By Aly Abousabaa
Cairo – Water scarcity in the Middle East and North Africa is increasing at an alarming rate. It is already at critical levels in most of the countries of the region. The annual per capita share is continuously declining. Important resources, including water, are being diverted to other priority sectors. As a result, agriculture loses substantial amounts of water every year, even as the demand for food rises due to rapid population growth.
Amman, October 2 - A third phase of Enhancing Food Security in Arab Countries began with the financial support of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD). The project’s technical committee met to discuss the achievements so far and develop the action plan for the next phase.
By Yashpal Singh Saharawat
Parwan province – The lack of availability of quality seeds remains a constraint in Afghanistan, hampering agricultural productivity. Against this background, ICARDA recently reintroduced the concept of village-based seed enterprises, which was pioneered in 2004 and 2005. The business development project targets both men and women in rural areas where farming is the main income for households.
The seed enterprises are managed by farmers and aim to meet the location-specific requirements of quality seed of adopted varieties.
Izmir, Turkey - With the inauguration of the Regional Cereal Rust Research Center in Turkey, ICARDA and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock have formalized efforts to help fight cereal rust diseases.
Situated in Turkey's Aegean Agricultural Research Institute in Izmir, the Center is the result of partnership between ICARDA and the General Directorate of Agricultural Research and Policies - also known as TAGEM - at the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock.
How can fodder gaps in the water constrained provinces of Baghlan and Nangarhar in Afghanistan be reduced? What are the links between women’s empowerment and sustainable fodder production systems? These were two of the questions addressed during a week-long workshop in Amman, Jordan organised by The International Center for Agriculture Research (ICARDA), CSIRO and Murdoch University – in collaboration with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and KIT Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).
The Winter Forage Gap
Mosul, April 2018 – Even before the conflict, agriculture’s contribution to the Iraqi economy had been declining due to ineffective policies. And the conflict has pushed the agricultural sector into further disarray. Assessing the damage alone is a complex task.
But today, there are signs that Iraq’ agriculture maybe coming back, as it begins to employ more people.
By Jack Durrell
Growing up in Ethiopia, Bezaiet Dessalegn, ICARDA scientist, became concerned about the degraded landscapes around her and took some giant steps to forge change.
Ethiopia has experienced significant deforestation over the past century – driven by rapid population growth, the expansion of agricultural land, and the unsustainable demand for wood, often as a source of fuel for cooking and heating. The World Bank suggests that less than 3 percent of the country’s forests remain untouched.
During a field day in its Amlaha Station in Central India’s Madhya Pradesh State, ICARDA shared its improved cultivars with 200 farmers and special guests. The government has recently launched an initiative to provide farmers with improved varieties and receive training on production technology in order to close the production gap.
Using non-GM molecular breeding techniques, ICARDA’s scientists developed a set of durum wheat varieties that can withstand up to 40°C heat along the Senegal River basin. If scaled up, the technology offers potential to fight hunger and help farmers adapt to rising temperatures.
With the financial support of the Swedish Research Council, ICARDA scientists developed super-early and heat-tolerant durum wheat cultivars and tested them in the land left fallow by rice farmers during winter months – from December to March – in the Senegal River basin.
The dry areas are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Agricultural research for development will help communities cope with rising temperatures and water scarcity – strengthening their resilience, preventing displacement, and developing the lessons that other regions can use to support their own adaptation strategies.
One of the key priorities of ICARDA activities in Afghanistan is raising the capacity of the country’s women farmers. With funding from AusAid, the Center recently conducted training with the staff and community members of Action Aid, an international NGO based in South Africa and working across 45 countries to tackle poverty.
Water access in Sudan is key to the livelihood of the country’s farming communities. ICARDA is working on the ground in Kordofan to maximize the productivity of the area’s crop-range-livestock systems by developing and implementing water-harvesting interventions.
Although the factors driving migration are diverse, we should not ignore food insecurity. On World Food Day we argue that one solution to the migration crisis is a sustained effort to strengthen the resilience of agriculture against a back-drop of rising temperatures and increasing water scarcity.
Conflict and instability are widely seen as the principal factors driving the migration crisis – but food insecurity, poverty and extreme weather events linked to climate change such as drought also play an important role.
Jordan’s ‘Badia’ is a vast arid area stretching across 80% of the country. It is a severely degraded ecosystem caused by mono-cropping and overgrazing over the past few decades. The ICARDA-managed Middle East Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) worked with local communities and partners to promote the adoption of sustainable water and land management practices – helping farmers to optimize opportunities, raise their productivity, and reduce pressure on fragile resources.
ICARDA expertise helps countries transition after conflict has devastated their agricultural production systems. Lessons learned in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine could hold the key to future rebuilding efforts in Yemen and Syria.
The agricultural sectors of countries emerging from conflict often have to contend with a multitude of challenges: destroyed crops and food stores, weakened national seed production and distribution systems, damaged equipment, and degraded national plant genetic resources.
A research facility is helping countries fight wheat rust diseases – and the threat they pose to wheat yields and food security.
Although wheat rust disease is well known, the situation and threat are fundamentally different today. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns have promoted the emergence of new races of rust that are increasingly overcoming the defenses of rust-resistant wheat varieties.
A training course for scientists on the statistical analysis of agricultural field experiments, recently conducted at Sudan’s Agricultural Research Corporation, demonstrated ICARDA’s on-going commitment to raising the capacity of Sudanese agricultural scientists and strengthening the country’s food and nutritional security. Many of those trained were young researchers who will go on to manage research institutions and initiatives in the future.
The challenge of desertification, already big, is becoming even more significant as a growing global population places increasing pressure on productive land. If we have any chance of delivering more nutritious food to people in the Global South we need to recover degraded land and enhance the health and fertility of our soils.
In the dry areas, where ICARDA works, this challenge is likely to be more difficult – these marginal environments are on the frontline in the fight against desertification and are predicted to be worst affected by climate change.
Saja Taha Al-Zoubi is raising awareness about the challenges confronting female agricultural workers displaced by Syria’s ongoing conflict.
In the spring of 2015 Saja Taha Al Zoubi was sleeping on an Aleppo-bound bus when she was awoken by gunfire. The bus was being attacked by armed groups, but fortunately none of the passengers were hurt. Despite the attack and a 12-hour bus ride on secondary roads in the freezing cold, Saja arrived at Aleppo University a day later to defend her PhD degree with honor.
Against the odds, a new agricultural outreach model targeting rural women is taking shape in Afghanistan – and delivering on its promise of empowerment, greater productivity, and higher incomes.
War and instability in Afghanistan have devastated a once-thriving agricultural sector. One fallout has been the hardship faced by Afghani women. As men continue to leave home – first to go to war and more recently to seek employment in Kabul and elsewhere – women have been left behind to take care of the household and land.