International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas
International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA ) The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) was established by charter in 1975. It started operations in 1977. It is one of 15 such centers supported across the world by the CGIAR*.
The dry areas of the developing world occupy some 3 billion hectares (about 19% of total global land area), and are home to one-third of the global population – over 1.7 billion people. About 16% of the population lives in chronic poverty, particularly in marginal rain-fed areas. The dry areas are challenged by rapid population growth, frequent droughts, high climatic variability, land degradation and desertification, and widespread poverty. The complex of relationships between these challenges has created a "Poverty Trap."
Today, ICARDA works with a together with partners countries across the dry areas(some 40 countries) to help improve the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers. A major output is crop improvement. In the decade to 2010, crop varieties developed from ICARDA germplasm and released worldwide produced a net additional market benefit of some US$960 million a year. The new varieties offer higher yield potential; increased tolerance to drought, heat, cold and salinity; and resistance to disease, insect pests and parasitic weeds. In 2010 some 27 new varieties, produced from ICARDA germplasm, were released for cultivation in 11 countries.
The delivery effort to aid resource-poor farmers includes -
Water harvesting, supplemental irrigation and water-saving irrigation techniques.
Conservation agriculture methods to reduce production costs and improve sustainability.
Diversification of production systems to high-value crops horticulture, herbal and medicinal plants.
Integrated crop/rangeland/livestock production systems including non-traditional sources of livestock feed.
Empowerment of rural women – support and training for value-added products.
The ICARDA genebank holds over 135,000 accessions from over 110 countries: traditional varieties, improved germplasm, and a unique set of wild crop relatives. These include wheat, barley, oats and other cereals; food legumes such as faba bean, chickpea, lentil and field pea; forage crops, rangeland plants, and wild relatives of each of these species. Global food production has increased by 20% in the past decade – but food insecurity and poverty remain widespread, while the natural resource base continues to decline. International research centers such as ICARDA, which have helped drive previous improvements, continue to deliver new technologies to support sustainable growth in agriculture and crucially to work with a wide range of partners to accelerate the dissemination of these technologies.
ICARDA’s research effort for the dry areas ranges includes both basic and applied research on crops, natural resources and livestock, policy and institutional studies, technology dissemination and impact assessment. Through it all runs a focus on helping resource-poor farmers.
Three decades of collaborative research have shown that long term food security and productivity growth in dry areas can only be achieved by looking beyond specific crops and production methods to focus on improving the performance of whole agro-ecosystems.
This systems approach includes research on integrated crop-livestock-rangeland systems, more efficient use of soil and water resources, and the introduction of new crops and crop varieties into traditional farming systems to improve yield and yield stability, nutrition, incomes and livelihoods. ‘Ecosystem-based farming’ has the potential to reduce crop water needs by 30 percent and energy costs of production by up to 60 percent.
Improving national ‘infrastructure’ can have a direct impact on the lives and incomes of smallholder farmers and pastoralists. While others work on parts of this picture, ICARDA is one of the few research centers to link integrated agro-ecosystem based research on global issues such as water scarcity and climate change, to field work with farmers and communities.
Sustainable system intensification is a key part of the research portfolio, and the work with government partners and smallholder farmers – and in the new CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems. This multi-partner program, led by ICARDA, aims to better understand the nature of system-level interventions, and promote approaches that can be applied widely across the world’s dry regions.
ICARDA’s research portfolio is put into action in four themes -
- Biodiversity and Integrated Gene Management
- Integrated Water and Land Management
- Diversification and Sustainable Intensification of Production Systems
- Social, Economic and Policy Research