6th World Water Forum, Marseille, 12-17 March
With water resources declining worldwide, it becomes ever more critical to maximize water-use efficiency in agriculture. ICARDA’s expertise in this field was acknowledged at the World Water Forum held in France last month, attended by 35,000 participants from 173 countries, including several heads of state.Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, was part of an expert panel discussing water and energy issues in the Arab region. Others on the panel included the Water Ministers of Egypt, Morocco and Sudan, the Governor of Cairo, and the Secretary General of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation of Jordan. Dr Solh also made a keynote presentation (Securing water, food and a safe environment) in another technical session. Dr Fawzi Karajeh, water specialist and Coordinator of ICARDA’s Nile Valley and sub-Saharan Africa Regional Program, participated in a session on non-conventional water sources; and also made a presentation on ICARDA-led research to unlock the production potential of rainfed systems.
Delegates at the Forum have set themselves a huge challenge: to increase agricultural water-use efficiency by 10-15% by 2020, to help ensure food security in an increasingly water-scarce world.
2nd Steering Committee meeting of the food security project, 17 March, Tunis
After a successful first year, the project Enhancing food security in Arab countries has finalized workplans and budgets for the next cropping season. The ICARDA-led project targets smallholder farming systems in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia. It is supported by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Islamic Development Bank, the Kuwait Fund and the OPEC Fund for International Development.Project teams have made rapid progress, not only in research but also in dissemination and training. Partner countries are building on the project model, expanding technology transfer at different levels and using different methods. For example in Egypt, project work in the Sharkia governorate is being used as a model for large-scale, government-funded programs across the country. In Tunisia, the Institut National des Grandes Cultures is mobilizing its own funds to scale up project operations.
H.E. Habib Jomli, Tunisia’s Secretary of State for Agriculture, said: “Agricultural development and food security are concerns shared by all countries in the region. This project is yet another example of ICARDA’s ability to coordinate regional partnerships, providing a platform where countries can share research responsibilities, information and skills.”
ICARDA works with Oman’s Agricultural and Livestock Research Center to provide technical and training assistance to national research centers, in support of government efforts to scale up food production. Despite water scarcity, high temperatures and poor soils, several dryland technologies – developed by ICARDA and its partners in other countries – could potentially be applied in Oman.Specific areas of collaboration were discussed at a meeting in Muscat on 24 March, by H.E. Dr Fuad Jaffer Al Sajwani, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries; Dr Hilal Musallam Ali Al-Busaidi, Senior Advisor to the Minister; and Dr Kamil Shideed, ADG-ICC, ICARDA. These include technologies for food and water security under constrained water supplies: heat- and drought-tolerant wheat varieties, water management, horticulture and other areas. The discussions will provide inputs to national policy makers, who are in the process of refining Oman’s strategy for agricultural development.
7th Annual Steering and Technical Committee meetings of the date palm project, Muscat, 24-25 March
Six countries are partners in Development of sustainable date palm production systems, a research project that is helping to improve date palm yields and quality across the Gulf region. The project is funded by the Gulf Cooperation Council and led by ICARDA. The Steering and Technical Committee meetings brought together policy makers from Oman (including H.E. Dr Ishaq Al Ruqaishy, Under-Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) and researchers from the six countries and from ICARDA.The meeting reviewed progress made in the 2011-12 season, and developed workplans for 2012-13. The discussions identified two areas – management of the red palm weevil, biotechnology applications for breeding and genetics – where work could be expanded. An external review panel presented its assessment of the project, concluding that significant progress had been made in each research theme: propagation, crop management, integrated pest management, postharvest handling, processing, biotechnology and capacity development.
Collaboration between ICARDA, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and other Indian organizations is helping to expand the production of legumes – the main source of dietary protein for most households in the country. Farmer training is a key part of these efforts. A two-day training program on lentil and grasspea production attracted more than 100 participants: farmers, extension agents, NGO staff and representatives of local administration. The training covered improved varieties, crop management, post-harvest management and grain quality (customer preferences as well as health and safety). The course was hosted by Narender Dev University of Agriculture in Uttar Pradesh state. Resource persons included scientists from ICARDA, Narender Dev University and Banaras Hindu University.The training program is part of the government-funded National Food Security Mission. A number of new varieties are being scaled out, including two lentil varieties (Moitree and NDL-1) developed through ICAR-ICARDA projects. Adoption is growing rapidly, thanks to a large-scale program of field demonstrations, seed production and training, by ICAR centers in India.
