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New Research and Educational Institute targets sustainable development of arid areas

Aug 25,2014

A new research and educational institute targeting the more sustainable development of arid lands was launched at ICARDA’s Amman office recently - a collaborative effort with Jordan’s Higher Council of Science and Technology, and the country’s Hashemite University.

Launched in the presence of HRH Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal, the Arid Lands Academy will offer pioneering educational and research opportunities to develop the solutions that Jordan and the wider region will need to balance development with environmental needs in the years and decades to come.

The region is predicted to become one of the worst affected by climate change and is already suffering from severe natural resource degradation, increasing climatic variability, and rapidly depleting water resources.    

The solutions developed at ALA will be crucial for Jordan - 80 per cent of the country’s land cover is arid and home to some 500,000 people. Adopting a participatory approach, the Academy will work directly with rural communities and include local people in the decisions that will ultimately affect their livelihoods and those of future generations.

ALA’s specific objectives include:

  • To provide an outstanding education that grants BSc degrees and Diplomas in the study of arid lands, in cooperation with internationally-renowned universities
  • To attract scholars from Arab countries and the world to share their expertise regarding the sustainable development of dry areas
  • To conduct joint multi-disciplinary research with international institutions and promote scientific research
  • To act as a pioneer in addressing the problems of over-exploitation, implementing the more sustainable utilization of natural resources in participatory models with local communities
  • Create an enabling environment for investment in arid areas and provide local communities with opportunities for employment and income-generating activities.

The Jordanian ‘Badia’ – or desert – is of crucial economic significance to the Kingdom, contributing 60 per cent of its groundwater resources, most of its mineral resources, 70 per cent of its red meat, and 10 per cent of the country’s conventional energy.   

Beyond Jordan, ALA plans to become a regional resource, adopting joint multi-disciplinary research with international institutions and attracting scholars from across the Arab World - and beyond. It is also committed to producing the next generation of scientists, providing a rigorous educational experience and offering degrees, diplomas, and certificates in the sustainable management of arid land resources. Courses will provide advanced theoretical and practical training in arid land ecosystems and will link biophysical studies with social, economic, and policy considerations.  

The inspiration of HRH Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal, the Academy will be located at the Hashemite University and will build upon the success of the ‘Badia Research Program,’ initiated in 1992, which has been working with communities in Jordan’s arid areas to pursue sustainable economic growth. It will also draw on the experience of ICARDA, which adopts an integrated approach to agricultural research for development, introducing a combination of technologies, practices, and enabling policies in the pursuit of sustainable development.           

“This is an exciting initiative that promises to not only conserve vital natural resources but also enhance the livelihoods of communities living in dry, marginal lands –in both Jordan and throughout the region,” says Dr. Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA’s Director General. “We are committed to pursuing a more sustainable model of development that protects the important economic contributions of arid lands and preserves them for future generations. The Arid Lands Academy will become increasingly important during the years to come, developing the solutions that will help enhance community resilience against a backdrop of rising temperatures and increasing water scarcity.”      

The Academy will be an independent institution with a national board of trustees, and students will be enrolled in one of four departments at the Hashemite University: The Department of Range-Livestock Science and Management; The Department of Natural Resources and the Environment; The Department of Economic Development and Policy Analysis; and the Department of Rural Sociology.