Enhancing resilience:
helping dryland communities to thrive

Joint message from ICARDA Director General, Aly Abousabaa, and Board Chair, Dr. Margret Thalwitz

Joint message from the Director General and the Board Chair

2016 was the hottest year on record — the third consecutive record-breaking year. It was a sign that we have to act fast to enhance the resilience of dryland farmers, who not only have to contend with more extreme temperatures but also face rapidly depleting water resources and the destructive effects of new pests and disease.

Farmers are on the frontline in the fight against climate change. Many are already struggling to produce sufficient food, particularly in the dry areas of the developing world, where shifting weather patterns are generating immense challenges and food import burdens continue to grow, exposing ordinary people to the vagaries of global commodity markets.

Delivering practical solutions that farmers can utilize to raise their productivity is therefore critical: improved climate-resilient crops, sustainable land and water management practices, enhanced livestock productivity, and value-added production are key to effective climate change adaptation. Each forms an integral part of ICARDA’s new Research Strategy (2017-2026), which supports the Center’s vision of thriving and resilient livelihoods.

In 2016, we continued to deliver solutions despite significant institutional change. We welcomed a new Director General and said farewell to our former Director General, Dr. Mahmoud Solh, who provided strong leadership during his ten-year tenure and successfully guided the Center through an extremely difficult period following our relocation from Aleppo.

We also consolidated the Center’s new decentralized research infrastructure. A response to current circumstances, decentralization is enhancing ICARDA’s efficiency, improving the delivery of new technologies, and strengthening our response to the global challenges facing the dry areas.

The completion of a new genebank in Lebanon and state-of-the-art field and laboratory facilities in Morocco form part of a new global genebank architecture, providing additional safekeeping and enhanced access to ICARDA’s unique globally-important collection of plant genetic resources.

Decentralization is also helping to initiate new partnerships and strengthen existing ones. In 2016, our collaborations with partner countries continued to generate impressive results. One initiative – Enhancing Food Security in Arab Countries – raised wheat yields by an average 23% across ten participating countries. Our Capacity Development Unit provided trainings and workshops in over 50 countries and targeted the next generation of agricultural researchers – providing training opportunities for some 295 scientists under the age of 35.

Additional partnerships brought the construction of a rust research center in Turkey - to strengthen resistance to wheat rust diseases; the release of improved climate-smart crop varieties – including 16 bread wheat varieties, five new barley cultivars, and 13 varieties of food legumes; and the initiation of a new Food Legume Research Platform in India – to support efforts to raise food legume productivity across South Asia and countries worldwide.

Last year, ICARDA also amplified its voice on the world stage, attending strategic events to address the challenges facing agriculture in the dry areas, and calling for more investments in agricultural research for development. In November, the Center co-organized or led six sessions at COP 22 where we demonstrated the impacts of our scientific research on farmers’ lives and engaged with high-profile donors and decision makers.

In March, ICARDA also helped organize the 2016 International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition, and Sustainable Agriculture in Drylands. This event brought together some 350 experts from 35 countries to discuss policy frameworks capable of raising pulse production and maximizing the development impacts of these climate-smart resources.

ICARDA’s 2016 Annual Report — Enhancing resilience: helping dryland communities to thrive — demonstrates the successes and impacts of our innovative science and research for development initiatives, made possible with the continuing support of donors, international partners, and NARS collaborators.