ICARDA Syria Country Office established in 1977
ICARDA HQ (1977 - 2012)
Country manager: Majd Jamal
ICARDA’s work in Syria is made possible through the support of the Syrian government, European Commission, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), OPEC Fund for International Development OFID, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
ICARDA’s collaboration with Syria started in 1977, following two directions; emphasizing the building up of Syria's research capacity as a prerequisite for implementing a sound and productive research program, and stressing the importance of increasing the productivity of dry-farming crops, especially barley and chickpea, two important but ignored crops. The collaborative research and training program has been the vehicle used to implement ICARDA's strategy through joint research in the fields of cereals, food dry legumes, and forage crops; multidiscipline, multiperiod training courses; a stream of information in various forms of publications, and technical and financial support.
ICARDA had been headquartered in Aleppo, Syria until its move in 2012 to Beirut, Lebanon due to the Syrian conflict. Despite eight years of crisis in Syria, agriculture remains a key part of the economy. The sector still accounts for an estimated 26% of GDP and represents a critical safety net for the 6.7 million Syrians, including those internally displaced, who remain in rural areas and, although the crisis in Syria continues, investing in the recovery of the country’s agriculture sector in many areas will help reduce humanitarian assistance, stem migration, and encourage the return of displaced communities. If productive farming areas are neglected, recovery will be harder, longer, and more costly.
- In 1982, ‘Ghab 1’ Chickpea was developed by ICARDA, the first variety with resistance to Ascochyta blight and improved cold tolerance. Four more winter sowing varieties followed in 2002 (Ghab 2, 3, 4 and 5), released by the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, the latter two also producing larger seeds.
- Since the establishment of ICARDA in Syria in 1977, with cooperation from the National Agriculture Research System, several varieties of ICARDA-mandated crops have been released in the country, including five Durum wheat, six bread wheat, six Lentil, five chickpea, and three faba bean varieties.
- Three phases of the AFESD-funded project Food Security in the Arab World have been implemented in Syria since 2011. Even with some difficulties during the Syrian crisis, the project, which has recently partnered with OFID, has had a great impact on the ground in the Aleppo Governorate. Disseminating proven techniques, adaptive research under farmer conditions, capacity strengthening of all stallholders, and assessing the impact of disseminated technologies, were the main objectives of the project.
- In collaboration with UNDP, in 2000, the Sanadiq system, a village-level micro-credit institution, owned and managed by the Sanduq members themselves, was introduced in the Jabel al Hoss and Khanasser Valley areas. Through the system, small loans (typically US$500-700) were disbursed to small-scale enterprises to tide over seasonal shortages of cash, or as start-up funds.
- Disseminating stress-tolerant durum wheat varieties developed by the ICARDA/CIMMYT durum wheat improvement program for West Asia and North Africa through the national agricultural program in Syria.
- In support of the Syrian multiplication sector, field-based demonstrations and explanations were organized during the vegetative, flowering, fruiting, and maturity phases of the crops.
- Capacity development for Syrian stakeholders is one of the major activities in the cooperation program. Since the establishment of ICARDA in Syria in 1977, to date, 3,077 Syrian farmers and researchers have been trained by ICARDA, mainly through the center level and project-based group courses (2,595), or through individual non-degree training and research internships (830) and individual degree training Ph.D./MSc (252). The number of Syrians trained by ICARDA has reduced dramatically since 2012 due to the Syrian crisis, which brought about logistical and traveling difficulties.
- In 2019, training courses on crop management skills and seed production with an emphasis on conservation agriculture for Syrian communities, researchers, and policymakers. The topics included: sowing rates, sustainable water management, weed control, pests, and disease management, FAO concepts on Save & Grow, conservation agriculture, post-harvest treatments to reduce post-harvest wastes, and seed production practices.
- In 2019, and 2020 in collaboration with FAO with funds provided by EU, ICARDA continued to rehabilitate Syria’s seed sector, producing 43.6 tons of basic seed of wheat, barley, chickpea, and lentil with farmers in Aleppo and Homs province and extended to Dier Al-Zour in 2020 to help multiply an estimated 1,550 tons of certified seed in 2020.