AFESD Director General/Chair and Board of Directors Visit ICARDA’s Research Facility in Rabat, Morocco
ICARDA had the privilege of welcoming His Excellency, Mr. Abdellatif Yousef Al-Hamad, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), H.E Dr. Abdelwahab Al-Bader, Director General of the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED), who is also an AFESD Board Member, Dr. Rachid Dahan, Secretary General, INRA, and members of the Board of Directors of the Arab Fund, at its new research facility in Rabat, Morocco, on November 30th.
ICARDA and National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA), Morocco forged a new partnership model with the donation of an office and laboratory building at INRA’s Guich experimental station. Along with this building, INRA has given ICARDA 100 ha at the Marchouch Experimental Research Station, and is providing ICARDA staff access to all INRA research facilities dotted throughout Morocco.
Welcoming the dignitaries, Dr. Margret Thalwitz, ICARDA’s Chair of Board of Trustees, expressed gratitude to the Government of Morocco, the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Fisheries and INRA for their support to ICARDA. She also commended the support of Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, both of which have been instrumental in supporting the implementation of ICARDA’s Decentralization Strategy.
On behalf of Dr. Mohammed Badraoui, Director of INRA, Dr. Dahan assured INRA’s continued support to ICARDA’s efforts. Morocco has become a key research platform for ICARDA and the focal point for its Biodiversity and Integrated Gene Management (BIGM) program. Speaking on the occasion, scientists from ICARDA shared knowledge of the Center’s contributions to food security, improved and efficient water and land management and better livelihoods in Arab countries.
Elaborating on the significance of the AFESD support, Dr. Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA’s Director General, highlighted the decentralization of the ICARDA’s research and capacity development activities through Research Platforms and Thematic Research Locations that were carried out in Arab countries besides Ethiopia, India, Turkey and Uzbekistan. AFESD’s continuous and remarkable support to ICARDA, since its establishment in 1977, has greatly contributed in enhancing food security, better natural resource management and improving livelihoods in rural areas of the Arab countries. The valuable contributions of CGIAR, AFESD and KFAED were specially acknowledged, which have helped in donated buildings and labs as well as acquiring advanced research equipment and machinery, a water well and a water reservoir in Marchouch Experimental Station.
The AFESD Board members toured the building and visited three research laboratories. In the Physiology Laboratory, Dr. Michel E. Ghanem, Crop Physiologist, North Africa Platform, talked about ICARDA’s crop physiology research which is carried out to identify traits that include resistance to abiotic stresses (heat, drought, salinity, etc.) in ICARDA’s mandate crops (barley, lentil, grasspea, faba bean, chickpea, bread wheat and durum wheat). In addition, the crop physiology laboratory develops and uses physiological crop simulation modeling to explore crop management options to be used in stress-adapted cultivars for specific target environments.
In the Entomology Laboratory, Dr. Mustapha El-Bouhssini, Entomologist, gave an overview of ICARDA’s integrated management program (IPM) of insect pests with examples of Hessian fly, a pest that causes some 30% wheat yield losses in Morocco; Sunn pest, a major pest of wheat in West and Central Asia affecting some 15 million ha; and chickpea pod borer, which has become a pest of chickpea with serious economic implications, because of climate change. ICARDA’s integrated pest management strategy is based on host plant resistance, biological control and cultural practices. Dissemination of IPM options to farmers is carried out through NARS partners. Dr. El-Bouhssini also highlighted the capacity building aspect as graduate students are heavily involved in carrying the IPM research agenda at ICARDA.
“Our quality laboratory helps to connect ICARDA’s genetically and agronomically improved varieties to the industry,” said Dr. Filippo Bassi, Durum Breeder. Giving some examples, he explained the significance of quality enhancement for end-users and how it benefits the producers. In Ethiopia, consumers are ready to pay three times more for a better quality yellow colored pasta, imported from Algeria, instead of the local one. This difference is because of the quality of durum wheat seed used in the preparation of this preferred pasta. “A two percent increase in the protein value of wheat can contribute to as much as 25% increase in its market value, assuring big gains for producers” Dr. Bassi added.
Dr. Ramesh Pal Singh Verma, Barley Breeder, talked about research on barley quality while Dr. Shiv Kumar Agrawal, Lentil Breeder, talked about food legumes quality namely faba bean, chickpea and lentil. Dr. Agrawal highlighted the importance of biofortified lentil which is high in iron and zinc.
Besides Ethiopia, Turkey and Uzbekistan, ICARDA now operates in five Arab countries for better food and nutritional security in the region, poverty reduction, and natural resource management for long term sustainability.