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ICARDA’s strategic role in the next generation of CGIAR Research Programs


ICARDA Board of Trustees and staff.

CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) are meant to be an effective organizational construct for the promotion of greater interaction and collaboration between CGIAR Centers and partnership development outside of CGIAR. Currently, ICARDA is involved in nine CRPs, covering research themes linked to Production Systems, Policies and Markets, Commodities, Nutrition and Health, Natural Resource Management, Climate Change and Genetic Resources.

The 57th   Board of Trustees meeting provided an opportunity for ICARDA’s scientists to present the significant progress made by the Center in its engagement with the different CRPs it is currently engaged in.

Dr. Andrew Noble, ICARDA’s Deputy Director General for Research, said that while it is important to critically analyze ICARDA’s achievements, outputs and outcomes in the CRPs, the Center should also look closely at its strategic niche in the new CRPs.

“Genetic resources of key global commodities are the jewels in ICARDA’s crown,” he said and proposed to promote ICARDA’s unique GeneBanks tactically in the future. One way of achieving this is through harvesting this diversity for genetic gain in order to meet the very demanding CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework targets on yield increases. Further, there are opportunities for ICARDA GeneBanks to link with the range of agri-food systems that will emerge within this new portfolio and the private sector.

Board Secretary, Dr. El-Fattal.

Board Secretary, Dr. El-Fattal.

ICARDA is the only CGIAR center with a long standing physical presence in the Middle East and North Africa region and there are clear strategic advantages to this fact. It has an illustrious record of working with farming systems in dryland areas globally and in a region that today reflects the possible climates of the future. The region provides a living laboratory in which adaptation and mitigation strategies can be evaluated and assessed. In all of ICARDA’s mandated regions, water is a key limiting factor that will have profound implications for future development as we move into an era of climate change and increased climate variability.

This underscores the need for ICARDA to further strengthen its water program as well as its efforts in sustainable natural resource management, at the landscape level. This strategic orientation needs to be linked to an ecologically orientated perspective for the agri-food-system programs, so they deliver increased impact on economic, environmental and social levels.

Many of the countries in which ICARDA operates within are either in conflict or post-conflict zones. There is great need in these countries for agricultural research to support rebuilding efforts and in helping to reestablish rural livelihoods that have been affected by conflict. The Center has over the years built significant capacity in supporting this goal, which is viewed as a strategic niche.

ICARDA’s traditional breeding programs in wheat, barley and legumes have had significant impacts in the mandated regions in which the Center operates. The focus of these efforts has been on developing new crop varieties that are well adapted to biotic and abiotic stresses, including heat and drought tolerant crops.

Ms. Hiba Eimesh, managing Board logistics.
Ms. Hiba Eimesh, managing Board logistics.

Key CRPs where ICARDA is strongly represented are DCLAS, which is a combination of the current Dryland Cereals, Grain Legumes and Dryland Systems and the Wheat CRP where breeding aspects and systems approaches are covered. In addition, ICARDA has developed a strong presence in the Livestock and the Genebank CRPs. There will be a need to move towards reducing reliance on CGIAR funds in the future – and that this may require a different business model for the Center, including the development of partnership opportunities with the private sector. 

Below: Board Dinner.

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