50th Board of Trustees meeting, Amman, 29 April to 4 May
ICARDA’s Board of Trustees held its 50th meeting in Amman, Jordan. The meeting was attended by ICARDA’s senior scientists and regional coordinators. The Board reviewed the Center’s achievements in 2011, and its involvement in nine of the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs). The Board was pleased to see that ICARDA’s global research and capacity development programs are being implemented as planned. CRP1.1 on Dryland Systems, which ICARDA leads, has begun its inception phase, which includes a series of Inception Workshops with stakeholders in each of the five target regions – West Africa and the Dry Savannas, Eastern and Southern Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and South Asia – to prepare for full implementation.
The Board reviewed the implications of events in the North Africa and West Asia region, and fully supported the contingency measures taken by the Center. It commended the dedication of the staff during these difficult times.
The Board endorsed the CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets, which were adopted as ICARDA policy.
The meeting concluded with a field visit to collaborative research sites in Jordan. After a visit to the Rabba Regional Center of the National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE), the Board visited field trials and demonstrations of improved wheat and barley varieties, and of conservation agriculture practices; a project on water management for small-scale mountain agriculture; and a rural cooperative that is testing methods for processing and improving the quality of sheep and goat dairy products.
ICARDA has received many messages from partners and friends during recent months enquiring about ICARDA’s situation. Having just completed our Board of Trustees meeting in Amman, Jordan, this is an appropriate time to update you all on the current situation.
The Center has gradually implemented contingency measures, including temporarily relocating its international staff to ICARDA Regional Offices and sister CGIAR Centers. These measures have been implemented with two major objectives: to ensure the safety of the staff and to ensure that our scientists are able to continue their work in partnership with national programs and other organizations, wherever they are located. In relocating staff, we took care to ensure that research teams were located together at places where they are best able to function.
ICARDA has a global mandate for the non-tropical dry areas. While activities in a few countries have been disrupted, the rest of our global program is being implemented as planned. There have been some challenges, particularly with training programs and international meetings, which were resolved by shifting the venues to partner institutions and countries. The infrastructure at our headquarters in Tel Hadya, Aleppo, Syria, has not been affected. Our field and laboratory activities continue as planned, supported by our very dedicated national staff. We expect field trials at Tel Hadya to be harvested as normal. This season we have also duplicated our plant breeding trials in neighboring countries with similar agro-ecologies. We have ensured that all our genebank holdings are duplicated in other genebanks, and have taken the precaution of sending seed to national partners for multiplication.
We greatly appreciate the generous support we have received from our national partners and sister CGIAR Centers, and the Consortium Board and Fund Council, during these times of uncertainty.
Henri Carsalade, Chair, Board of Trustees
Mahmoud Solh, Director General
Egypt-ICARDA partnerships go back 35 years – and continue to grow stronger. HE Mohammed Reda Ismail, Minister for Agriculture and Land Reclamation, met with Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, and Dr Fawzi Karajeh, Coordinator of ICARDA’s Nile Valley and sub-Saharan Africa Regional Program. The meeting, held in Cairo on 12 May, was also attended by Dr Salah Abdel-Moamen, President of the Agricultural Research Center (ARC), and Dr Magdi Anwar, Director of the Ministry’s International Cooperation Department.
The meeting reviewed the progress of collaborative projects in Egypt. These include, for example, the ARC-ICARDA Wheat Improvement Program; bilateral programs on food legumes, natural resource management, small ruminants, agro-ecological mapping, economics and other areas; two multi-country programs on food security, and water and livelihoods.
“ICARDA’s work is important for Egypt,” the Minister said. “I hope this partnership will not only continue, but also expand, with new activities in North Coast zone and elsewhere.”
A separate meeting with Dr Abdel-Moamen focused on research results from ongoing projects and development of plans for future initiatives in crop improvement and water management.
CRP Wheat meeting, Cairo, 9-11 May
ICARDA and CIMMYT, working with national programs and a range of other partners, have developed research workplans and implementation mechanisms for a new global partnership: the CGIAR Research Program on wheat (CRP3.1). The CRP meeting helped identify research priorities and implementation partners for the first phase. CRP3.1, launched in January 2012, aims to boost production sufficiently to feed an additional 56 million consumers by 2020, and an additional 397 million by 2030. The program will build on the synergies between the two Centers: CIMMYT has a global mandate for wheat research; ICARDA has a regional mandate for the crop in North Africa, West Asia, Central Asia and the Caucuses – a region with the world’s highest per capita wheat consumption. Following the meeting, a joint ICARDA-CIMMYT team visited wheat trials at the Sids Research Station of the Agricultural Research Center (ARC). Sids will be an important research location for the new program. Dr Gaml Sarhan, ARC Vice President, said the ARC-ICARDA program would be well placed to contribute improved materials as well as other support to the new CRP.
International Workshop on Land and Water Policies to Sustainably Improve Food Security, Amman, 24-25 April
Policies are a critical element in ensuring food security. The two-day workshop, part of the USAID-funded Oasis project, brought together experts from nine countries – Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria and Yemen – and from ICARDA, USAID, and other international agencies. Following a review of current policies on land and water use in agriculture, the discussions helped identify policy options to restore productivity in degraded lands, and improve food security and livelihoods in a sustainable and economically viable manner.The participants included HE Dr Radi Trawneh, Secretary General of Jordan’s Ministry of Agriculture, who stressed the importance of partnerships between national and international research centers, and the need for support from UN agencies and other bodies, “to ensure the integrity of ecosystems, raise agricultural production and maximize economic and social benefits.” Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, spoke about the importance of improved land management to achieve productivity and food security goals. Dr. Scott Christiansen, USAID Focal Point, reiterated the importance of this initiative, and USAID’s commitment to supporting ICARDA’s collaborative research programs.
