Food and nutrition security in dry areas: ICARDA 2012 report and research-for-development obstacles

ICARDA_Logo_h_newICARDA_2012_Annual Report

ICARDA – the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas – is an international organization targeting crops for these critical regions. It’s annual report for 2012 has just been published and highlights their genetic, breeding and agronomy research. Their headquarters in Aleppo, Syria, was taken over – there are shocking YouTube videos brandishing AK47s on the tables where I was eating at a meeting a few years ago (see the front of the ICARDA headquarters building  and the gates and canteen, 1:19) – and hence they had to relocate.

Highlights from ICARDA’s research activities and accomplishments include:
Dryland Systems Global Program initiated;
Significantly higher profits for farmers in Ethiopia from rust-resistant and high-yield wheat varieties, and fast-track seed multiplication;
Benefits of conservation agriculture for poor farmers in North Africa as innovative downstream approach drastically cuts the cost of seeder machines;
Improved yields and quality of dates across the Gulf region from breakthrough biotech research;
Improved soil health, better nutrition, and additional incomes for small farmers in West Bengal as they learn to sow lentils during fallow periods;
Added value to research initiative on legumes as Asia and Africa exchange results through a creative trilateral India-Morocco-ICARDA partnership

For these and more highlights from past year, download a copy of ICARDA’s 2012 Annual Report at:

Consequences of poor water management, overgrazing, and fuelwood over-collection in dry areas: Erosion gullies, loss of topsoil, minimal productivity and invasive plants (here, Argemone mexicana) _phh7787

Consequences of poor water management, overgrazing, and fuelwood over-collection in dry areas: Erosion gullies, loss of topsoil, minimal productivity and invasive plants (here, Argemone mexicana) _phh7787

Another important report related to ICARDA’s work comes from Mahmoud Solh, Maarten van Ginkel, and Rodomiro Ortiz. They write:

“If agricultural research and innovation are to deliver acceptable levels of food and nutrition security to poor communities at a global scale, a rethink is needed of how current approaches to research-for-development are planned and executed.

Obstacles lie in three factors:
· Today’s vertical and supply driven focus – by many research leaders and development agencies.
· The current short-term and project focus to funding agricultural research and development.
· A need for practical policy options, that help countries respond to the realities they face.

The full information about this Research-for-development program: Crop improvement: biodiversity and integrated gene management is at

ICARDA_Science_and_ Policy_Comment–innovative-agriculture-for-food-security-integrated-agro-ecosystem-approach.html#addcomment#addcomments

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About Pat Heslop-Harrison

Professor of Molecular Cytogenetics and Cell Biology, University of Leicester. Group Leader, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Chief Editor, Annals of Botany. Research: genome evolution, breeding and biodiversity in agricultural species; the impact of agriculture; evalutation of research and advanced training.
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