Top decision makers from Central Asia and the Caucasus have commended ICARDA’s research in the region – and particularly its partnership-based approach. This feedback came during a visit to the region, earlier this month, by Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General.
In Turkmenistan, Dr Solh met with H.E. Orazmurad Gurbannazarov, Minister of Agriculture and Dr Gurbanmurat Mezilov, President of the Academy of Sciences. The discussions included a new German funded project, launched recently by ICARDA, to develop salinity tolerant winter wheat with improved quality. Wild relatives of wheat, collected from saline areas in Central Asia, will be used to develop ‘synthetic’ wheat lines for testing in target sites. Several other areas were identified for expanded collaboration, including integrated crop-livestock production, salinity management, irrigation methods and training programs.
In Azerbaijan, Dr Solh met with H.E. Bakhrom Aliev, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and senior research administrators. The discussions focused on five proposed research projects that were developed jointly by Azeri research centers and ICARDA. The projects aim to strengthen Azerbaijan’s agricultural sector in key areas, including seed systems, genebanks, rangeland management, and improved wheat production systems.
ICARDA has been rated “Outstanding” by the CGIAR Performance Measurement System – for the third time in four years. This annual assessment is based on a number of criteria including research outputs, impacts and outcomes, Center management and other factors. Based on this, the World Bank will provide funding of US$ 2.05 million in the year 2010, of which $ 1.35 million is linked to the performance assessment.
Director General Dr Mahmoud Solh noted this was a team effort – by the scientists, support staff, management, and the Board of Trustees, “without whose guidance and continuous support this achievement would not have been possible”. Dr Guido Gryseels, former Board Chair, wrote to Dr Solh: “It is a great tribute to you personally, your management team and the staff of ICARDA… I am enormously pleased that our collective efforts are being recognized by our peers and sponsors.”
A meeting of scientists, development experts and policy makers in Pakistan discussed outputs from a major research-for-development project on integrated watershed development in the Chakwal area. The project, launched 3 years ago, is funded by the Government of Austria and implemented jointly by research and development agencies in Pakistan, ICARDA, BOKU University, Vienna, and other partners. It aims to develop, test and promote innovative, cost-effective ways to monitor and use water and land resources at the watershed scale.
The meeting, held in Islamabad during 15-17 June, reviewed the results from various technologies, factors influencing these results, and lessons learnt during project implementation. About 40 scientists attended. Dr Zafar Altaf, Chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, strongly commended the project team, noting that lessons learnt from this project would be applied in new government-funded development projects. H.E. Dr Michael Stigelbauex, Ambassador of Austria, also assured the meeting that the Austrian government would continue to support similar efforts. Dr Theib Oweis, Director of ICARDA’s Integrated Water and Land Management Program, described how the project works: a community-led, integrated approach to watershed development, addressing the issues of water quantity and quality, wastewater, soil erosion, livelihoods, and capacity development. Dr Andreas Klik from BOKU University highlighted the need for long-term funding and government support for such projects.
A workshop in Iraq has created new momentum for chickpea research and development, by linking funding agencies and implementing partners of two major research and development projects. The workshop, held at the Ain Kawa Research Center in Erbil province, 10-11 June, brought together 20 researchers from various institutions involved in two projects funded by IFAD and Australia. Both projects focus on rainfed areas in northern Iraq, and include a food legume component.
Participants at the workshop included Dr Saleh Bader, Director General of the State Board of Agricultural Research; Eng. Maqsood Khalid, Director, Ain Kawa Research Center; and Dr Hamed Hadwan, National Coordinator of the IFAD project. ICARDA was represented by Dr Nasri Haddad, Head of the West Asia Regional Program; Dr Seid Kemal, legume pathologist; and Dr Imtiaz Muhammad, chickpea breeder and geneticist.
The discussions centered on the two most important chickpea diseases in Iraq, ashochyta blight and wilt. The national research program will work with ICARDA to identify disease-resistant lines (building on 3 years of research trials). The selected lines will be tested on-farm next season, at multiple sites in Nineveh and Erbil Governorates. Research on ascochyta blight will be expanded, because a new strain of the pathogen has appeared in Iraq. Future efforts will also focus on promoting winter cultivation and improved crop management methods.
The Norman Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program, administered by the US Department of Agriculture, provides training and research opportunities to young professionals. A number of Iraqi scientists have received Borlaug Fellowships, involving training at US universities and at ICARDA headquarters.
A four-day workshop held at ICARDA headquarters last month, brought together Borlaug Fellows from Iraq and their mentors from different US universities and ICARDA. There were 45 participants from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Science and Technology, and universities in Iraq; the US Department of Agriculture; US universities and ICARDA. The workshop included research overviews by each partner organization and technical presentations on a range of subjects. Recommendations for future work were presented under three thematic areas: animal health, seeds, and water and soil management.
