Cactus Pear - the ‘Green Gold’ of Jordan
ICARDA recently carried out its annual cactus pear field days at Mushaqqar research station in Jordan, garnering interest from hundreds of local farmers, government agri-tech officials, and national media eager to find out more about the ‘Green Gold.’ Given the complete package, farmers can cultivate the fruit as an extra-income generating activity that also provides nutrition for livestock and humans alike. The Green Gold moniker derives from its ability to grow well in arid and semi-arid conditions, even under increasingly harsh conditions due to climate change.
ICARDA, in collaboration with the FAO-ICARDA CactusNet, the National Center of Agricultural Research Center (NARC) and with financial support from the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFSED), facilitated the foundation of a cactus nursery at the Mushaqqar research station, where over 100 different cactus pear accessions are now well established. The project has grabbed the attention of many stakeholders, including farmers, NGOs, the private sector, and National Agricultural Research Institutions. ICARDA and NARC have since hosted numerous international and national capacity development events on cactus pear, making sure invited media help raise awareness of its advantages to a global audience.
With its multi-functionality, the green-gold future plant has become one of the most promising ‘new’ crops of the dry regions. Used for centuries by Bedouin and traditional rural farmers, it has been only since ICARDA’s peer-reviewed research and testing of wide range of accessions under Jordan conditions that it’s potential has become more widely recognized and understood. It is now inducted into further international research and food systems as an essential crop to sustain the livelihood of vulnerable smallholders across global arid and semi-arid areas.
In addition to being an income-generating fodder for livestock, cactus pear offers a high nutritional value rich in carbohydrate, aminoacidic, vitamins, and water, as well as enormous health benefits by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. As a hardy, quality fruit for human consumption with minimal agronomic inputs, it is ideal for low-income rural communities in dry areas. The multiple advantages that Green Gold offers were disseminated at the field days, too much interest and approval, indicating the fruit’s potential as an essential contributor to local food and forage security.
“The wide coverage by local media resulted in hundreds of farmers requesting new accessions to begin growing cactus pear themselves. The high demand for these elite cactus accessions is the spinoff of the strong partnership between ICARDA and NARC.” – Mounir Louhaichi, ICARDA’s Rangeland and Forest Research Team Leader.
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