How to pollinate a tree? Use a hosepipe. A one-day workshop in Oman helped train extension staff on a new technique called liquid pollination, which increases productivity and profits for date palm growers. In the date palm, only female trees bear fruit – and must first be pollinated by male trees. Traditional pollination methods are slow, costly, and require trained labour. Liquid pollination – where female trees are sprayed with pollen solution, using a hosepipe – is much quicker, cheaper, and equally effective. Participants from six Gulf countries were provided hands-on training on how to prepare and apply pollen solution (optimal concentrations have been tested and validated by the ICARDA-led date palm project). Liquid pollination offers many advantages over current practice – ease of application, low costs, relatively low pollen requirements, and high fruit set resulting from more effective pollination.
Meeting on National Seed Policy, Kabul, Afghanistan, 6-7 March
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture is working with ICARDA and other partners to strengthen seed production and accelerate the dissemination of new crop varieties. The Seed Policy meeting discussed revisions to the current policy (formulated in 2005). It brought together experts from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, FAO, the World Bank, UNDP, ICARDA, CIMMYT, the Afghanistan National Seed Organization and many other organizations. Key issues included: making the seed sector less dependent on government subsidies or donor funding; variety development and evaluation; marketing and extension linkages; quality control; industry associations; ownership and protection of varieties; import and export regulations; emergency seed supply; and the informal seed sector.
ICARDA has played a key role in seed systems development in Afghanistan, helping to draft a ‘Code of Conduct’ for international development agencies, and the country’s first Seed Law, and establish a network of village-based seed cooperatives. Despite considerable progress, domestic formal-sector seed production falls far short of demand. Clearly, much more needs to be done – but with a broad range of partners pledging support, the future looks encouraging.
Tunisia has been a key ICARDA partner for over three decades, and hosts the Center’s North Africa Regional Program. The Tunisian government has urged that this partnership be expanded further. Dr Mohamed Ben Salem, Minister of Agriculture, and Dr Mamia El Banna, Minister of Environment, expressed similar views during meetings with an ICARDA delegation in Tunis earlier this month.
The delegation, comprising Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General; Dr Kamil Shideed, ADG-ICC; and Dr Mohammed El Mourid, Coordinator, North Africa Regional Program, met with both Ministers, senior ministry officials, and scientists and administrators from three key partners: the National Agronomic Research Institute (INRAT), the National Institute for Research in Rural Engineering, Water and Forests (INRGREF) and the National Gene Bank of Tunisia (BNGT).
The meetings helped identify a number of areas where collaboration will be expanded. These include food security, crop improvement, genebank management, conservation agriculture, irrigation methods, rangeland conservation, livestock, water desalination and wastewater management.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is substantially increasing funding support for CGIAR programs in Africa. A five-year AfDB-funded project was announced earlier this month: Support to agricultural research for the development of strategic crops, targeting four strategic crops – cassava, maize, rice and wheat – in 22 African countries. It will be implemented jointly by four CGIAR Centers: IITA (the executing agency), ICARDA, AfricaRice and IFPRI. ICARDA will lead the wheat component, with research platforms in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Sudan, and additional research sites in eight other countries.
Dr Donald Kaberuka, AfDB President, met with an ICARDA delegation at the AfDB headquarters in Tunis on 19 March. He said AfDB and ICARDA shared the same goals, and would continue to work together. The ICARDA delegation (Drs Solh, Shideed and El Mourid) also met with the AfDB team (Drs Ken Johm, Dougou Keita and Jonas Chianu from the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Division) who led the development of the Strategic crops project. Dr Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General, presented a summary of ICARDA’s work in dry areas, with a focus on Africa. The meeting highlighted the potential for scaling out improved technologies through development projects, such as a planned AfDB project for the Horn of Africa.
Six research centers have launched a new partnership on food legumes. India, Morocco (two of the world’s most important legume producers) and the CGIAR will pool skills and resources to increase production of faba bean, chickpea, lentil and other legume crops, which are the main source of dietary protein in both countries. The six partners are the OCP (Office Cherifien des Phosphates) Foundation, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA) and Institut Agronomique et Vétérianire Hassan II (IAV) in Morocco; the Swaminathan Research Foundation in India; ICARDA; and ICRISAT. A formal agreement was signed in Rabat, Morocco, on 8 March, describing research priorities and implementation mechanisms.
The agreement was signed during the Inaugural Meeting of the Global Food Security Forum, held in Rabat, Morocco, during 7-9 March. The Forum aims to bring together the full range of stakeholders from both developed and developing countries, to identify and promote innovations and partnerships for food security. Delegates at this inaugural meeting included 300 scientists, development experts and policy makers from 50 countries. ICARDA was represented by Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General, and Dr Mohamed El Mourid, Coordinator, North Africa Regional Program.