A series of publications on land use policies, produced jointly by ICARDA and national research centers, was distributed at the workshop. (The publications are also available at http://www.icarda.org/wli.) They discuss the causes and processes of land degradation, and related policy issues, through case studies of Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen. The key outcome of the meeting was a synthesis report on policy use, containing recommendations and policy briefs for sensitization and evidence-based policy making.
The regional project Enhancing food security in Arab countries, led by ICARDA, is implemented at large-scale pilot sites in six countries in West Asia and North Africa. The project is supported by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Kuwait Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the OPEC Fund for International Development. One of two project sites in Tunisia is Chebika, 160 km south of Tunis, located in a region that accounts for 40% of the country’s irrigated area. Experimental trials at Chebika, conducted by the Institut National des Grandes Cultures (INGC), are helping to evaluate new wheat varieties and improved irrigation methods. New wheat lines are being tested for yield, heat tolerance, and suitability for local cropping systems. The irrigation experiments test different tools (e.g. water balance measurement, use of tensiometers) that can help farmers decide when and how much to irrigate, in order to maximize water-use efficiency.
On-station research is complemented by demonstration plots on farmers’ field that promote drip irrigation and improved irrigation scheduling, using methods developed by another project partner, the Institut National de Genie Rural, des Eaux et Forets (INGREF). Other on-farm trials showcase a new high yielding durum wheat variety known as Maali, in conjunction with improved management practices such as recommended seed rates and balanced fertilizer application.
The project is also testing a new method of technology transfer. ‘Lead farmers’ are identified, who will each mentor ten ‘satellite’ farmers. The project has provided mobile phones to the lead farmers, for easier communication with other farmers, the extension services and researchers. This approach is adapted from similar methods used in India.
Euro-Mediterranean conference on research and innovation, Barcelona, 2-3 April
The European Commission will launch a new partnership for research and innovation in European and non-European Mediterranean countries. The partnership will include the entire range of stakeholders, from universities and research centers to industry to financial institutions and investors. The broad-ranging program will complement current bilateral programs. This was the key outcome of the Barcelona conference, attended by 350 scientists and policy-makers from more than 30 countries. For each of a number of sectors – water, food, energy, transport, health – the conference identified the main challenges, and the priority steps to address these challenges.
ICARDA was represented at the conference by Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General. Dr Solh participated in a round table discussion at the start of the conference, that prepared the ground for subsequent sessions. He highlighted the role that international science partnerships could play in improving food security, livelihoods and employment, stressing that partnerships should be based on national and regional priorities and not externally driven, with clearly defined targets and a major capacity development component.
5th ISPC meeting, New Delhi, 26-29 March
The Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC), a standing panel of scientists appointed by the Fund Council to advise on science quality and partnerships within the CGIAR, reviewed progress and future plans for a number of global CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs).
Dr Mahmoud Solh reported on progress in the inception phase of the ICARDA-led CRP1.1 on Dryland Systems. Nine CGIAR Centers and their partners are working together to develop detailed research plans for each CRP1.1 target region. The meeting also discussed ways to integrate research on natural resource management (a key component of CRP1.1) in all CGIAR programs. The ISPC also reviewed two other CGIAR programs in which ICARDA is involved, CRP3.5 on Grain Legumes and CRP3.6 on Dryland Cereals. Both programs are led by ICRISAT.
The meeting was co-hosted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Dr S Ayyappan, ICAR Director General, stressed the synergies between Indian research organizations and the CGIAR, and welcomed broader collaboration. The meeting included several presentations on research conducted by ICAR and other Indian organizations, that complement CGIAR efforts. One session of the ISPC meeting (chaired by Dr Ayyappan) focused on ICAR’s strategy and future plans, particularly relating to collaborative research with CGIAR Centers.
While attending the ISPC meeting (see above), Dr Solh met with research leaders in India to formalize the 2012 workplan for India-ICARDA collaborative research. Dr S Ayyappan, Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), said the collaborative program had achieved excellent results, and should be expanded further. Similar views were expressed by Dr JS Samra, CEO of the National Rainfed Area Authority; and two former ICAR Directors General, Dr Mangala Rai and Dr RS Paroda.
Dr Solh also visited the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), where a collaborative research program is developing new varieties of lentil and chickpea.
Farmers, extension agents and researchers from six countries shared experiences at a travelling workshop in Egypt, organized by the ICARDA-led led regional project on Enhancing food security in Arab countries. The project is supported by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Kuwait Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the OPEC Fund for International Development. The four-day workshop included visits to wheat fields in two areas: project sites in several districts of Sharkia governorate, and demonstrations plots in Bani Souif governorate, established by Egyptian government agencies based on the project model. A field day was held at the Sharkia site, attended by over 100 farmers, the Governor, and the president of the Agricultural Research Center (ARC), which coordinates field research country-wide.
At each site, the workshop participants were joined by local farmers involved in the project. Farmers reported excellent results from improved technologies being disseminated by the project: high-yielding wheat varieties resistant to stem (race Ug99) and stripe rust, fertilizer methods, irrigation practices and others. For example, use of raised-bed planting in wheat has enabled them to reduce seed rates by up to 50% and irrigation water by 30% with no loss of yield. The participants also visited ARC research stations at Sids and Giza. At Sids they viewed ARC-ICARDA trials of high-yielding, disease resistant, heat-tolerant wheat varieties. The trip to Giza included a hands-on training session on making plant crosses, and visits to field trials and greenhouse experiments on rust resistance. Judging from the enthusiastic feedback, these interactions have strengthened farmer confidence in the new technologies, and their relationships with extension staff. This augurs well for the technology dissemination component of the project.