The Strengthening Agricultural Knowledge Management (SKIM) project, led by Dr. Akmal Akramkhanov and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, facilitates the growth of knowledge management and capacity development operations across the Near East and North Africa (NENA) and Central-Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEN) regions, and in Europe. In 2020, SKIM supported the University of Khartoum in scientific poster development; created the Virtual Learning Route, which aims to build a framework of agricultural knowledge sharing in Sudan; and supported entrepreneurs in Moldova with knowledge transfer training. The project also carried out countless training sessions across the Central and West Asia, and North Africa (CWANA) region to improve sharing knowledge and research among organizations.
In Syria, led by Dr. Abdoul Aziz Niane, ICARDA works with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to rehabilitate the country’s seed sector by producing basic seed stocks of barley, chickpeas, lentil, and wheat, towards the multiplication of certified seed and eventual dissemination to national farmers. ICARDA also implements FAO-funded water management training programs to introduce modern irrigation techniques and rainwater harvesting to increase agricultural production. Field-based demonstrations were organized every week during the vegetative, flowering, fruiting, and maturity phases of the crop, and question-and-answer sessions were organized on WhatsApp with ICARDA seed experts. A total of 1,000 copies of a 19-page illustrated training manual in Arabic were distributed to the pioneer farmers, as well as the supporting team of seed experts and other national agriculture extension experts.
Continuing our capacity development support of fragile countries and territories, in 2020, with funding from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), ICARDA carried out a series of training in Syria through projects led by Dr. Majd Jamal. Due to COVID-19 social distancing, on-the-job training and business development support was provided in farmers’ fields instead of in the classroom with the ICARDA and UNDP team members and local extension specialists.
Also, in 2020, led by Dr. Abdoul Aziz Niane, ICARDA delivered quality legume seeds from advanced varieties bred by its scientists to Lebanon as part of an ICARDA-Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) joint capacity development project. With funding from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, ICARDA provided LARI with 722 kg of breeder seeds that included 450 kg of chickpeas (from seven advanced varieties), 155 kg of faba bean seeds (from six varieties),and 117 kg of lentil seeds (from five advanced varieties).
The Center of Excellence project, funded by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, and led by Dr. Seid Kamal, strengthens technology innovation and scaling by improving the skills and knowledge of researchers. In 2020, two in-country trainings were organized for the Agricultural Research Centers of Egypt and Sudan to improve the skills and knowledge of young researchers in classical and modern crop breeding tools and methods. The aim was to enable the researchers to modernize their breeding programs to increase genetic gains in wheat and food legume breeding, for wheat-based irrigated cropping systems.
In Egypt, 15 young researchers working in wheat and legume improvement participated in field and lab training covering major crop breeding topics; methods, and strategies; breeding tools (speed breeding, genomic selection, marker-assisted selection); breeding for quality; genotype x environment interactions, and statistical analysis and seed systems.
A similar module was carried out in Sudan for accelerated genetic gains in wheat and food legumes in irrigated wheat-based production systems. A total of 24 trainees (37% female) from eight research stations across Sudan were trained in experimental designs and data analysis using Genstat; breeding methodologies and genetic gain; genetic resource utilization; biotechnology and speed breeding; product profile; mainstreaming nutritional quality in breeding, and variety maintenance. All trainees completed the course and received certificates from ICARDA.
As part of the SemiArid project funded by ERANET ArimNet 2 (an agri-research group from the Mediterranean region), with the support of ICARDA and the Faculty of Agriculture of the Lebanese University, a group of lecturer-researchers from Mediterranean institutions held an international training course dedicated to the design of sustainable farming systems in dry areas. Around 40 students were trained on integrated analysis methods to explore the role that diversity can play (i.e., crop variety and cropping systems, access to resources, etc.) to design more efficient agricultural systems. The course also taught students how to guide and help farmers and local decision-makers to reflect on strategic production choices concerning climatic, technical, or socioeconomic constraints.
In the framework of the ICT2Scale project in Tunisia, ICARDA and its national partners – the Agricultural Training and Extension Agency and the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Tunisia – have developed eight e-learning modules. Three modules are in French or Arabic and strengthen the capacity of agricultural trainers and extension workers to support local farmers. The modules cover: I) cactus production, ii) andragogy, iii) project development, iv) beekeeping, v) complementary irrigation, vi) ‘Innovation Platform’, vii) cattle and dairy, and viii) medical plants. So far, over 200 online participants have completed the courses and received an online certificate.