2020 Highlights

Research projects implemented in 33 countries

Boosting Wheat Production in Sudan and Ethiopia through the TAAT Wheat Compact Project  

The ICARDA-coordinated Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) wheat compact project strengthens production capacity and seed systems across Africa, including Ethiopia and Sudan, where ICARDA leads the programs. It is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and led by ICARDA’s Dr. Zewdie Bishaw. In 2020, more basic seed, certified seed, and quality declared seeds were produced in six target countries where nearly 1 million ha were planted, benefiting smallholder wheat farmers. Sudan’s bumper harvest produced 1.15 million tons of wheat and ICARDA and its partners are working to improve the sustainability of wheat production with proper input management and diversified rotations. 

Capitalizing on Idle Land for Better Food Security in South Asia  

The ICARDA-South Asia & China Regional Program led by Dr. Ashutosh Sarker with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) support, implements a project across Bangladesh, India, and Nepal, covering 24,873 smallholder farmers. Family farmers now harvest healthy yields of lentil, Kabuli chickpea, and grass pea from lands that would have otherwise remained fallow. An additional 150,000 farmers indirectly benefitted through farmer-to-farmer seeds and knowledge sharing. The projects also established 97 Village Seed Hubs involving farmers’ associations which produced 122 tons of seeds to support the coming years’ cropping. Over 12,000 farmers are now trained on production technologies, and 7,355 women improved their skills in value addition, processing, and other skills. 

 ICARDA Scientists Win a Crop Science Society of America Outstanding Paper Award 

ICARDA was thrilled when the 2020 Outstanding Paper Awardof Crop Science Journal by the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) went to a paper led by Dr. Khaoula El Hassouni, a former Ph.D. student of ICARDA, and the Universite Mohammed V, collaborating with Prof. Hickey and Dr. Alhamad of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)and with senior author Dr. Filippo Bassi of ICARDA Recognized as one of the premier showcases of agricultural scientific research, the Crop Science Journal is a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal. The award-winning research was Funded by the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (WHEAT), the study explores the genetic variability for mature root traits among 25 durum genotypes. 

 Water and Soil Management in Egypt 

The iNASHR project is funded by The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and developed alongside Egypt’s Agricultural Research Center (ARC) and Ministry of Agriculture and led by ICARDA’s Bezaiet Dessalegn. The project addresses Egypt’s water scarcity and soil quality while improving food security for smallholder family farmers. In 2020 ICARDA established 420 demonstration sites, 16 percent of them women-owned. Planted with improved wheat and faba bean varieties, the demonstration sites benefit 400 individuals directly from capacity-building efforts, of which 21% are women.  

 More Productive Livestock in Ethiopia through Community-Based Breeding  

ICARDA’s community-based breeding programs (CBBP) supported by CRP Livestock, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the World Bank, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) continued to increase the productivity and profitability of indigenous sheep and goat breeds across Ethiopia. Led by Dr. Aynalem Haile, the program expanded to three major regions of Ethiopia and more than 60 legal breeders’ cooperatives now lead the breeding program. An upscaling process undertaken with financial support from The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) involved more than 2,000 households, the purchasing and distributing of 479 goat bucks from existing CBBPs, and mass synchronization and artificial insemination to distribute improved genetics. We also linked farmers to better market routes including through slaughterhouse companies, livestock cooperatives, and buyers in Dubai.  

Dr. Abdoul Aziz Takes the Helm to Drive ICARDA’s Work in the Arab Peninsula  

In 2020, Dr. Abdoul Aziz took over from  Dr. Azaiez Ouled Belgacem as ICARDA’s Regional Coordinator of the Arabian Peninsula Regional Program. Across the Arab Peninsula, ICARDA works in partnership with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Financial support is provided by The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), the Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED). Projects improve agricultural productivity across the region without depleting water and soil resources while increasing the resilience of farmers and farming systems to climatic change. In 2020, 1,500 Arab nationals benefitted from group courses, individual degrees, and non-degree training. Regional projects focus on scaling out developed technology packages, adaptive research, improving date palm production, and capacity building.  

 BBC 100 Women 2020  

Safaa Kumari, a leading ICARDA plant virologist from Syria, was recognized as one of the world’s “100 Inspiring Women 2020” by the BBC, the United Kingdom’s national broadcasting corporation, for her work protecting globally important crops from destructive pests and viruses. Her plant epidemiology research focuses on the most damaging viruses affecting key dryland crops, such as barley, chickpea, faba bean, lentil, and wheat, crucial to local and global food security. In 2010, Dr. Kumari discovered a faba bean variety immune to the faba bean necrotic yellows virus, an insect-transmitted virus that, until her discovery, wiped out faba bean crops across the Middle East and North Africa. 

 Climate Smart Wheat for Fragile Countries and Territories  

ICARDA’s Dr. Nigamananda Swain and the Agricultural Research Institute of Afghanistan (ARIA), continued to support fragile countries and territories by releasing three new drought-resistant wheat varieties in Afghanistan to help overcome the increasing threat of recurring droughts in the country and help rehabilitate the agricultural sector. The new varieties were developed and field-tested through ICARDA’s and ARIA’s intensive research program under the CLAP project of the Ministry of Agriculture in Afghanistan, supported by IFAD. New varieties produce optimum yields in water-scarce environments and show excellent performance under supplementary irrigation conditions. They are also resistant to yellow rust disease, which causes significant yield loss in the region.  The Afghanistan Seed Production and Certification Directorate and National Seed Board will now oversee the seed multiplication and distribution to the farmers.  

 Farming with Alternative Pollinators (FAP)  

The International Climate Initiative (IKI)-FAP project funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and led by Dr. Stefanie Christmann, increases yields by attracting higher diversity and abundance of pollinators and natural enemies through strips of marketable flowering plants like spices, oilseeds and vegetables. In 2020, the project presented results from Morocco and fine-tuned projects in the five participating countries. National Agricultural Research System partners from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey learned the FAP approach in an intensive one-week training in Rabat before launching their own FAP projects, while FAP in the benchmark country Morocco is ongoing. The IKI project was also presented at the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos 2020, resulting in a well-received article in Nature.com. A 50-minute documentary on FAP was also created in English and Arabic. 

 Mobile Seed Treatment Units Support Tunisian Family Farmers  

In Tunisia, ICARDA and partners/funders CRP Livestock and the international Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) developed innovative and locally produced seed cleaning and treatment units to produce better quality seeds for crops and boost business for lead farmers and SMEs around forage seed production. A prototype was designed and developed by a local manufacturer in collaboration with ICARDA, led by Drs. Udo RudigerZied Idoudi, and national partners in Tunisia. The unit was locally manufactured at a low cost and distributed to farmer cooperatives. In 2019 and 2020, the total quantity of cleaned and treated seeds increased from 240 tons to 691 tons, and the benefit for the cooperatives went from almost $720USD to over $6,000USD and the number of users from 138 to nearly 300.  


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