H.E. Dr Hussain Al-Haj Hassan, Lebanon’s Minister of Agriculture, visited ICARDA earlier this month, to discuss plans for collaborative research. He was accompanied by a high-level team: Dr Michel Afram, President and Director General of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI); Dr Samir Al-Chami, Acting Director General, Ministry of Agriculture; and two senior consultants to the Minister, Dr Salah Al-Haj Hassan and Eng. Nizam Hamadeh.
The discussions focused around the current outbreak of stripe (yellow) rust disease in wheat in Lebanon and several other countries in the region, Sunn pest infestations in wheat crops, problems facing the seed sector in Lebanon, and the role that ICARDA can play in assisting government efforts to multiply and distribute seed of high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties.
The Minister expressed interest in launching a seed multiplication program in Lebanon and asked for ICARDA’s assistance in several areas: sourcing about 3800 tons of wheat, barley, chickpea and lentil seed; participation in a seed multiplication committee, together with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, LARI and the Ministry of Trade and Economics; and technical support to upgrade LARI’s seed health facilities. ICARDA will also help strengthen national capacity for seed testing, through a series of training courses in Lebanon and Syria.
As this was the Minister’s first visit to ICARDA, he was given an extensive tour of the Center’s facilities and experimental fields. His Excellency pledged full support for the planned expansion of collaborative research. “Lebanon and ICARDA have worked together for 33 years,” he said. “This partnership has led to many successes. I am confident that together, we will continue to produce new agricultural technologies for small-scale farmers, not only in Lebanon but throughout the region.”
Collaboration between Eritrea and ICARDA includes ongoing research projects in several areas. These partnerships are set to expand, following a meeting in Asmara on 14 May with H.E. Ato Arefaine Berhe, Minister of Agriculture. The ICARDA team, led by Dr Kamil Shideed, ADG for International Cooperation and Communication, highlighted specific areas where ICARDA could help address Eritrea’s priority needs, identified by the national research program. This initiative builds on two earlier meetings in May: the annual coordination meeting of the project, Water productivity improvement of cereals and food legumes in the Atbara Basin of Eritrea; and the Eritrea-ICARDA planning meeting.
Future plans include: needs assessment and a 5-year training program for Eritrean researchers; joint collection missions to strengthen genetic resources conservation; soil and water conservation methods; integrated watershed management; development of improved crop varieties; disease monitoring and surveillance; seed production and delivery systems; protected agriculture; and integrated crop-livestock systems.
“We thank ICARDA’s management for their strong support to Eritrea; and the Center’s scientists for working closely together with our scientists and field staff,” said the Minister. His views were echoed by senior research administrators, including Ato Heruy Asghedom, Director General, Agriculture Promotion and Development Department; Dr Iyassu Ghebretatios, Director General of the National Agricultural Research Institute; and Ato Amleson Semere, Dean of Hamelmalo Agricultural College.
Senior research managers and policy makers from Sudan visited ICARDA headquarters, 4-8 May, to discuss technical support for a large-scale program to revive the country’s agricultural development. The delegation comprised H.E. Prof. Ahmed Ali Ahmed Geneif, former Minister of Agriculture and Chief Advisor, Agricultural Revival Program; Dr Elsadig Mohamed, Director General, Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC); Dr Babiker Elhag Musa Omer, Coordinator, Technology, Productivity and Quality Control, Agricultural Revival Circle; and Dr Abdelrazig Elbashir Mohamed, Secretary for the Agricultural Commodity Councils. They were accompanied by Dr Fawzi Karajeh, Coordinator of ICARDA’s Nile Valley and sub-Saharan Africa Regional Program, and Dr Hassan El-Awad, Head of ICARDA’s Khartoum office.
Following discussions with ICARDA scientists and management, a comprehensive 5-year program of collaborative research was proposed, to be implemented jointly by the Agricultural Revival Authority, ARC and ICARDA, together with other partners.
Program components will include: productivity enhancement in date palm, wheat and legume crops; protected agriculture technologies; water harvesting; and establishment of an integrated ‘model’ research site for irrigated agriculture, perhaps within the Gezira scheme. Other components include GIS-based mapping and analysis, integrated pest management, socio-economics, and capacity development. An integrated program on rangeland and livestock will be developed in consultation with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), with a view to scaling out technologies through IFAD development projects in Sudan.
Libya’s Agricultural Research Center (ARC) and ICARDA jointly organized a workshop in Tripoli, 1-6 May, as part of a research program to improve irrigation practices. The workshop, inaugurated by H.E. Eng. Abdulmajeed Al Gaoud, Minister of Agriculture, brought together experts in irrigation, agronomy, economics and modeling to share information on modern irrigation technologies.
A first step in developing more efficient, economic and sustainable irrigation practices is to evaluate current practices in different parts of Libya. The objective of the workshop was therefore to assess how irrigation water is being used in different crops, farming systems and geographical regions, and from different water resources; and to develop a project workplan. Presentations by Dr Fawzi El Doumi, Project Coordinator, Dr Mohamed El Mourid, Coordinator of ICARDA’s North Africa Regional Program, Dr Theib Oweis, Director of ICARDA’s Integrated Water and Land Management Program, and other specialists from national and international organizations, set the scene for discussions on technical issues and logistics.
