Getting agricultural research innovations into use in the dry areas is critically important, especially since these regions cover 40 per cent of the earth’s surface and are home to 2.5 billion people – a significant percentage of the world’s population.
This is the core work of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Area (ICARDA), which works with partners worldwide, developing innovations to improve food security and the livelihoods of the rural poor. ICARDA’s work targets non-tropical dry areas in developing countries, and also produces international public goods with potential for global application.
Research covers crops (wheat, barley, faba bean, lentil, chickpea and forage legumes), the management of natural resources (water, land, biodiversity), small ruminant production (sheep and goats), farming systems (intensification, diversification, integration between farming system components), and socio-economics and policy research – on how policies can be more relevant to the situation of low income countries.
The estimated benefits of ICARDA’s crop improvement research and production of new varieties over the past 3 decades has been estimated at US$850 million per year. Over 900 improved varieties of wheat, developed from ICARDA material, have been released for cultivation worldwide. The new varieties offer higher yields; better tolerance to drought, heat, cold and salinity; and improved resistance to diseases, weeds and insect pests.
Other innovations include:
- Technology and policy packages that countries can apply to increase the productivity and income of smallholder farmers.
- Water harvesting, supplemental irrigation and other low-cost methods to increase water productivity and bring water to rural communities in dry areas.
- Conservation agriculture methods to reduce production costs and improve sustainability
- Diversification of production systems to improve farmer incomes through high-value crops – horticulture, herbal and medicinal plants
- Integrated crop/rangeland/livestock production systems including non-traditional sources of livestock feed.
- Policy and institutional options to improve rural livelihoods
- Poverty mapping and other tools to guide investment targeting
Plant Genetic resources
ICARDA’s genebank holds over 135,000 accessions from over 110 countries: traditional landraces, improved germplasm, and a unique set of wild crop relatives. These include wheat, barley, oats and other cereals; food legumes such as faba bean, chickpea, lentil and field pea; forage crops, rangeland plants, and wild relatives of each of these species.
Capacity development – through training programs, support for graduate education, internships, farmer field schools and other opportunities – is a vital part of ICARDA’s work and has benefitted over 17,000 young developing-country researchers, and many more farmers and extension staff.
ICARDA’s work is planned, implemented and monitored with a range of partners: national research and extension agencies, universities, advanced research institutes, NGOs, farmer groups, development investors and the private sector.
Research and capacity development is coordinated by a network of regional programs and country offices in: