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Research programs

ICARDA’s research portfolio is structured under four themes:

ICARDA’s research effort for the dry areas ranges widely across the field of research-for-development. Our work includes both basic and applied research on crops, natural resources and livestock, policy and institutional studies, technology dissemination, and impact assessment. Through it all runs our focus on helping resource-poor farmers.

We are flexible, adaptable and innovative. The research approach constantly evolves in response to the changing needs of partner countries and their situations. All research is planned, implemented and monitored jointly with national agricultural research systems and other partners.

Three decades of collaborative research have shown that long term food security and productivity growth in dry areas can only be achieved by looking beyond specific crops and production methods to focus on improving the performance of whole agro-ecosystems.

This 'systems approach' includes research on integrated crop-livestock-rangeland systems, more efficient use of soil and water resources, and the introduction of new crops and crop varieties into traditional farming systems to improve yield and yield stability, nutrition, incomes, and livelihoods.

‘Ecosystem-based farming’ has the potential to reduce crop water needs by 30 percent and energy costs of production by up to 60 percent.

Policies and institutions are also a key part of the system, because they determine how quickly farmers will adopt new technologies.

Improving national ‘infrastructure’ can have a direct impact on the lives and incomes of smallholder farmers and pastoralists.

While others work on parts of this picture, ICARDA is one of the few research centers to link integrated agro-ecosystem based research on global issues such as water scarcity and climate change to field work with farmers and communities. We build understanding of the practical problems they face, and then work with communities to find effective, low-cost solutions.

Sustainable system intensification is a key part of our research portfolio, our work with government partners and smallholder farmers – and in the new CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems. This multi-partner program, led by ICARDA, aims to better understand the nature of system-level interventions, and promote approaches that can be applied widely across the world’s dry regions.