Adoption of spineless cactus pear in Jordan and India enhances resilience and increases household income
Research, advocacy, and trainings on spineless cactus pear (Opuntia Ficus-indica) across South and West Asia by the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock’s partner International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and others has led to rapid adoption by smallholder farmers, who are benefiting from greater income.
Arid and semi-arid regions represent approximately 41% of the world’s total land surface. The productivity of these regions depends on sustainable agricultural solutions and the cultivation of appropriate species that can withstand harsh conditions.
The cactus pear exhibits crassulacean acid metabolism, allowing it to successfully adapt to drought, erratic rainfall, and low soil fertility. The crop has attracted global attention for its capacity to grow with minimal cost and inputs, as well as its multiple benefits for food, livestock feed, and livelihoods. The Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute estimates that a mature five-year-old cactus plantation can produce 60-70 tons/ha, generating 280,000 Rupees (US$3,600) in profit.
Spineless cactus pear has attracted global attention because it can grow with minimal cost and inputs and has benefits for food, livestock feed, and livelihoods.
In collaboration with the FAO-ICARDA CactusNet, University of Palermo, and national partners in India and Jordan, ICARDA conducted research on the sustainable and efficient cultivation of cactus pear, leading to global promotion of its wide range of uses, benefits, and commercial opportunities.
ICARDA scientists developed a suite of “best bet” agronomic practices and conducted extensive training initiatives on both a national and international scale. In West Asia, researchers identified productive cactus pear accessions that can tolerate low temperatures and disseminated new fruiting types.
A Google Earth Engine (GEE) map was developed and trialed by researchers to identify suitable cactus pear planting areas in India. The GEE map included considerations for land potential, climatic conditions, and plant requirements.
Researchers also promoted affordable small machines to process cactus pear cladodes (leaf-like stems), helping to reduce the workload of rural women.
As a result of the CGIAR-supported initiative, 7,000 beneficiaries planted 450,000 cactus pear cladodes, and 5,000 people participated in training events.
As a result of this initiative, 7,000 beneficiaries planted 450,000 cactus pear cladodes, and 5,000 people participated in training events. In Jordan, consumer demand for cactus pear products is on the rise. In India, farmer appreciation for the crop has changed for the better. In both countries, demand for cladodes surpasses availability.
Adoption efforts are being amplified by support from governments, NGOs, private sector, universities, and agricultural extension centers. These stakeholders have made numerous requests for materials and technical backstopping. The Government of Odisha in India is funding projects to promote cactus plantations to enhance farmer livelihoods. In Jordan, the National Agricultural Research Center is establishing new nurseries to meet the demand for cactus fruiting types.
ICARDA’s work on cactus pear was acknowledged as one of CGIAR’s top 50 innovations and will be adopted by One CGIAR’s Livestock, Climate and System Resilience (LCSR) Initiative.
Cactus pear is now globally recognized as essential to livelihood sustainability for vulnerable smallholders in arid and semi-arid regions. ICARDA’s work on cactus pear was selected as one of the top 50 CGIAR innovations and will be adopted by One CGIAR’s Livestock, Climate and System Resilience (LCSR) Initiative.