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Mentoring a New Generation of Scientists from Crisis Areas

Aug 12,2016

In 2016, ICARDA has reinforced its efforts in delivering high quality training programs to young scientists. ICARDA is consistently engaged in capacity development to further educate and train young agricultural researchers and students, coming from conflict and post-conflict countries, such as Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Yemen. Investment in future science leaders enhances the technical capacity and knowledge in countries facing challenges and crises today and helps to develop individual and institutional capacity. ICARDA’s capacity development efforts are also contributing to the improvement of livelihoods and food security in other resource-poor and dry areas.

One example is the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development supported academic degree program in the MENA region which complements ICARDA’s “Enhancing Food Security in Arab Countries-Phase II” project. ICARDA launched the second phase of this program in spring 2016 to provide an opportunity to students holding a Bachelor degree to earn an advanced Master of Science degree. The program covers research costs and registration fees, thesis writing, and mentoring by ICARDA scientists. The aim is to contribute to the development of a young generation of scientists that can bridge the skills gap and the increasing shortage of agricultural researchers in MENA countries. Through the program, young scientists link their studies in agricultural research with a recognized university in the region supported by the international expertise of ICARDA scientists.

The first phase of the ICARDA Young Agricultural Scientists Program (YASP) has now mentored and trained about 40 young scientists from ten different countries in the MENA region. YASP selected motivated men and women to work alongside ICARDA scientists. Thematic areas included plant breeding, biotechnology, plant protection, agronomy, irrigation, water and soil management, plant nutrition, conservation agriculture, cereal quality and seed technology, agricultural economics and socioeconomics.

In August 2016, ICARDA and the Libyan Agricultural Research Center (ARC) graduated the first student from Libya through a collaborative education program for degree training.  Idres H. Younes Belgasem received his Master of Science in plant protection from the University of Jordan. He successfully defended his thesis “Toxicity of four essential oils against the green peach aphid, Myzus persicae Sulzer (Homoptera: Aphididae).  Idres is returning to Libya in mid-August to resume his post as a researcher in the ARC Plant Protection Research Unit.

Funded by the Libyan government, the ICARDA/ARC collaborative program’s goal is to establish research capacities in multidisciplinary fields by supporting students and young researchers from Libya. Twelve students have begun their Master programs at different universities in Jordan and Egypt. ICARDA provides technical support and implements a monitoring and follow-up program for the students at their respective universities.

In May 2016, ICARDA organized a training course with the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) on Seed Production and Quality Assurance in Terbol, Lebanon. The course provided skills in seed science, technical disciplines and technology transfer related to policies and regulations as well as managerial, technical and business management skills pertaining to seed. Twenty-two participants from research and extension institutes in seven countries attended the course, Afghanistan (11), Jordan (1) Iraq (1), Palestine (1), Tunisia (3), Syria (2), and Lebanon (2).

Similarly, ICARDA training courses were held throughout the MENA region for National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) partners as follows:  

  • The “Contemporary Approaches to Technology Adoption” course in Cairo, Egypt, was run in conjunction with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to train 13 NARS staff in contemporary approaches to technology acquisition and delivery with specific emphasis on uptake of new and/or improved agricultural technologies and production practices. 
  • The “Adoption and Impact Assessment of Water Policies” course in Amman, Jordan trained 17 NARS partners from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia to improve their knowledge in the adoption and impact assessment of water policies, with an emphasis on dryland agriculture.
  • The “Seed Health Testing” course was executed with LARI in Terbol, Lebanon to train  15 NARS partners from Afghanistan, Lebanon, and six other countries to improve  skills for seed health testing with an emphasis on dryland agriculture.
  • The “Supplemental Irrigation” course, in collaboration with the National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE), was held in Amman, Jordan for 16 NARS partners from Iraq, Jordan, and other MENA countries to improve their skills in supplemental irrigation, with an emphasis on dryland agriculture.

Capacity development activities are generously supported by a diverse group of donors, including the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, Japan International Cooperation Agency, International Fund for Agricultural Development and Donors of the CGIAR Fund Council.