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International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) was established in 1977 with founding mandate to promote agricultural development in the dry areas of developing countries which remains highly relevant today. It works with a tight focus on the problem-solving needs of resource-poor farmers, achieving this through the in-field delivery of its research outputs. Although global food production has increased by 20 per cent in the past decade, 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 biggest strength is its staff – 600 highly skilled men and women from 32 countries. Its research and training activities cover crop improvement, water and land management, integrated crop-livestock-rangeland management, and climate change adaptation. 

Other interventions include:

  • 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 gene bank 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. ICARDA’s research portfolio focuses on improving productivity, incomes and livelihoods among resource-poor households. The approach combines continuity with change – addressing current problems while expanding the focus to emerging challenges such as climate change and desertification. ICARDA works closely with national agricultural research systems and government ministries. Over the years the Center has built a network of strong partnerships with national, regional and international institutions, universities, non-governmental organizations and ministries in the developing world and in industrialized countries with advanced research institutes.

Contact person: 
Dr. Vinay Nangia, Agricultural Hydrologist and Capacity Development Coordinator, Integrated Water & Land Management Program
Contact email: 

Technologies from International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)


Improved rainwater harvesting for fodder shrub production and livestock grazing: the Vallerani micro-catchment system in the Badia of Jordan

The Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region is characterized by a wide variability in rainfall and temperature. In these areas, evapotranspiration largely exceeds the amount of rainfall, leading to droughts with low forage production and water availability. The concurrent increase in human population with the growing demand for meat has led to increased grazing pressures on rangelands and the exhaustion of their potential productivity.
The Badia in Jordan constitutes the largest part of the country. It encompasses approximately 72 thousand square kilometers, corresponding to 81 % of the total area of the country. Increased grazing pressure and cultivation of traditional and fragile grazing lands has led to severe degradation of the Badia rangelands.
Since the main limiting factors to growth of plants in the Badia are low precipitation, and poor soil quality, the little precipitation water can be collected by establishing micro catchments on the rangelands. The Vallerani System is an intervention strategy for soil regeneration that integrates technology, traditional techniques and the application of good cultural practices adapted to the local reality, to restore big surfaces of degraded arid and semi-arid rangelands. Its application allows pasture improvement, reforestation and the establishment of agro-forestry sites, thus also enhancing the socio-economic development of the local communities affected.
This practice explains the Vallerani System and highlights its benefits and limitations. The practical implementation of the system is described on the basis of an example of the Badia rangeland rehabilitation project, implemented by ICARDA within the first decade of the new millenium.

Supplemental irrigation for improved water use efficiency and productivity of wheat in rain fed agriculture, Morocco

Climate Change has had negative effects on the water availability for agriculture in Morocco within the last few decades. Generally, the amount of rainfall declined while at the same time temperatures increased, putting pressure on water supplies for agriculture. Throughout the Central and West Asia and North Africa region (CWANA) fluctuations and reductions in annual rainfall are provoking frequent droughts. But, not only climatic factors led to a more severe water scarcity, also the increased demand of available water for municipal and industrial purposes, has resulted in perpetually decreasing allocations for water in agriculture. However, a large part of the agricultural water use in Morocco is reserved for irrigated agriculture purposes.

70% of the total cropping area in Morocco is used for cereals, amounting to a total of about 5 million hectares. More than half of the area is used for the production of wheat as the main cereal crop, most of it bread wheat varieties. The growing season consists of up to 160 days of cultivation between November and June, depending on the date of planting (usually between November and January). During these months, most of the precipitation needed for wheat production occurs. Thus, wheat crops usually do not suffer from moisture deficits before the month of March. However, rainfall rates usually drop in early spring (March-April) and most of the stored soil moisture is lost through evapotranspiration (ET). This is when a stage of increased soil moisture deficit begins. The uneven distribution of rainfall causes that the crop suffers from water deficit in later stages of growth, leading to reduced production due to terminal moisture stress. This phenomenon not only occurs in Morocco, but throughout the entire CWANA region. Gemerally, the actual productivity of rain fed systems throughout the region remains below the potential rain fed productivity.

This practice presents a way to increase the efficiency of water use by supplemental irrigation (SI) in rain fed wheat production in Morocco. Emphasize is given to the different crop growth stages of wheat and the approach of supplemental irrigation (SI). The different stages of wheat growth are explained, outlining the most appropriate approach of SI. When, how and how long should be supplemental irrigation applied to ensure a higher yield for wheat in a rain fed system in Morocco? The practice aims at answering these principal questions, next to an explanation of the basic concept of supplemental irrigation.

The practice has been tested and validated by a research campaign, conducted within the project: “Community-Based Optimization of the Management of Scarce Water Resources in Agriculture - Improving water and land productivities in rain fed systems in CWANA”. The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) conducted various on-farm trials in the Tadla region of Morocco for the identification of the best approach of supplemental irrigation for the production of the major crops.

Raised beds for improving crop water productivity and water efficiency in irrigated dryland agriculture, Egypt

Egypt has been suffering from severe drought and is going to face an even stronger scarcity of water resources used for agricultural production. Nowadays, 80% of the available water in Egypt is provided to the agricultural sector. Within the prospect of ongoing horizontal and vertical expansion of irrigated agriculture in Egypt and the challenges faced by dry climatic conditions, the focus should ly on the improvement of the efficincy of water use in irrigated agriculture. The benefits of each drop applied could be maximised by adopting appropriate irrgation scheduling and adapted irrgation practices.

This practice shows the raised-bed technology for improving water use efficiency and increase crop water productivity in the context of irrgated agriculture in Egypt. It has been tested and validated within a research project between 2004-2008 with winter and summer crops (wheat, berseem & maize, cotton). The application of this technique with the main winter crops has shown that up to 25% of water could be saved, while crop production increased by 10%. Net benefits increased by 40% in the studied governorates in Egypt, and additionally, it reduced variable costs by 30%. Thus, it enhances the efficiency of water use, while at the same time increasing farm income, especially beneficial to poor farm households. Additionally, it is a simple practice that is easy to implement by farmers.