Research-for-development partnerships in Asia and the Pacific region have taken a leap forward, with the signing of a partnership framework between the Asian Development Bank, IFAD and FAO. The 3-year agreement outlines a framework to support national efforts to improve household food and nutritional security, particularly for small-scale farm households. It was signed during the ADB/FAO/IFAD Investment Forum for Food Security in Asia and the Pacific, held in Manila, the Philippines, 7-9 July.
The framework aims to:
- Increase the impacts of investments in food security and agriculture
- Support the development and dissemination of knowledge to improve productivity and strengthen agro-ecosystem resilience
- Facilitate agricultural trade, through broader partnerships and harmonized regulations
- Promote the development of enabling policies and effective institutions
Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, noted that: “The key areas identified by the framework are of direct relevance to ICARDA’s portfolio… and are reflected in ICARDA’s ongoing programs in Central Asia, the Caucasus, West Asia, China and South Asia, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
ICARDA was represented at the meeting by Dr Kamil Shideed, ADG for International Cooperation and Communications. Given its long experience in the region, the Center can make a significant contribution to this initiative, particularly in technology development, knowledge sharing, and development of enabling policies and institutions. The framework will mean additional funding for research and development – and faster adoption of new technologies to improve food security and nutrition in Asia.
Workplans and budgets have been developed for a new project, Sustainable food security and poverty reduction in Afghanistan. The project is funded by the Netherlands government, and implemented jointly by Afghan partners, ICARDA and other international centers. Workplans for the 2010 season were developed at a 3-day workshop held at ICARDA headquarters last month, jointly with a team from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), including the Directors of agriculture and extension services in the main target provinces .
The project primarily targets Uruzgan province, but activities (and benefits) extend to much wider areas. The workplan includes research, technology transfer and capacity building components. New varieties of wheat, barley, chickpea, lentil, grasspea and potato will be tested at multiple sites in five provinces. Testing and dissemination will be supported by training programs and field days. The project will also help upgrade facilities at two national research centers in Afghanistan, and support farmer associations to produce seed and value-added plant medicinal products.
Speaking at the workshop, Mr Mir Amanuddin Haidari, Director General, Extension Services, said: “ICARDA’s team in Afghanistan is doing high-quality, high-impact work. MAIL is very keen to expand this collaboration, and we assure you of our full support for the project.”
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is an important component of any research project. The ICARDA-led Integrated pest management and organic fertilization project for date palm and wheat in Iraq is no exception. A training workshop on M&E was held at ICARDA’s regional office in Amman, Jordan, 24-28 July. The workshop was co-sponsored by the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Twelve participants (six men, six women) learnt the principles involved, developed an M&E matrix for the project, and became familiar with the tools they would use.
Eng. Taghrid Lahham, IFAD’s Iraq country program manager, and Dr Nasri Haddad Coordinator of ICARDA’s West Asia Regional Program, both highlighted the importance of M&E within the project structure. The aim is to harmonize M&E guidelines among the different institutions involved in the project, and to help ensure – and document – the impact of the project on rural livelihoods.
Drought tolerance is among the most important targets for ICARDA’s barley breeders; and they report that progress is encouraging. They have succeeded in developing advanced lines that can potentially yield up to 2-3 t/ha, with only 270 mm of rainfall. However, these materials must first be tested in different environments, to confirm improved yield and yield stability under stress. Last season, three kinds of barley genotypes were grown on more than 104,000 plots: spring barley adapted to stress-prone environments, spring barley for high-input environments, and winter barley. Following the harvest and data analysis, a number of ‘best-best’ lines have been identified, and will be tested by national research centers in their own countries. Seed samples are now being prepared and packed for shipment, in response to requests from researchers in 50 countries. ICARDA has a global mandate for barley improvement.
Dr Wuletaw Tadesse, formerly with CIMMYT-Mexico, has joined ICARDA as a wheat breeder. Dr Tadesse has an MSc in genetics from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, and a PhD in breeding and genetics from the Technical University of Munich, Germany. He has worked on wheat as well as legumes, helped design and implement rapid seed multiplication programs, and taught genetics at graduate level. Notably, he helped identify and map three new tan spot resistance genes in wheat. Enkwan dehna metah!
Mr Mohamed Ali Boufaroua has joined ICARDA as Water Harvesting/Resources Engineer. He will be based in Tunisia. Mr Boufaroua has degrees from INAT-Tunisia (agricultural engineering) and ENGREF-France (civil engineering, specialization in water and forest applications). His expertise covers rainwater harvesting, soil conservation techniques, irrigation planning and impact evaluation of soil and water conservation projects at watershed level. He has worked for several UN agencies, and for ICARDA projects in Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Ahlan wa sehlan!