A new pastoretum – a field genebank for rangeland species – has been established at ICARDA’s Tel Hadya research station. The pastoretum will help conserve important rangeland species, provide seed to rehabilitate degraded rangeland areas, serve as a demonstration and training site, and as a testing ground to evaluate perennial fodder or multi-purpose plants suited to dry rangeland areas. Key species will be characterized for various traits: ecological habitat, season of use, nutritive value, and palatability. The emphasis is on species that are tolerant to drought, cold, salinity, and grazing; and species that can provide multiple benefits such as fodder, fuelwood, aromatic/medicinal uses , soil fertility improvement, erosion control etc.
This is part of ICARDA’s efforts to establish and maintain field genebanks and reference herbaria to assist in the protection and sustainable use of rangeland areas. Pastoretums have been established by national research centers in Libya and Morocco, with technical assistance from ICARDA; a similar effort has begun in Syria. ICARDA’s Rangeland Ecology and Management Unit, led by Dr Mounir Louhaichi, has also provided seeds to partner countries, where they will be tested for adaptability to local conditions, and potential to generate income for small-scale farmers.
Dr Abdallah Bari has joined ICARDA as Genetic Resources Scientist, based at Tel Hadya. He will help expand the application of FIGS (Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy), an innovative tool that allows scientists to ‘search’ large germplasm collections to identify accessions with specific traits. Dr Bari, who earlier worked at Bioversity International, has a Masters degree from IAV Hassan II in Morocco; a PhD from the University of Cordoba, Spain; and more than 20 years of research experience, spanning the continuum from field surveys to the utilization of germplasm in production systems. Ahlan wa sahlan!
Dr Wondimu Bayu has joined ICARDA as Coordinator of the project ‘Unlocking the potential of rainfed agriculture in Ethiopia’. He is based in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Dr Bayu has a Masters degree from Wye College, London University; a PhD in agronomy from the University of Pretoria, South Africa; and 22 years of research experience in agronomy and farming systems. For the past 3 years he has served as Crop Research Director at the Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute in Ethiopia. Enkwan dehna metah!
Scientists and development experts from Ethiopia visited ICARDA last month, to discuss how the ongoing collaborative research program could be expanded. The delegation included four senior staff from the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) – Dr Tolessa Debele, Director of Soil and Water Research; Dr Adefris Tekle Wold, Director of Crops Research; Mr Seoum Bedeye, Director of Livestock Research; and Mr Workneh Abebe, Head, Agricultural Mechanization – and Dr Tesfai Maberatu, Deputy Program Director at the German development agency GTZ. They were accompanied by Dr Geletu Bejiga, ICARDA’s Country Manager, Ethiopia.
Several potential research areas were discussed, where ongoing EIAR-ICARDA collaboration could be expanded. A joint EIAR-ICARDA team will develop two collaborative projects on conservation agriculture and management of salinity-affected land. Other potential areas for collaboration include drainage and water management; land suitability mapping, biotechnology applications, heat- and drought-tolerant varieties, and feed resources.
The Arab Center for the Study of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD) and ICARDA will jointly develop new research projects in two areas: climate change adaptation and conservation agriculture. This was announced following a visit to ICARDA headquarters by an ACSAD team on 19 May. Mr Fat’hi Bairam, ACSAD Assistant Director General, accompanied by Dr Ali Zaidan and Dr Ayman Shehadeh Al-Oudeh, met with ICARDA scientists and senior management to develop project outlines.
Climate change adaptation and conservation agriculture are both priority issues, especially in dry areas. The new projects will build on previous successes achieved by the two partner institutions. ACSAD and ICARDA have collaborated on a number of research projects on crop improvement, crop-livestock systems, biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and socio-economics and policy. These include components of regional initiatives under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.
Plans have been outlined for scaling up collaborative research in South Asia, following a visit to ICARDA headquarters, 17-21 May, by a delegation of scientists and decision makers from India and Bangladesh. The delegation – comprising representatives of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the Directorate of Wheat Research, the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (India), the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture, and the Pulses and Oilseeds Research Centre in Bangladesh – was accompanied by Dr Ashutosh Sarker, Coordinator of ICARDA’s South Asia and China Regional Program.
Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General; Dr Maarten van Ginkel, DDG-Research; Dr Kamil Shideed, ADG, International Cooperation and Communications; and other senior staff participated in broad-ranging discussions with the visitors. Progress on ongoing collaborative projects was reviewed; and specific areas identified for further work. In India, these include improvement of water productivity and irrigation efficiency; surveillance of wheat rust diseases; improvement of wheat end-use quality, stress tolerance, and water-use efficiency; improvement of both food and malting barley; and training in the use of FIGS (focused identification of germplasm strategy) for more effective use of genetic resources. Potential research areas in Bangladesh include improvement of important pulse crops – lentil, kabuli chickpea and grasspea – and training of young researchers on pulse breeding, pathology, genetic resources conservation, impact assessment and project development.
India and Bangladesh are key partners in ICARDA’s efforts; and the delegation expressed their appreciation of the Center’s support for research and capacity development. The proposed research plan will be more fully developed, jointly by all partners, creating a comprehensive framework to develop and scale out new agricultural technologies for dry areas throughout South Asia.