ICARDA has formally joined the Regional Partnership Framework on Food Security for Asia and the Pacific. Other members include the Asian Development Bank, FAO, IFAD, the World Food Program and the World Bank. A framework for planning and implementation was agreed upon at a meeting held last month in Bangkok, Thailand. ICARDA was represented at the meting by Dr Kamil Shideed, Assistant Director General, International Cooperation and Communication.
The partner organizations are now in the process of identifying potential areas for collaborative research in each country, starting with an inventory of ongoing activities. A detailed ‘technology matrix’ has been developed, with partnership modalities/tools on one axis and technical focus areas on the other axis. This analysis will help identify, for each country, specific combinations of technologies and implementation approaches. It will also highlight gaps, as well as complementarities between partners. The matrix includes five technology areas: institutions and capacity development, agricultural technology, natural resource management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and market linkages.
The first phase will target six countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos and Nepal. ICARDA has ongoing collaborative research programs in four of the six countries (Bangladesh, China, India, Nepal); and unique research experience in each of the five technology areas identified. This partnership will provide new opportunities for linking research with development, and for scaling out improved technologies to potentially vast target group.
Following the visit by the President of India to ICARDA headquarters last November, plans have been developed for a large-scale collaborative research program in South Asia, led by national research centers and facilitated by ICARDA. Scientists and research managers from nine premier institutions in India visited ICARDA headquarters, 21-26 May, to discuss ongoing programs as well as new initiatives.
The visit included extensive discussions with ICARDA scientists and senior management; a tour of field and lab facilities at Tel Hadya; and field visits to different farming systems in Aleppo and Idleb provinces. The delegation was impressed with the quality of ICARDA’s research, and the high levels of farmer adoption of ICARDA technologies – for example conservation agriculture (zero tillage), small ruminant management and others. A research agenda has been outlined, covering dryland areas across four agro-ecological regions in India. The draft is now being reviewed by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and other partner institutions.
ICARDA’s regional programs and country offices are key to our partnerships with national R&D organizations in more than 40 countries. Regional Coordinators and Country Managers met at the Center’s headquarters last month, to identify ways to strengthen this approach even further. The discussions included:
- Funding prospects for 2011 and 2012; the role of regional programs in raising bilateral as well as regional funding
- The “new” CGIAR: updates on the new Strategy and Results Framework and the various CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs)
- Interactions with policy makers: recent meetings between senior ICARDA management and ministers of agriculture in Ethiopia, India, Iran, Morocco, Syria and Turkey have helped identify opportunities to expand collaboration
- New initiatives: we have received encouraging feedback on several research proposals targeting South Asia, West Asia, North Africa and the Nile Valley region, now under consideration by funding agencies.
The meeting highlighted the importance of long-term regional projects, which have high impact potential and proportionately low administrative/transaction costs. This approach is already being implemented in partnership with IFAD and other donors. Three large-scale projects (food security in the Arab region, conservation agriculture in West Asia, and salinity management in Iraq) are ongoing.
A special session focused on how to strengthen integration between research and outreach. The discussion highlighted the need to tap the expertise available in national programs, while establishing mechanisms to ensure science quality and timely delivery and reporting.
Because gender matters: strengthening social and gender analysis in natural resource management in the Middle East and North Africa: this multi-country project, funded by IDRC-Canada, has generated a wealth of information, and helped build research capacity in several countries. Project teams from Algeria, Lebanon, and Morocco, gathered in Rabat, Morocco, 16-19 May, to discuss research and reporting plans for the closing phases of the project.
Opening the meeting, Dr Abdelmajid Idrissi Ammari, General Secretary of INRA-Morocco, noted that the project had delivered good results, particularly in terms of strengthening capacity in this critical but often under-resourced area. Dr Hammou Laamrani, IDRC’s project coordinator, said: “Good analysis, by itself, is not enough – we also need to disseminate the knowledge generated by the project.” He also noted that priorities and circumstances were different – and continuously changing – in each country, creating additional dissemination challenges, but also opportunities to generate results with very wide applicability. The meeting discussed project results, possible improvements to the methodologies used, and the outline of a book that will be produced at the end of the project, to document the achievements and the lessons learnt.
Implementation of the USAID Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) is gathering momentum. A ‘webinar’ held on 8 June at IFPRI in Washington, DC, and live-streamed via the internet, was entitled ‘Lessons and new directions for the WLI’. The panel concluded that the WLI is a “ready to use” regional platform that can supply a new generation of land and water users; field-tested agricultural science and technology for development; and techniques to translate these innovations into jobs.
