The 48th meeting of ICARDA’s Board of Trustees was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 17-21 October. The open sessions were hosted by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR). The participants included not only the Board, but also scientists and management from both institutions, heads of the national research programs in Ethiopia and Sudan, representatives from donor agencies and international organizations, and other partners.
The meeting was opened by H.E. Mitiku Kassa, State Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Mr Henri Carsalade, ICARDA Board Chair. Mr Carsalade, on behalf of the Board, thanked the Ethiopian government and EIAR for hosting the meeting. “EIAR and ICARDA have worked together for more than 30 years – it is therefore fitting that we are meeting at EIAR’s headquarters”, he said. “Ethiopian scientists have played a key role in collaborative research programs, particularly in legume crops, barley and wheat. And they are continuing to generate international public goods that are being used in both Africa and Asia.”
The State Minister highlighted specific research areas where ICARDA could contribute to national development plans. “EIAR and ICARDA have worked together to produce excellent results on food legumes – the main source of dietary protein for millions of Ethiopians,” he said. “We must now expand this partnership to include research on climate change adaptation, water management, livestock and other areas.”
Dr Solomon Assefa, Director General of EIAR, described the partnership as exemplary, and a model for how national and international centers can work together to create genuine impact. “In the past 10 years, Ethiopia’s food production has increased substantially; yields of many crops have increased by 50%. I am proud to say that our partnership has played a major role in the country’s progress.” Dr Assefa highlighted the close match between EIAR’s priorities and ICARDA’s research portfolio. “We do not want to re-invent the wheel,” he said. “We have identified ICARDA technologies that have been developed and tested elsewhere. We are now focusing on adaptive research, to scale out these technologies within Ethiopia.”
“We are here to support you,” said Dr Harous Dosso, Senior Agronomist with the African Development Bank in Ethiopia. He noted that CGIAR Centers had made vital contributions to agricultural development in Africa, and described new initiatives, funded by the Bank, to build on previous work.
Dr Seyfu Ketema, Executive Secretary of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), stressed the need for more effective dissemination. “Many ICARDA technologies have worked successfully in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan. Our priority must be to scale these out to dry areas across Africa.”
Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, described the challenges facing agriculture in dry areas – particularly in Africa – and the research framework being used to address these challenges. In particular, he noted the importance of partnerships in generating international public goods. “Ethiopian scientists have played an important role,” he said “For example, new wheat varieties, resistant to Ug99 stem rust disease, were jointly identified in Ethiopia, and are now being multiplied in Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries.”
H.E. Mitiku Kassa and Dr Assefa presented Dr Solh with a plaque in recognition of his role in building Ethiopia-ICARDA partnerships. The Board Chair and Dr Solh reciprocated by presenting the Minister and Dr Assefa with silver shields.
The Board approved ICARDA’s strategy for horticulture research. The aim is to create income opportunities, diversify farming systems and reduce risk, by identifying and promoting high-value horticultural crops suited to dry areas. The portfolio will include high-value greenhouse vegetables, dryland fruit trees, and herbal, medicinal and aromatic plants. Research will build on expertise from partner organizations. The Board also discussed ICARDA’s research on gender issues in agriculture. They concluded that wide-ranging studies had been completed, with valuable results. In 2011, the Center will develop a comprehensive strategy for mainstreaming gender research, expand research capacity in the social sciences, and organize an international conference on gender research.
The BOT meeting included field visits to the highland areas of Daka Bora, Ude, Adadi Gole and Beki, about 60 km from Addis Ababa, to view some of new varieties of lentil, chickpea and faba bean developed jointly by EIAR and ICARDA, that have driven spectacular growth in legume production. A group of farmers in Ude, for example, reported that their incomes have more than doubled, from the sale of high-quality seeds of chickpea variety Arerti. The national extension service plans to promote more such groups, and eventually develop the area into a seed production center for the highland zone.
A new chickpea line known as Acos Dubie is being tested on-farm in the Ejere area. With a 100-seed weight of 64 grams (30 grams is considered large), the new line is expected to fetch premium prices. The Beki area is home to a thriving processing industry, with numerous small-scale enterprises producing decorticated lentil (mainly the EIAR-ICARDA variety Alemaya) for domestic and export markets.
The Board also visited wheat trials at the Debre Zeit research center, where researchers from several organizations are working together to halt the spread of Ug99, a new race of stem rust disease. More than 10,000 genotypes have been screened. New Ug99-resistant varieties, developed from these materials, have been released in Ethiopia; others are in the final stages of pre-release testing in Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
“You are seeing only a few places,” said Dr Assefa. “But I can assure you that similar impacts are being generated in many other parts of Ethiopia.”
Mr Carsalade noted that the meeting had provided the Board with a first-hand view of how ICARDA’s partnerships are being implemented, and the impacts they have made on rural livelihoods in Ethiopia. “This success is due to several factors, most importantly, unwavering support from the government of Ethiopia,” he said. “There is a strong sense of commitment by every partner – and I have no doubt that we will continue to see excellent results in the future.”
