Dryland Systems Framework Development Workshop, Dubai, 30 Jan to 1 Feb 2012
A high-powered group of experts has developed an implementation framework for the new CGIAR Research Program (CRP 1.1) on Dryland Farming Systems. The program, Integrated and sustainable agricultural production systems for improved food security and livelihoods in dry areas, will be led by ICARDA and implemented with over 80 partners worldwide. The inception was phase was approved in November 2011; this workshop is the first step in implementation.
The participants included the Directors General of four CGIAR Centers (ICARDA, ICRAF, ICRISAT, ILRI), the head of the CGIAR’s sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program, senior scientists from three other Centers (Bioversity, CIP, IWMI), representatives of regional organizations, and resource persons from three internationally reputed research centers: CSIRO-Australia, the University of Bonn, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
The meeting helped outline the next steps in workplan development and implementation. The inception phase will begin with further data collection for more complete characterization of research sites. The workshop identified the elements of a common data framework, including standard formats for data collection and analysis. This will be followed by a series of stakeholder workshops that will ensure the widest possible consultation, and establish implementation mechanisms. Once these steps are completed, a revised project proposal will be developed, for submission to the CGIAR’s Independent Science and Partnership Council in September 2012.
Food Secure Arab World Conference, Beirut, Lebanon, 6-7 February
How to ensure food security and drive technological change in agriculture for the Middle East and North Africa? The Beirut conference discussed the challenges facing governments, researchers and development agencies. While much of the discussion focused on a “roadmap” for future food policy and research priorities, ICARDA offered practical perspectives, and examples of how new technologies are being delivered to farmers.
ICARDA Director General Dr Mahmoud Solh focused delegates’ attention beyond macro-economic and geopolitical policy horizons, encouraging them to consider the practical aspects of food production and the empowerment of rural communities. He gave a number of examples to illustrate what could be done to make the Arab region food-secure. The priorities include: long-term investment in research, intensification and diversification of farming systems, and more effective extension programs. All this, as he explained, will require even stronger partnerships between national and international research centers, and between researchers, policy makers and extension agents. The conference was organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Partnerships between the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and ICARDA have produced excellent results – but there is scope to expand these partnerships much further. This was the view of H.E. Matia Choudhary, Bangladesh’s Minister for Agriculture. Last month, she met with a joint Bangladesh-ICARDA delegation, including Drs Wais Kabir, Chairman, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council; R.I. Mondal, Director General of BARI; Kamil Shideed, ICARDA ADG-ICC; and Ashutosh Sarker, Coordinator of ICARDA’s South Asia and China Regional Program.
The Minister particularly sought ICARDA’s assistance in increasing the production of pulses – the main source of dietary protein in Bangladesh. The meeting discussed ‘target’ crops and their role in different cropping systems. For example, lentil and grasspea are suitable for cultivation in post-rice fallows. Following the meeting, plans are being developed for a comprehensive five-year collaborative program on pulses, which could include crop improvement research (targeting specific traits in each crop), capacity building for young Bangladeshi researchers, and additional technical and staff support.
2nd Regional Coordination Meeting, 22-26 January, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Scientists from six countries ― Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan ― have outlined a portfolio for collaborative research in South Asia, with ICARDA playing a central role as facilitator. The plans were developed at the Coordination Meeting of ICARDA’s South Asia and China Regional Program. The expanded portfolio could include a regional program on pulses; research on rangeland improvement, crop-livestock integration and water productivity; and training and graduate-study sponsorships for national researchers.
Over 300 participants attended the meeting, which was hosted by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). “Collaboration with ICARDA has made a major contribution to pulses production in Bangladesh.” The Hon’ble K.S.M. Shajahan, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Ministry of Agriculture, said. “I hope this research can be extended to new areas in the future, such as wheat, barley, protected agriculture and utilization of rice fallows.”
The meeting included field visits to BARI’s pulses research station at Ishurdi and to farmers’ fields in four surrounding districts. The highlight was lentil variety BARI Masoor 5, jointly developed by BARI and ICARDA. Farmers are using the new variety with recommended management practices including conservation tillage. The crop (mid-flowering stage) was in excellent condition. Farmers expect high yields, and are eager to share seed with their neighbors after the harvest. In addition to Masoor 5, several other BARI-ICARDA lentil varieties are being disseminated. Substantial improvements in yields, farm incomes and livelihoods can be expected in the coming years.
International Workshop on Dryland Science for Food Security and Natural Resource Management under a Changing Climate, Konya, Turkey, 7-9 December 2011
China’s Lanzhou University is working with other research centers to create a new research platform ― the Center for Dryland Agricultural Ecosystems, which will develop new technologies for smallholder farmers in dry areas. Research will include drought-tolerant varieties, crop-livestock integration, water and land management, rangeland conservation and other areas. The partners include ICARDA, the University of Western Australia and the International Center for Research on Agroforestry. A proposal for establishment of the Center was signed between Lanzhou University and ICARDA.
