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ICARDA’s holistic 'systems approach' supports both the well-being of people and the environment, and brings together crops, livestock, land, water, and soils. ICARDA’s strategies are directly linked to 8 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Challenges & ICARDA Solutions

SDG 1 & 2

Smallholders and livestock producers in drylands live in a chronic cycle of poverty, challenged by poor productivity, scarce water, and degraded soils.

Sustainable intensification of production systems. Bridging the crop yield gaps and introducing legumes into cereal-based cropping systems to increase yields and incomes, and improve food and nutrition security.

Small ruminant (goats and sheep) production and value chains. Improving livestock productivity, and meat and wool yarn value chains to build resilience against hardships and create new sources of income.

Pulses (food legumes) production. Improved pulses technologies and micronutrient-dense lentil varieties for greater yields, incomes and rural nutrition.


Women form 47% of the agrarian workforce in developing countries, yet the gender gap in agriculture is significant, with yields being about 35% lower on women’s fields than on men’s.

Gender-sensitized research and integrated women-focused activities. A cross-cutting gender focus to ensure equitable benefits from technologies and knowledge for all – both men and women.

Value chains and diversifying incomes. Innovative value-added crop and livestock product technologies along with capacity development for new sources of revenue and empowering women.

SDG 6 & 12

Water is at a premium in drylands. Yet agriculture consumes about 80% of the fresh water resources in these areas. Poor farming practices are degrading soils and reducing productivity.

Water management and efficiency technologies. Innovative irrigation, water harvesting and gray water-reuse technologies, integrated with crop improvement, to save water and produce more crop per drop.

Conservation agriculture. Scaling out the practice of minimum or zero till to conserve natural resources and reduce the use of fossil fuel needed for ploughing.

SDG 13

Climate change is making drylands drier and hotter and leading to new crop diseases, heightening the risk and challenges for crop and livestock production.

Climate-resilient crop varieties. Improved wheat, pulses and barley varieties resistant to extreme heat and cold, droughts, salinity, and new diseases and pests emerging from climate variabilities and change.

Integrated crop-livestock solutions. More productive barley-livestock systems and value-added products that build resilience and protect livelihoods from long drought spells in marginal areas.

Empowering communities. Decision-making tools, climate-resilient technologies and knowledge dissemination to enable community-based management of natural resources in irrigated systems, rain-fed watersheds, and rangelands.

SDG 15

Land degradation in drylands is a serious issue, leading to loss of fertile soils and desertification. In irrigated areas, soil salinity is a silent killer of productivity and is spreading fast.

Cereal-legumes crop rotation. Establishing crop rotation of cereal crops such as rice and wheat with legumes to tap into their nitrogen fixation capability and to replenish degraded soils.

Rangeland management. Technical interventions combined with socio-economic solutions for sustainable land management.

Salinity reduction and management. An evidence-based framework offering solutions to countries to tackle salinity using a business model that reaps returns at farm, irrigation district and regional scales.

SDG 17

Developing countries typically have weak national agriculture research institutions with a shortage in the number of qualified researchers.

National capacity development. Tailored training activities embedded across all research activities in the over 50 countries with which ICARDA partners.

Research partnerships. Collaborating with national institutions, regional and international organizations, and academia to address complex challenges and leverage greater returns on research investments.