A new research-for-development project to improve livelihoods and climate change adaptation has been launched with partners in five countries: Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. Research plans and budgets were developed at the project inception workshop, held last month in Cairo, Egypt. The 3-year project, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), will identify, test and promote crop and livestock technologies to improve food security and reduce the vulnerability of smallholder farmers to climate change impacts. It will focus on both rainfed and irrigated systems. Benchmark sites will be located in irrigated areas in Egypt and Sudan, and rainfed systems in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen – involving about 1600 households.
The project will build on ongoing research in several areas: crop improvement, livestock production, water productivity, conservation agriculture and other land management practices, and the use of poverty mapping and other tools for research targeting. Project staff will work with communities, extension services and other partners identify the most appropriate interventions for each farming system, develop ‘user groups’ to scale out new technologies, and further strengthen the capacity of researchers, farmers and service providers.
The Africa Green Revolution Forum, held last month in Accra, Ghana, outlined a series of concrete steps to transform African agriculture. The Forum was attended by national leaders, farmer groups, researchers, development specialists and representatives of government agencies and the private sector. The partners reiterated their commitment to scale up investments in research and infrastructure, and to improve the availability of seed, fertilizer and other agricultural inputs. They also pledged support for the new Impact Investment Fund for African Agriculture, which will help farmers and agri-businesses to access finance.
Concluding the meeting, Mr Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General and now Chair of the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said: “I am thrilled to see that a genuine, collective, all-inclusive movement has emerged.” He was particularly encouraged by the presence of every stakeholder group, from farmers to bankers and business leaders. Mr Annan highlighted two areas as being key to food security in Africa – improved water productivity and integrated crop-livestock systems. ICARDA is well placed to contribute to technology initiatives in both areas.
ICARDA was represented at the meeting by Dr Kamil Shideed, Assistant Director General for International Cooperation and Communications. Dr Shideed described a number of currently available technologies tailored to conditions in Africa, and the potential entry points to scale out these technologies for maximum impact. Key areas include seed production and delivery systems, on-farm water management, food legumes and crop-livestock integration. The meeting also helped identify specific areas where ICARDA and AGRA could work together. An AGRA team will visit ICARDA’s headquarters to develop a formal program of collaboration.
The 18th Iran-ICARDA Annual Coordination Meeting, held in Karaj, Iran, last month, brought together more than 130 scientists from twelve national research institutes and from ICARDA. The meeting was opened by H.E. Dr Jahangir Porhemmat , Deputy Minister of Jihad-e Agriculture and Head of the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization (AREEO). The Minister reiterated the importance of this partnership, not only for Iran but also for dryland areas across the region. The ICARDA delegation included Dr Maarten van Ginkel, Deputy Director General for Research, Dr Mohammed Roozitalab, Coordinator of the Iran-ICARDA Program, research program directors and senior scientists. Their presentations focused on the results achieved through these partnerships, as well as future challenges such as the spread of wheat rust diseases.
The meeting discussed the progress made in each collaborative project, in plenary and in two technical sessions on crop improvement and water and land management. Activities will be scaled up next year in a number of areas including bread and durum wheat, winter barley, food legumes, forage crops, conservation agriculture, biotechnology, water and land management, crop-livestock systems and small ruminant nutrition. In a separate meeting, H.E. Dr Porhemmat agreed with the scientists’ recommendation that collaboration on highland agriculture be strengthened.
Iran’s Seed and Plant Improvement Institute has released three new high-yielding barley varieties, selected from nurseries received from ICARDA. The variety Yousef is resistant to terminal drought and suitable for cultivation in moderate to warm areas. Fajre is tolerant to cold, lodging and shattering, and suitable for moderate environments in Iran. Bahman is tolerant to cold, lodging, shattering and terminal drought, and well adapted to cold areas. Iran’s Dryland Agricultural Research Institute has reported that three other barley varieties (two winter/facultative and one spring variety), all derived from ICARDA’s nurseries, are performing consistently well in national trials. These varieties are candidates for release in 2010-11.
Decision makers from Australia and Tunisia visited ICARDA’s Tunis office last month, for a first-hand view of the Center’s work in North Africa. The visiting delegation included Hon. John Hogg, President of the Australian Senate; H.E. Stephanie Shwabsky, Australian Ambassador to Tunisia; Mr Quinton Clements, Senior Advisor to the President of the Australian Senate; Ms Erny Wah, Political and Economic Affairs Attache at the Australian Embassy; and Prof. Abdelwahed Trabelsi, Senator, Chamber of Advisors, Tunisia.
Dr Mohamed El Mourid, Coordinator of ICARDA’s North Africa Regional Program, briefed the visitors about challenges in the region, and the impacts achieved in collaboration with national research centers and other partners. The discussions focused on several areas: climate change, water management, land degradation and food security, and particularly on a new Australian-funded initiative to promote conservation agriculture in the region. The Australian team reiterated their government’s commitment to support ICARDA’s efforts.