The West Asia and North Africa Region (WANA) is one of the most water scarce regions of the world. From Morocco to Jordan, farmers confront erratic rainfall, frequent drought, increasing salinization, and a limited natural resource base of arable land and water. While countries in the WANA region are the largest food importers in the world, these challenges are further undermining the region’s ability to feed its growing population.
The prevalent practice of mono-cropping of wheat – using only a few wheat varieties – is worsening the food security situation with depleting soil fertility and increasing intensity of diseases and pests. Climate change is expected to amplify these challenges and bring new strains of virulent pests and disease which are already proving to devastative. While legumes help with soil fertility and sustainable cropping systems, the area planted to food legumes has declined over the past 20 years.
The multi-country project, funded by European Union and IFAD, focuses on increasing yields and stabilizing wheat-legume production systems – an approach that is delivering numerous benefits, including higher profits for farmers, increased nutrition in rural diets, more fertile soils, and less land degradation. The project has three major objectives:
- Integrating and demonstrating technology packages of new higher-yield, biotic and abiotic stress tolerant varieties with other interventions, such as integrated pest management, conservation agriculture and improved water management
- Identifying and testing new technologies in response to new challenges and conditions
- Promoting and scaling out proven technologies for wheat-legume rotation systems
The project implemented in eight countries – Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Sudan – in partnership with NARS and extension agencies, has the following components:
- Disseminating technology packages suited to varied agrocecosytems. These packages consist of improved wheat, chickpea, lentil and faba bean varieties developed by ICARDA and its national partners, delivering higher yields while being tolerant to a range of biotic and abiotic stresses. Other interventions include supplemental irrigation for more crop per drop, introduction of conservation agriculture, Integrated Pest Management practices.
- Strengthening seed systems through technical training and advisory services to develop NARS seed capabilities, and development of quality seed with alternative informal seed systems
- Socio-economic studies for adoption constraints, gender issues and cost-benefit analysis
- Production constraints analysis to guide adaptive research and develop enhanced technologies
- Capacity development of national scientists, extension workers and farmers through workshops, training courses, field days and back-up degree research
- In Sudan, trials of heat-tolerant food legumes are demonstrating significant potential, doubling the yields of farmers. The improved chickpea varieties generate an average yield of 3.5 tons per hectare. Three varieties of heat-tolerant faba bean have also been released, increasing yields by 40% for 25,000 families, generating an additional average annual income of US$4000.
- In Tunisia, chickpea varieties have led to yields two to three times that of traditional varieties.
- In Morocco, newly innovated varieties of lentils have much shorter growing periods – as short as 80 days.
- In Egypt, Orobanche-resistant faba bean technology is achieving 22.5% higher yield than traditional varieties. Some demonstrations in Sharkia province recorded growth rates even higher at 38%.
- Yield increase from conservation agriculture reached 128% for wheat and 133% for chickpea.
- Productivity and income increases impacted 10,000 farmers so far through adoption of technologies.