The panelists included Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, who described the framework of the WLI; Dr Jim Hill from the University of California, Davis, who spoke about modernizing extension and advisory services using the WLI as a platform; Dr Sandra Russo, University of Florida, who described capacity development efforts between the Middle East Regional Universities and US universities; and Dr Jack Boyson from the International Youth Foundation, who talked about new directions for job creation in WLI project areas in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Yemen. The discussion was moderated by Dr Scott Christiansen, Senior Agricultural Advisor, USAID. Lessons centered on how the WLI assembled a functional organizational structure that includes NARS, universities, NGOs, international organizations and donors. The presentations are available on-line at
Research partnerships between Egypt and ICARDA began in 1979 – and continue to grow stronger. These ties are based on shared goals, synergies, and the huge benefits – at both national and regional scales – of working together. The key priorities are food security (specifically, increasing wheat yield and production) and water management (water-use efficiency and productivity). These were the views of the Egypt’s top decision makers, expressed at meetings with ICARDA’s senior management in Cairo in May 2011.
Ministers highlight shared priorities
H.E. Dr Ayman Abou Hadid, Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, has an insider’s view of this partnership: he was formerly President of the Agricultural Research Center (ARC), which leads the Egypt-ICARDA collaborative program. The Minister, together with Dr Magdi Anwar, head of the Ministry’s Central Administration for Foreign Affairs, met with an ICARDA delegation comprising Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General; Dr Kamil Shideed, ADG-ICC; and Dr Fawzi Karajeh, Coordinator, Nile Valley and Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Program. The meeting, held in Cairo on 29 May, discussed how to build on previous successes to address Egypt’s top priorities in agriculture: food security, water productivity and farmer-market linkages.
Efforts will focus on improving the productivity of wheat-based systems, increasing on-farm water-use efficiency, and promoting conservation agriculture. Two ongoing regional projects have components in Egypt: the Water Benchmarks Project, supported by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and IFAD, and the USAID Water and Livelihood Initiative. New initiatives are being planned: a research program on water-use efficiency, to be funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, and a policy conference on food security policy. H.E. Dr Abou Hadid suggested specific areas where ongoing projects could be expanded, and recommended that a new committee be formed to coordinate Egypt-ICARDA partnerships.
The ICARDA delegation also met with H.E. Dr Hussein El-Atfy, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, and Dr Mohamed Abdel Motalab, Head of the Ministry’s Planning Sector. The Minister noted there had been considerable progress on water-related issues, with Egypt hosting key research sites for regional projects. He also suggested that capacity development efforts be scaled up, with greater ICARDA involvement in water management training programs at the Ministry’s Regional Training Center. H.E. Dr El-Atfy said his Ministry would fully support the Water and Livelihood Initiative, and the proposed Australian-funded collaborative program on water-use efficiency.
Meetings with Dr Mohamed Fathi Osman, ARC President, and Dr Saad Nassar, Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, focused on implementation plans to achieve the strategic goals defined at ministerial level. The delegation also met with other national leaders, to update them on ongoing research, and seek their input into the design of new regional initiatives.
Dr Maged Al-Sherbini, President, Academy of Scientific Research and Technology and Assistant Minister for Scientific Research in the Ministry of Higher Education, identified three priorities: ICARDA representation on the national task force on wheat and maize, greater investment in capacity development, and using Egypt as a platform to scale out improved technologies in other countries in Africa. Dr Al-Sherbini suggested a formal protocol be developed, describing the modalities of these new programs.
Prof. Dr Adel El-Beltagy, Chair of Egypt’s Agriculture Research and Development Council, welcomed greater ICARDA involvement in a new program to modernize irrigation systems in Egypt. He also urged ICARDA to provide technical input into national water management strategies, for example through a technical review of the workplan on water-use efficiency.
Collaborative research in Egypt is providing a model for other countries with similar challenges. The Food Security Project is helping to increase wheat yields in irrigated systems. The Egypt-ICARDA wheat improvement project is developing improved varieties that combine high yield, disease resistance and good grain quality. Farmers involved in the two projects have reported excellent results from the 2010/11 season – wheat yields increased by 25% in El Sharkia Governorate and 17% in Assiut Governorate. Using improved technologies, farmers in El Sharkia achieved a 20% saving in irrigation water. The Water Benchmark Project is testing further improvements in the raised-bed planting technique and other measures to increase water productivity. Field trials of new wheat and legume varieties have also been encouraging, with high yields and high levels of disease resistance.
Discussions with the regional offices of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and FAO have helped identify areas of mutual interest for collaborative research.
The meeting with IDRC discussed a new food security project in Sudan and Egypt, diversification and productivity improvement of wheat-based systems, seed production and distribution, value chain analysis, water management and water governance, and other areas. The IDRC is particularly interested in two areas where ICARDA has considerable experience – linking smallholder farmers to markets, and strengthening research and extension capacity.
Discussions with FAO covered several areas, including opportunities to link ICARDA’s research outputs with development projects funded by the FAO’s Near East Regional Office. Such a partnership could be modeled on two recent examples: a multi-partner initiative (FAO, ICARDA, IFAD, Asian Development Bank) in the Asia-Pacific region, and a FAO-ICARDA partnership on conservation agriculture in Central Asia. Three priorities were identified: food security, water and climate change. The FAO has listed specific areas under of these themes, for which technical proposals will be developed, and discussed at an FAO-ICARDA planning meeting to be hosted by ICARDA in autumn 2011.