New opportunities for Syria-ICARDA collaboration

May 15, 2011 at 11:39 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

H.E. Dr Riad Hejab, Syria’s Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, visited ICARDA headquarters on 12 May. He was accompanied by Mr Hamed Al-Soud, President of the Syrian Farmers Union, and several Directors from the Ministry. “Syria and ICARDA have worked closely together for more than 30 years,” the Minister said. “The benefits have been substantial – but there are opportunities to expand this partnership even further.”

Rust-resistant wheat genotypes being tested under greenhouse conditions. Foreground, Left to right: H.E. Dr Riad Hejab; Dr Mahmoud Solh; Mr Hamed Al-Soud; Dr Majd Jamal, Assistant Director General, Government Liaison; Dr Kumarse Nazari, Cereal Pathologist

Dr Hejab visited field experiments and lab facilities at the Tel Hadya research station, noting that ICARDA’s research complemented national efforts in key areas. For example, multidisciplinary Syria-ICARDA teams are helping to fight epidemics of yellow rust disease, which has caused huge losses in recent years. A joint project, using GIS tools for agro-ecological mapping, is helping to improve technology targeting. The “100 villages” project has helped disseminate new technologies to improve the livelihoods of the country’s poorest communities. Another program has led to an expansion of conservation agriculture in Syria from near-zero to 15,000 hectares.

Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, stressed the Center’s commitment to assisting national efforts. “All our work is driven by the priorities of partner countries – and designed, implemented and monitored jointly.

H.E. Dr Riad Hejab (right) was honored with an ICARDA plaque for his leadership in promoting agricultural R&D

” He spoke about new research-for-development initiatives in which Syria would play an important role. These include a regional project on food security supported by the Arab and Kuwait Funds and the Islamic Development Bank, and the new CGIAR Consortium Research Program on dryland farming systems.

Following discussions with scientists and senior management, Dr Hejab identified several areas where existing programs could be expanded. These include new disease- and drought-resistant crop varieties, technologies to increase water productivity, integrated crop-rangeland-livestock systems, and rural development projects to create new income opportunities, especially for women.

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