate new and improved technologies to local farmers. These proved to be efficient in linking farmers to technical advice on best available wheat production technologies. Electronic communication tools such as mobile based SMS and messaging applications were used successfully in Tunisia and Sudan to get improved production technologies into the hands of farmers. Results of the 2014-2015 season showed that improved technology has increased wheat yields in farmers’ fields by about 28% across the eight counties involved (Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen).

Based on the results obtained during phase I of the project, several countries have either consolidated national actions or have started initiatives to enhance wheat productivity. For example, Tunisia and Sudan have taken steps to institutionalize the project approach and to incorporate it in their national strategies to enhance the productivity of wheat based systems into the context of their agricultural development plans. In Egypt, the project model has been used extensively in the national wheat campaign aiming to increase the wheat yield. The project also contributed to the capacity building of stakeholders. More than 9,500 participants, of whom 70% were farmers, benefited during 2014-2015 from various activities organized by the project.

“The key to our success has been not only in the application of new technologies, but how results are turned into action at the national level,” said Dr. Kamel Shideed, ICARDA’s Assistant Director General for International Cooperation and Communication. He expressed his appreciation for the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) for their strong financial support and thanked the Government of Morocco, the Ministry of Agriculture and INRA for their continued support to the project and to ICARDA. “Going forward, strong investment in agricultural research will make a difference in enhancing Arab food security at a larger scale,” Dr. Shideed added.