Science impact through the research for development continuum was the focus for ICARDA’s 2009 Science Week, which brought together scientists from headquarters and offices in 15 countries.
The discussions focused on research impact and the role of ICARDA’s regional programs in research for development. Dr Mahmud Duwayri, former Minister of Agriculture in Jordan, described ICARDA as a “unifying force within the region… providing scientific leadership, training, and linking national research programs into the global scientific community.”“ICARDA is a key strategic partner for Morocco,” said Prof. Mohamed Badraoui, Director General of INRA-Morocco. “For example, the land suitability maps prepared by an INRA-ICARDA team are the starting point for all projects under the government-funded Green Morocco Plan.” Other invited speakers included Dr Mohamed El-Nahrawy, DG of ARC-Egypt, and Prof. Nour (former DG of ICARDA).
The meeting highlighted achievements and lessons learnt from four multi-country, ICARDA-led projects: the WANA Water Benchmark Project, the Mashreq and Maghreb Project, the Women’s Livelihoods and Dairy Goat Project, and the Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management. ICARDA’s strategic plans for future barley and livestock research were also discussed, including a framework for translating ICARDA’s broad objectives into impact on farmers’ fields.
“The discussions have been focused and constructive,” said Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA’s Director General. He stressed that inputs from the meeting would make these partnerships even stronger, and help improve food security and livelihoods for farmers throughout the dry areas.
Research centers and government agencies in Australia are playing a key role, in partnership with ICARDA, in strengthening national research capacity in Iraq.
H.E. Robert Tyson, Australian Ambassador to Iraq, visited ICARDA last month. He met with Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA’s Director General, to discuss future capacity building efforts; and to participate in the ACIAR-AusAID Iraq Project meeting, where workplans and budgets were discussed for the coming season. The project is helping to promote conservation cropping in Iraq, with linked activities – and benefits – in Syria. Participants at the meeting included researchers and administrators from Australia and Iraq.
More than 100 Iraqi researchers are currently studying in Australia at UWA and other institutions; and many others have participated in training programs. This year, ten researchers from the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture have joined UWA for a Masters program. “Iraqi agriculture faces some very serious challenges,” Prof. Kadambot Siddique, Director of the Institute of Agriculture, University of Western Australia said. “The Iraqi graduate students at UWA will be well trained to address those challenges.”
ICARDA will play a key role in linking research outputs to a new development project for Iraq, being launched by the World Food Program. The project concept note, and a preliminary framework for implementation, were agreed upon at a meeting held earlier this month at ICARDA’s regional office in Amman, Jordan. The proposed project would target around 30,000 farm households in eight governorates across the country, introducing and disseminating new technologies for crop and livestock production, and more sustainable use of natural resources. ICARDA will work with national research agencies to provide technical support, building on technologies it has already developed for dry areas, and its long experience in Iraq.
Workplans have been finalized for collaborative research in West Asia over the next two years. This was announced following the 2nd Biennial Regional Coordination Meeting held last month at ICARDA’s regional office in Amman, attended by scientists and heads of national research centers from five countries – Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. The research projects, coordinated by ICARDA’s West Asia program, will cover crop improvement, livestock, socio-economics, and management of natural resources – particularly water and rangelands. In addition, several new initiatives are being planned. These include a project on improving food security and livelihoods in the Mashreq countries (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), for which a formal proposal has been developed. The delegates strongly endorsed the proposal, which will now be pursued with potential funding agencies.
The Swedish University of Agriculture (Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet, SLU) and ICARDA will be scaling up collaboration, following a visit by an SLU delegation to ICARDA’s headquarters in October. The key areas: biotechnology, plant breeding, seed systems development, and capacity building programs for graduate students from developing countries.
The delegation met with ICARDA management and senior scientists to identify how best to maximize synergies between the two institutions. Dr Tomas Bryngelsson, Head of the Department of Plant Breeding and Biotechnology at SLU, expressed his appreciation for the wide scope of ICARDA’s research. “There are good opportunities for the two institutions to work together,” he said. SLU expressed interest in collaborating in an ongoing ICARDA-CIMMYT project to identify new sources of disease and pest resistance in wheat-rye translocation lines. The ICARDA-SLU component will focus on resistance to insect pests. There was considerable interest in linking SLU’s Masters and PhD students to ICARDA programs – specifically the Seed Health Laboratory and the wheat breeding and pathology programs. ICARDA and SLU will also be working together to develop proposals for future joint projects.
Scientists from Egypt’s Agricultural Research Center (ARC), together with an ICARDA team, have finalized workplans for the first season of a major new research project. Following a meeting held in Cairo last month, it was announced that research trials will begin next season at ARC’s Sids Research Station, with 250 spring wheat genotypes with various traits — yield potential, water use efficiency, heat tolerance, resistance to rust and septoria diseases, and grain quality traits. Together with wheat, the experiments will also test barley and legume lines, for use in an integrated cereal-legume cropping system.
The experiments are part of a 10-year joint ARC-ICARDA project, for which a formal agreement was signed in July this year. The project aims to develop new wheat varieties with yields 30% higher than currently available ones, with resistance to several key environmental stresses. And while it primarily targets Egypt, the technologies developed will be useful in dry areas across the region. “The project will include not only crop improvement but also crop management and capacity building components,” said Dr Fawzi Karajeh, Coordinator of ICARDA’s Nile Valley and sub-Saharan Africa Regional program. “We are also working with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center to identify additional genotypes for testing; and with other partners to find varieties resistant to new strains of stem rust disease.”