The workshop included a three-day field visit to the south and the east of the country, for a first-hand view of various irrigation projects and water resources – including the ‘man-made river’ that transports water from the south to the north of Libya. This was followed by two days of technical meetings, at which a range of issues were thoroughly discussed, and the project workplan agreed upon – including research questions, assessment indicators and the approaches to be used.
The second phase of the Water Benchmarks Project (2010-2013) has been launched, with support from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD). The project, coordinated by ICARDA, aims to improve water productivity in agriculture, and encourage sustainable use of scarce water resources. Activities will cover ten countries, with benchmark research sites in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco; and satellite sites in Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia.
Project launch meetings were held in March and April in Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, attended by the full range of national partners – farmers, research centers, universities, NGOs, extension services and development projects. Project outlines – and detailed workplans for the first season – have been developed and agreed upon, and activity coordinators identified for each project component.
During the first phase, the project developed/optimized and tested a range of technologies for three agroecosystems: rainfed systems, irrigated systems, and dry rangelands. Phase II aims primarily to disseminate these technologies more widely, and to further strengthen research and development capacity in each partner country. In addition, research will focus on systems modeling in each agroecosystem: watershed modeling, monitoring and management in rangeland areas; water and nutrient flows in irrigated areas; and optimization of water allocation and utilization at field, farm and broader levels in rainfed production systems. Other studies will examine socieoeconomic, policy and institutional factors, and ways to rationalize water use in agriculture.
H.E. Rolf Willy Hansen, Norway’s Ambassador to Syria, visited Tel Hadya last month, accompanied by Mr Firas Shuman, Honorary Consul. The government of Norway is one of ICARDA’s largest donors, and has contributed more than US$ 2.3 million in unrestricted funding in the past two years. The Ambassador met with ICARDA senior management to discuss opportunities to continue and build on this partnership.
“I am truly impressed with the quality of ICARDA’s work,” said H.E. Hansen. “Norway is proud to be among the many contributors to your work.”
Dr Sanjay Rajaram, former Director of ICARDA’s Biodiversity and Integrated Gene Management (BIGM) Program and one of the world’s most respected plant breeders, has won the M.S. Swaminathan Award, presented by the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences.
During a 40-year career, Dr Sanjay Rajaram has helped develop as many as 480 new wheat varieties that are grown on an estimated 58 million hectares worldwide. He has authored or co-authored more than 400 research publications, mentored more than 700 hundred young scientists, and made seminal contributions to crop science. These include the development of spring x winter wheat crosses; new approaches to disease resistance, for instance ‘slow-rusting’ wheat varieties with extraordinarily durable resistance; and largely eliminating foliar blight susceptibility from semi-dwarf wheat. Alf mabrouk!
How to work effectively with an ever-increasing number of partners… improve the way you communicate research… make your research more visible and accessible… These and other secrets were revealed in an informal, highly interactive seminar at ICARDA, last month. Ms Enrica Porcari, the CGIAR’s Chief information Officer and leader of the ICT-KM Program, spoke on modern communication methods, particularly the use of web-based technologies. She also provided an update on the various projects under the CGIAR’s ICT-KM (Information and Communication Technologies – Knowledge Management) program, including shared information platforms, development of country-based datasets, the CGIAR “virtual library” and others.
Each year, ICARDA gives ‘Staff of the Year’ awards in various categories. There are also awards for ‘Scientific Article of the Year’ and ‘Outstanding Research Team’. This year’s winners received their awards from Mr Henri Carsalade, Board Chair, and Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General during a dinner with the Board of Trustees on 25 April.
• P-level (Research): Dr Francis Ogbonnaya, Bread Wheat Breeder/Biotechnologist
• P-level (Research administration): Dr Ashutosh Sarker, Coordinator, South Asia and China Regional Program
• GS-level (Research): Ms Layal Attasi, Data Management Assistant, GIS Unit; and Mr Mohamed Haylani, Research Technician, DSIPS
• GS-level (Technical): Ms Nahla Assal, Accountant
• GS-level (Administration): Mr Mustafa Abaza, Liaison Assistant, Nile Valley and sub-Saharan Africa Regional Program
• Outstanding research team: Women’s Livelihood and Dairy Goat Project team – national research and extension programs and NGOs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in partnership with ICARDA staff
• Outstanding service support team: Finance department
• Outstanding scientific article: Asymmetric allele-specific expression in relation to development variation and drought stress in barley hybrids, by Maria von Korff, Slobodanka Radovic, Wafaa Choumane, Konstantina Stamati, Sripada Udupa, Stefania Grando, Salvatore Ceccarelli, Ian Mackay, Wayne Powell, Michael Baum and Michele Morgante. Published in The Plant Journal, vol. 59.
• International School of Aleppo: Mrs Nada Kayali, Teacher; and Mrs Maria Mardini, High School Secretary.