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Prestigious award from JIRCAS for ICARDA scientist

Oct 04,2015

Dr. Atef Swelam with the raised-bed machine.

Dr Atef Swelam, an irrigation scientist at ICARDA and coordinator of the Nile Delta project has been selected for the prestigious ‘Japan International Award for Young Agricultural Researchers 2015’. This award recognizes the outstanding performance and achievements in research and development that leads to future technological innovation in agriculture, forestry, fisheries or related industries for a developing area and shows great promise. Dr. Swelam will receive the award on October 27, 2015, at a ceremony at the U Thant International Conference Hall, United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan. This award recognizes Dr. Swelam’s contributions in the development of a cost-effective raised-bed machine for small-scale farms to improve land and water productivity in the Nile Delta of Egypt.

‘We at ICARDA are very proud of this major achievement. This prestigious award is important to motivate young scientists to address the challenges in agriculture to increase food production for the growing world population and to reduce extreme hunger and malnutrition that at least 800,000 million people are facing mostly in the developing world,’ said ICARDA’s Director General Dr. Mahmoud Solh.

The cost-effective raised-bed machine for small-sized plots was innovated in Egypt with the goal of making land preparing and sowing on raised-bed convenient for the resource-poor smallholders in Nile Delta, so as to encourage water and land conservation practices in the intensively farmed region. The machine is fashioned after a prototype tested and refined through trials on wheat fields with participating farmers. The resulting technology offers farming accuracy and allows sowing of different crops with easy maintenance and adjustable seed rates. After long-term calibration and validation of the new prototype, the technology has been adopted and is being scaled out with a local manufacturer.

Mechanized raised-bed planting has demonstrated multiple benefits on wheat, maize and sugarbeet – water savings, greater efficiency in agricultural practices, and increased crop yields. It has also reduced waterlogging with better drainage of excess water from the active root zone of the crop. These excellent results have promoted the adoption of mechanized raised-bed technology in cultivated wheat areas of Egypt from 1,670 hectares to a phenomenal 45,000 hectares over three years (2011-2014).

The uptake of mechanized raised-bed planting is spreading all over Egypt, as well as to other countries in the region such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Uzbekistan and Sudan. The machine is being used in a flexible manner, both for intensive crops (such as wheat, berseem and rice) and interspaced crops (such as corn, sugarbeet and faba bean).

This newly developed and locally manufactured raised-bed machine has enabled the farmers to achieve remarkable results that include around 25% saving in applied water, around 50% reduction in seed rate, around 25% decrease in farming cost, around 30% increase in fertilizer use efficiency, and around 15-25% increase in crops yields.

Along with benefiting farmers, this cost-effective raised-bed machine for small-scale farms can provide a good opportunity for local investment and employment for fresh graduates because of the great potential of raised-bed planting system.