The proposal was outlined during the December 2011 workshop on dryland science, held in Konya, Turkey. The workshop, jointly organized by ICARDA and Tottori University, Japan, brought together scientists from China, Egypt, Japan, Tunisia and several international organizations (ICARDA, FAO, ICBA), and representatives of donor agencies. The aim was to share results from Tottori-ICARDA research projects, and use these to plan future research on dryland agriculture. Presentations covered a range of areas, including biotechnology, environmental stresses (drought, heat, cold and salinity), and land and water management.
International Workshop on Adaptation to Climate Change in Central Asia and China, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 2-3 February
A three-year, multi-partner project, Adaptation to climate change in Central Asia and China, supported by the Asian Development Bank, has helped identify policy options that could help smallholder farmers adapt to changing production conditions. The end-of-project workshop in Tashkent was attended by researchers from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China; Uzbek policy makers; and scientists from ICARDA and the International Food Policy Research Institute.
“The achievements of the project have been substantial,” said Prof. Sherali Nurmatov, Uzbekistan’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources. “Research on how climate change affects farmers’ livelihoods is crucial for decision making processes in every country.” Project scientists described how they used a combination of GIS mapping, crop modeling and socio-economic assessments to identify policies to strengthen climate change adaptation in dryland agriculture. The workshop aimed to review and package the findings, and use them effectively to inform policy development. Given that agriculture in the region is likely to be severely impacted by climate change, delegates stressed the need for a second project phase to build on these results. The Phase 2 proposal is now being developed jointly by project partners.
3rd West Asia Regional Program Meeting, Amman, Jordan, 3-4 January
Scientists and policy makers in West Asia have developed workplans for the next 2 years for the ongoing collaborative program facilitated by ICARDA. The plans were agreed upon at the Regional Program Meeting in Amman. The meeting also discussed the new ICARDA-led CGIAR Research Program on dryland systems, which will create greater demands on researchers, but also increase synergies with other centers worldwide.
The meeting was attended by 20 scientists from five countries ― Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria ― and several ICARDA staff. Dr Faisal Awawdeh, Director General of the National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension, noted that considerable progress had been made since the previous review meeting. New technologies had been introduced, training programs implemented, and linkages strengthened between national research centers across West Asia. The discussions helped outline priorities for the next two years. Ongoing work on crop improvement, land and water management and crop-livestock systems will be scaled out. Research on climate change adaptation, marketing, socio-economics, grain legumes and seed production will be strengthened, as part of regional efforts to ensure food security.
Richard Sanders has joined ICARDA as Science Writer/Editor. He is a highly experienced communications professional with specialist knowledge of agricultural, rural and environmental issues. For the last three years he has been a freelance writer for various organizations including Bioversity International, the Natural Environment Research Council in the UK, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and FAO. Richard studied agriculture at Harper Adams University College, UK, and worked for the Ministry of Agriculture on pesticide safety and regulation and also as agriculture manager for a sunflower growing extension project in western Kenya before turning to writing and communications. Richard is currently based in ICARDA’s office in Beirut. Welcome aboard!
Rainfed areas – which cover half of Afghanistan’s cropland – hold the key to national food security. How to improve water-use efficiency in agriculture, how to promote new high-yielding crop varieties, how to build R&D capacity? Researchers, extension experts and policy makers from seven provinces in Afghanistan gathered at the National workshop on dryland agriculture, Kabul, 16-17 January, to discuss these questions.
Speaking at the workshop H.E. Mr. Asif Rahimi, Minister of Agriculture, said, “For us, it is a beginning, but our neighbors are already receiving the dividends from research in dryland agriculture. We look forward to even stronger collaboration with our international partners, particularly with ICARDA.”
The workshop, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) in cooperation with ICARDA, and AusAID, was a follow up to the first International Dryland Workshop held in December 2010, which helped redefine the priorities of the Agriculture Ministry. MAIL and its partners have made rapid progress since then. MAIL has established a Dryland Farming Unit in Kabul, with an 8-hectare plot for research, demonstration and training. ICARDA helped plan and implement this initiative, and is supporting demonstration trials on drought-resistant food crops, forages, and water harvesting technologies. The Center is also involved in MAIL’s new Food for Life program, in which dryland agriculture will be a major component.
Research priorities have been identified, and an implementation framework agreed upon, for stimulating agricultural development in low-rainfall highland environments. Nearly 200 experts from 10 countries gathered at the 1st Regional Expert Meeting on Highland Agriculture, held recently in Karaj, Iran. The meeting looked at ways to resolve the main constraints to highland agriculture: low and unreliable rainfall, low crop productivity, high poverty levels, and rapid land degradation.
The discussions covered food crops, horticulture, water and land management, livestock, socioeconomics and other areas. Three sets of research priorities have been identified: Natural resource management and climate change adaptation, socio-economic and policy issues, and intensification of production systems. These will provide the framework for detailed research plans, currently being developed, for dry highland areas in Central Asia, West Asia and North Africa.
Participants at the meeting included H.E. M. Farhadi, Governor of Alborz Province; H.E. Dr J. Porhemmat, Deputy Minister of Jihad-e Agriculture; and representatives of several international organizations international organizations including FAO, CIMMYT, ICIMOD and ICARDA. The meeting was organized by two Iranian organizations ― the Agricultural Research Education and Extension Organization and the Seed and Plant Improvement Institute ― and ICARDA.