Dr Lute Bos, world-renowned virologist, passed away on 6 July. Dr Bos’ career spanned 50 years. He worked mainly on virus diseases of legume and vegetable crops, wrote or co-authored more than 200 papers, helped create a number of international research partnerships – and was the driving force behind the establishment of ICARDA’s virology unit in the mid 1980s. Dr Bos’ scientific acumen, his dedication and his commitment to community, were legendary. He never stopped working until the very end. In fact, he died of complications following a heart attack he suffered while giving a presentation at a virology conference in Norway. He will be sadly missed.
Two meetings in St Petersburg, Russia, brought together more than 600 scientists from 77 countries. The two-day Technical Workshop of the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) focused on stripe (yellow) and stem (black) rust diseases, which are emerging as major threats to wheat crops worldwide. The 8th International Wheat Conference, with 350 oral and poster presentations, discussed a range of issues, including wheat genetic resources, crop improvement, biotic and abiotic stresses, quality factors, and dissemination of new varieties.
ICARDA played a major role in both meetings. ICARDA scientists delivered a number of technical presentations, on breeding for heat tolerance, disease epidemiology, pathogen variability, the use of wild and primitive wheat species in breeding programs, and other subjects. Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General, chairing one of the plenary sessions, presented an overview of rust research in the dry areas. He stressed that areas with the world’s highest per capita consumption of wheat (e.g. North Africa, West Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus) are also among the most vulnerable to new strains of rust fungi. For more details, visit the conference website at www.8iwc.org.
CGIAR representatives met with staff from the Agricultural Research Services of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS) to discuss current trends in agriculture, including current and future challenges; and identify ways to support and enhance collaborative research to address these challenges. The participants included Directors General or other senior representatives from eleven CGIAR Centers (Bioversity, CIAT, CIMMYT, CIP, ICARDA, ICRAF, ICRISAT, IFPRI, IITA, ILRI and IWMI) and research and development staff from USDA and USAID.
The two-day meeting, which was held last month at USDA-ARS, opened with a presentation by Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, on ‘How research can address current trends in agricultural sustainability’. Other presentations described the research plans and priorities of each organization, and identified key research gaps. A new Memorandum of Understanding will be established between USDA-ARS and the Consortium of CGIAR Centers. USDA-ARS and the Centers will continue to work together to identify specific programs and activities to be jointly pursued.
A major new project was launched this month, aiming to enhance food security in the Arab region. The first 3-year phase will target wheat-based farming systems in five countries: Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia. The project is supported by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) and the Islamic Development Bank, with additional support expected from other donors. The project inception workshop, held at ICARDA headquarters on 4-5 July, brought together heads of national research programs and senior scientists from each partner country, to develop workplans for the first season.
“Previous collaborative research has yielded excellent results,” said Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, highlighting the example of Syria, where wheat production has nearly tripled in the past 20 years. “The project will build on these results to work towards productive, sustainable agriculture in the region.” He stressed the need to strike a balance between research and technology transfer, to ensure that new research products are quickly and effectively disseminated.
Dr Kamil Shideed, ICARDA’s ADG for International Cooperation and Communications, provided an overview. The project aims to improve output and productivity of wheat-based farming systems, and to strengthen national capacity by disseminating available, proven technologies, and simultaneously developing new ones. Scientists highlighted the opportunities offered by the project to share skills and resources, and bridge the substantial gap between potential and actual yields. They particularly commended the project’s inclusive nature, with national researcher centers involved from the early design stages.
Two meetings held last month in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, helped develop research plans for the coming years, for Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC). The 13th Steering Committee Meeting of the CGIAR’s Systemwide Program for CAC and the annual Regional Planning Meeting for ICARDA’s CAC Program brought together more than 150 scientists and policymakers from eight countries, and from several international centers. Research results from the 2009-10 season, were reviewed, and workplans developed for the next season. Co-chairs for the CGIAR regional program for the period 2010-2011 were elected: Dr Sherali Nurmatov, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Uzbekistan; and Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General. The meeting included a field visit to research sites, where CGIAR Centers and Turkmenistan’s research and extension services are working with farmers to develop and test a range of technologies. Participants in the field visit included H.E. Orazmurat Gurbannazarov, Minister of Agriculture, Turkmenistan.
Both meetings reflected the strong partnerships in the region, and the commitment of national governments to collaborative research. The CGIAR-CAC meeting was inaugurated by H.E. Muratgeldi Akmammedov, Deputy Prime Minister. The Regional Planning Meeting included a presentation by Prof. Kiselev of Moscow State University, outlining plans for a new Russian-funded project for in Central Asia, to be implemented jointly by national research programs and CGIAR Centers.