The 57th ICARDA Board of Trustees meeting was officially opened in Beirut on November 15 under the auspices of Lebanon’s Minister of Agriculture, His Excellency Dr. Akram Chehayeb. The Minister’s representative Dr. Anwar Daou expressed his deep appreciation for ICARDA in the role it plays in agriculture research and development and its contribution to genetic improvement of major food crops, improved water management, addressing poverty and contributing to food security in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and China, and Central Asia and the Caucasus.
The Minister underlined ICARDA’s achievements in Lebanon based on the strong cooperation and close partnership between ICARDA, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institution (LARI), particularly with regard to increasing seed production of wheat and barley leading to self-sufficiency, small agri-business enterprises, irrigated water management, legume and forage production.
The Chair of the ICARDA Board of Trustees, Dr. Camilla Toulmin referred to the long lasting relationship of ICARDA and Lebanon and acknowledged all the collaborative projects in the fields of food security, wheat and legume breeding, forage development and capacity building. She also highlighted the most recent projects for increased seed multiplication in wheat and barley with the aim of leading to self-sufficiency in seed production in Lebanon.
Dr. Toulmin launched a passionate appeal to all Board members, ICARDA staff and partners. Placing the 57th ICARDA Board of Trustees meeting in a time of great challenge and uncertainty due to the complex regional conflicts and tensions combined with a major disruption in the funding of the public research institutions and the CGIAR system, she said “ICARDA needs to make swift and hard choices to ensure the continued success and viability of the Center and its work. It needs to call upon its friends within the region to support the core institutional functions of the Center, from which it can further develop and grow. Out of what might look overwhelming can grow new strategic avenues that guarantee a strong, solid future.”
In his opening presentation, Dr. Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA’s Director General highlighted the importance of genetic resources collections in ICARDA’s GeneBank and the impact of utilization of these resources in crop genetic improvement to enhance food and nutritional security as well as improving livelihoods. Through its GeneBank activities ICARDA is safeguarding the dryland agrobiodiversity, strengthening regional networking and collaboration in building the global Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) system.
In the presence of Dr. Daou, Dr. Solh also focused on the developments and challenges in implementing ICARDA’s decentralization strategy in Lebanon. He summarized ICARDA’s presence in both Beirut and in the Bekaa Valley (Terbol, Kfardan Station, Advancing Research Enabling Communities/American University of Beirut and LARI) and updated the Board on the construction of new genebank facilities at the Terbol station, and the additional plastic houses for breeding research, storage places as well as the construction of a water tank to improve soil moisture management on the research station. He also informed the Board of the new agreements in Lebanon in 2015.
The opening of the Board meeting was concluded with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between ICARDA and LARI concerning the establishment of a LARI-ICARDA sheep flock at the Terbol research station. Common breeding objectives and breeding goal traits for a Foundation Flock are meant to be supported by a milk processing lab, a health unit and laboratories.