Ensuring that the ‘Enhancing Food Security in Arab Countries’ initiative achieves long-lasting impacts is dependent on an effective capacity strengthening program that equips farmers, researchers and extension officers with the knowledge and skills to modernize the Arab region’s wheat production.
Capacity strengthening is a key priority and since its inception in 2011 the initiative has provided training and knowledge-sharing opportunities to over 42,000 participants - two-thirds of them farmers. Capacity strengthening initiatives include in-country and regional trainings, inter-country scientific visits, and traveling workshop and symposia.
Activities included a travelling farmers’ workshop in Egypt which facilitated valuable interaction and the sharing of new information among farmers from all over the Arab region; training courses for project scientists on issues related to the initiative’s aims and objectives; and intra-regional scientific visits to exchange experience and expose stakeholders to other countries with advanced wheat production programs.
Learning from advanced wheat production systems
Capacity strengthening efforts included opportunities to learn from advanced wheat production programs. Participants from Sudan, Tunisia, Jordan and Algeria, for instance, attended regional training courses on variety identification in Turkey and Morocco, and eight scientists from Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia learned about Turkish experiences in wheat production improvement. Syrian and Tunisian scientists were also exposed to the Egyptian program’s mass dissemination approach and raised-bed planting irrigation systems.
Farmer field schools and field days were prioritized – directly providing farmers and extension and technical officers from agriculture-related ministries or institutions with information and knowledge on the use of new technologies, improved varieties and proven agronomic practices.
Helping the scientists of the future
Achieving long-lasting impacts will also depend on strengthening the capacity of young scientists so they can apply the initiative’s new learning for decades to come. A ‘Young Agricultural Scientist Program (YASP)’ has provided training for 34 young scientists, strengthening their knowledge and expertise across various areas related to wheat production systems - including the breeding of field crops, biotechnology, plant protection and water and soil management.