Lebanon – one of ICARDA’s two host countries – hosted the 46th meeting of ICARDA’s Board of Trustees in November. The Board meeting, held in Beirut, was also attended by the heads of the national agricultural research systems of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. It was inaugurated by Dr Samir El-Chami, Director General of the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture, on behalf of H.E. Eng. Elias Skaff, Minister of Agriculture. “ICARDA is well known and widely respected in Lebanon,” said Dr El-Chami. “We are keen to continue and strengthen our partnership for the benefit of farmers not only in Lebanon but also other countries in the region. I would like to assure you of our continuous support.”
ICARDA works closely with national research and development centers in the country, particularly the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI). Joint research stations in Terbol and Kfardan provide important sites for ICARDA’s crop improvement research to gauge yield potential, advance segregation generations and expose the germplasm to endemic diseases.
“We consider Lebanon to be the birthplace of ICARDA,” said Dr Guido Gryseels, Chairman of the Board. “Lebanon and ICARDA have been closely bound together since its establishment in 1977… this has proved to be an enduring and successful partnership. We greatly appreciate the support provided by the Lebanese government. The Board looks forward to an even stronger partnership, with expanded activities, building on mutual strengths.”During the opening ceremony, Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, provided an overview of ICARDA’s collaboration with Lebanon and the broader West Asia region, and the role of Terbol research station in ICARDA’s work. Dr Michel Afram, Director General and President of LARI, described the Institute’s research and its ongoing expansion program, which will involve strengthening staff skills, broadening the research portfolio, and rebuilding facilities. The Board viewed these collaborative activities first hand during a field visit to the Beka’a Valley. The Board visited LARI’s headquarters at Tel Amara, and joint activities at Terbol research station and other sites. Terbol and the nearby Kfardan station complement ICARDA’s principal site in Syria in the development and testing of new crop varieties. The Board also visited ICARDA’s water harvesting project in Deir Al-Ahmar and a women’s cooperative where they learned about income generating activities developed from agricultural products.
H.E. Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon, commended ICARDA’s work, which he said had contributed to agricultural development in Lebanon, and the wider region. The Prime Minister was speaking during a meeting with ICARDA’s Board of Trustees in November. ICARDA is grateful for this encouragement, and reaffirms its commitment to continue and expand this partnership.
An important subject of discussion during the three days of Board meetings, was the ongoing process of change management within the CGIAR. The Board issued a statement reiterating its commitment to the process, but noting that the current proposals require more work. Specifically, the Board endorsed the concerns raised by the Centers Alliance in October and is keen to be engaged in designing a more coherent system for international agricultural research.
Two new members formally joined the Board of Trustees: Dr Walid Tawil, host country representative and Director General of the General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research, Syria; and Dr Mona Bishay, head of IFAD’s Near East and North Africa Division, from Egypt. Two others attended the meeting as observers and will join the Board next year. They are Dr Carl-Gustaf Thornstrom from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and Mr Fawzi Sultan, from Kuwait, former President of IFAD. Four members left the Board, having completed their terms: Dr Mohamed Zehni, Vice-Chair; Dr David Sammons, Chair, Program Committee; Dr Kjersti Larsen, Chair, Nominations Committee; and Dr Aigul Abugalieva. The Board noted the excellent contributions they had all made during their tenure.
Dr Guido Gryseels, ICARDA’s Board Chair, completes his term on 31 December 2009. Dr Henri Carsalade will take over as Chair on 1st January 2010. Dr Gryseels, Director of Belgium’s Royal Museum for Central Africa, has served on the Board since 2003, and as Chair since 2006. He played a key role in guiding the Center through a change in executive management, and in raising the Center’s profile. Dr Gryseels has also been closely involved in the CGIAR Change Management Process, initially as part of the Working Group on CGIAR Governance, and then as a member of the Consortium Planning Team and Board Chair of the Alliance of CGIAR Centers. ICARDA management and staff greatly appreciate Dr Gryseels’ contributions, and the guidance he provided during a time when major achievements were made at the Center.
Dr Carsalade is a member of the team of advisors to the French Minister of Agriculture. He has served as Assistant Director General of FAO, Director General of CIRAD (Centre de coopération international en recherche agronomique pour le développement), France, and President of Agropolis International, an association of French agricultural research and higher education establishments. We are indeed fortunate to have him as our next Board Chair.