Board of trustees

Margret Thalwitz


Margret Thalwitz is a senior expert fellow with the Center for Global Cooperation Research at the University of Essen-Duisburg. She is also a consultant to the World Bank, UNICEF, and the German government. She joined ICARDA’s Board in October 2012.

Previously, she was an economist and project manager for the World Bank. Her regional focus included Africa, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Russia and the CIS, and South Asia. Thalwitz was the first director of the World Bank's Global Programs and Partnerships Department. After leaving the World Bank, she was a visiting fellow at Oxford University and the German Development Institute.

Thalwitz holds a master’s degree in economics and a post-graduate diploma in development economics from the German Development Institute.

Aly Abousabaa

Director General
Ex Officio, Egypt

Aly Abousabaa became ICARDA’s director general in October 2016. He brings 33 years of strategic leadership in sustainable development, operational and policy-based lending, and project management, spanning 35 countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

As vice president of the African Development Bank, Abousabaa led the preparation and execution of the Bank’s key strategies. He was also in charge of resource mobilization and management of a US$ 11 billion portfolio in the areas of agriculture, water, natural resources management, climate change, infrastructure, women and youth, and governance, making transformational impact on the lives of millions of people in Africa.

He has an established global network of international partners on development, including the World Bank, the United Nations, European Union, African Union, bilateral agencies, such as GIZ, DFID, and NORAD, and non-governmental organizations.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Alexandria University, Egypt, and a master’s in civil engineering from Montana State University in the United States. 

Fadlallah Gharzeldeen


Garzaldeen is deputy head of planning affairs with the Planning and International Cooperation Commission of the Syrian Arab Republic. He has been with the commission since 1997. He has extensive experience in using macro-economic models as a planning tool to support Syria's economic and social development.

Garzaldeen holds a bacheler’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in general accounting from Damascus University.

Hilary F. Wild

United Kingdom

Hilary Wild is a chartered accountant. She has a portfolio of independent roles within international organizations, specializing in financial management, audit, risk, and governance.

She has held senior positions in financial management in public and private sector organizations. Previously, she was Comptroller of the World Health Organization in Geneva for seven years. Prior to that, she was director in the Kleinwort Benson group in London, initially in investment banking, and subsequently in asset management. Wild has also worked for UNICEF as chief of finance and a major commercial bank in London, as the bank's representative in Greece.

Michel Afram


A specialist in agricultural education and policy, Michel Afram is president of the Board of Directors and director general of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute.

He also serves as deputy director of the Global Association of Francophone Agricultural and Food Processing Universities. He is a member of the Lebanese Higher Agricultural Council and professor at the School of Agriculture, Saint Joseph University. He is also a member of several Lebanese national committees pursuing improved agriculture and food production. Previously, he was dean of the School of Agriculture, Saint Joseph University, from 1993 to 2002.

Mouwafak Jbour


Jbour joined the ICARDA board in the spring of 2018. He has served as deputy director general of the General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research within the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform since 2015.

Between 2006 and 2012, he led the Syrian government’s institutional development of organic agriculture. He has published widely on topics of organic agriculture systems, emerging farming systems, and potato physiology and varieties. He serves as a member of the board of directors of the Higher Commission for Scientific Research in Syria.

He received his Ph.D. in agronomy in Warsaw, Poland.

Paul Struik

The Netherlands

Paul Struik is professor of crop physiology and head of the Center for Crop Systems Analysis at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His expertise includes crop systems biology, photosynthesis, resource-use efficiency, seed systems, agro-biodiversity, and the synergy between natural and social sciences.

Struik is the author and co-author of numerous publications. His most recent article, “Deconstructing and unpacking scientific controversies in intensification and sustainability: Why the tensions in concepts and values?” was published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (2014). Another recent article, “Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2014).

He serves on the editorial board of several international scientific journals. He has been editor-in-chief of Potato Research since the 1990s; editor of Annals of Applied Biology since 2004; and academic editor of PLoS ONE since 2014. He is a member of the Council of the European Association for Potato Research, and in 2014 received recognition for Outstanding Paper on Plant Genetic Resources from the Crop Science Society of America.

He received his master’s in agronomy and a Ph.D in agricultural sciences from Wageningen University.

Ruth Haug

Vice Chairperson

Ruth Haug is professor of development studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Her field of expertise is rural development, with a focus on agriculture, food and livelihood security; conflict and forced migration; climate change and management of natural resources; agricultural extension and community development; and gender issues in development.

Previously, she was deputy vice chancellor (2008-2013) at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Before that she was head of the Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric) for seven years.

Haug has research and teaching experience in Africa and Asia. She has worked with NORAD, the World Bank, and the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture. She serves as a member of several boards. She has been involved in a number of international policy processes in relation to food and agriculture. In particular, she represented Norway in CGIAR meetings (1995 to 2012) and has been a member of the CGIAR Fund Council. She was also a member of the International Food Policy Research Institute Board of Trustees, represented Norway in several FAO meetings, and is a member of the Svalbard Seed Vault Council.

She received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in the U.S.

Shilpa Patel


Shilpa Patel’s work focuses on understanding how to mobilize private capital for climate investments in developing countries.  She consults for a number of organizations on climate finance and is principal adviser to the Finance Center at the World Resources Institute, an environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Previously, she worked at the International Finance Corporation, where she headed its work on climate strategy and metrics, including understanding the impact of climate change on private business and IFC’s operations.  She also helped launch IFC’s first green bond and worked with institutional investors and other stakeholders to define green bond criteria and standards. Shilpa started her career in the World Bank, where she worked on private sector development across a number of sectors, regions and economies in transition, including agriculture in the Maghreb. She has taught courses on project finance at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Shilpa holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Subbanna Ayyappan


Subbanna Ayyappan is secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education, within India's Ministry of Agriculture. He is also director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. 

He is a fellow at India’s National Academy of Agricultural Sciences; the Society of Nature Conservators; the Bioved Society, India; the Inland Fisheries Society; the Zoological Society of India; the Association of Aquaculturists; the National Institute of Ecology; the Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology; the Academy of Environmental Biology; the Society of Biosciences; and the ISEP Science Academy. Previously, Ayyappan served in the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairy, and Fisheries, as founder and chief executive of the National Fisheries Development Board (2006 – 2008). He has chaired numerous committees, working groups, and task forces in India’s Ministry of Agriculture, and he has published extensively in the areas of fisheries, limnology, and aquatic microbiology.

Ayyappan received a Ph.D. from Bangalore University, and a master’s degree in fish production and management from the College of Fisheries in Mangalore.