Safaa Kumari Represents Syria on the Mediterranean Science Team

Published Date
November 05, 2023
Published by
ICARDA Communication Team
Safaa Kumari on the MST
Safaa Kumari on the MST

With great pride, we announce that Safaa Kumari, Plant Virologist, Head of ICARDA's Seed Health Laboratory, and BBC 100 Women 2020 Winner, was selected as Syria's Representative in the second edition of the Mediterranean Science Team (MST)

The MST, under the European Commission's MEDNIGHT (a cross-continent end-of-summer science event), comprises 11 scientists undertaking research in the 23 countries of the Mediterranean basin. The selected scientists are notable through their contribution to international knowledge and work that aligns with MST's ethos to develop cutting strategies that address shared climate-related challenges now and in the future.

Safaa, alongside key representatives of the international scientific community, including the MST jury comprising renowned scientists from different Mediterranean countries, participated in the gala ceremony on 2 November 2023 at Kadir Has University in Istanbul, Turkey.

During the ceremony, Safaa made a speech about her journey and vital work for improving food security and nutrition in a region highly vulnerable to climate crises.


Safaa Kumari Presentation at MST Gala

"I proudly stand as Syria's Representative in the Mediterranean Science Team. In my long career at ICARDA, I committed to combating viral devastation in legume and cereal crops with my 'super seeds' and diagnostic kits, contributing to enhanced food security and nutrition, training thousands of young scientists and researchers, and most importantly, bringing happiness to the children and farmers of our region."


Her work focuses on viruses infecting cool season legumes (faba bean, lentil, chickpea) and cereals (wheat and barley) in Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) countries. These pulses are vital for income generation and food security in many parts of the world.

Safaa desires to find an urgent solution to viral diseases, as hopeless farmers look at their infected crops turning yellow and black due to virus epidemics, and they can do nothing. She is renowned for developing "super seeds" resistant to the region's most devastating faba bean viruses (Faba bean necrotic yellows virus). This insect-transmitted virus disease has spread like wildfire across farmers' fields in the region. Climate change and rising temperatures, creating a more favorable environment for increased insect activity, have enabled such diseases to spread quickly and wipe out harvests.

In addition, Safaa personally retrieved sacks of improved seeds from Aleppo during the unrest in Syria. She also produced 20 different diagnostic kits for virus identification. She made them available for free to national partners' laboratories to be used for monitoring virus spread in crops and testing for seed-borne viruses.

Moreover, she trained thousands of students, research assistants, scientists, and farmers in several developing countries in CWANA on novel tools for detecting and managing seed-borne pathogens, including viruses. She has authored/co-authored over 150 scientific publications. Safaa will continue to make the children and farmers in the region HAPPY.

Safaa Kumari with youth