The eight Centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) together with international development agencies, research-for-development and partner organizations from more than 40 countries launched CGIAR Research Program CRP titled "Integrated and Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems for Improved Food Security and Livelihoods in Dry Areas".
Dry areas cover 41% of the earth's land area and are home to more than one-third of its population. Drylands face serious environmental constraints, which are likely to worsen as a result of climate change. Traditional research and development approaches, focusing on a particular commodity or system component, have largely failed because of the complexity of the dryland systems (DS). DS will use an integrated approach, looking at the system as a whole, to promote and support innovation.
The purpose of the Regional Inception Workshop is to bring together partners working in the target areas identified for DS in Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC). CAC is one of the five Regions globally where the DS approach will be implemented. More specifically, the participants will review key hypotheses and research questions; discuss, validate and agree on outputs and activities for the Action Sites, and develop implementation plans. Characterization data compiled for the three Action Sites will be presented and reviewed. The Workshop will be attended by about 100 participants representing the different partner groups from all five Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan.
CRP1.1 “Dryland Systems” is the first large-scale research program to use an integrated agro-ecosystems approach to improve productivity and livelihoods in the dry areas. It aims to enhance food security for the rural poor and ensure environmental sustainability in dryland agro-ecosystems while enhancing social and gender-equitable development. DS was developed from CGIAR Thematic Area 1: Integrated Agricultural Systems for the Poor and Vulnerable, described in the new CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework (SRF).
DS will focus on target dryland areas/systems, identified by two criteria: (i) those with the most vulnerable populations, and often associated with severe natural resource degradation, environmental variability and social marginalization, and (ii) those with the greatest potential to impact on food security in the short to medium term.
To ensure the future livelihoods of dryland communities, it is critical to both manage risk more effectively and enhance productivity through the diversification and sustainable intensification of production systems. Past experience shows that an integrated approach would need to include better management of natural resources, improvement of agricultural crop, livestock, tree and fish production, creation of an enabling policy environment and institutional support. It is also critical to address social inequities in distribution of and control over resources, access to information, livelihood opportunities and decision-making.
The program seeks to prioritize key agricultural systems for impact, identify researchable issues within target agro-ecosystems, increase the efficiency and sustainability of natural resource use, develop more resilient agricultural systems to manage risk and production variability, promote in situ and ex situ conservation and sustainable use of dryland agrobiodiversity, improve the productivity and profitability of agricultural systems through sustainable intensification, diversification, value-added products and market linkages, identify niches of importance to the most vulnerable livelihoods, address constraints faced by the most marginal farmers, and develop new partnerships and models of working together. It also provides the poorest and most vulnerable sectors and individuals with the means and capabilities to contribute to innovation, benefit from these innovations and to enhance their own livelihood and that of their households.
During the DS proposal development phase, it was apparent that details of implementation within each of the five Regions would need to be further developed in consultation with regional partners and stakeholders, and based on groundwork and detailed information on each target location, called “Action Sites”. It was therefore agreed to work on these details through Regional Inception Workshops in each target Region. Partners and stakeholders include: national research organizations, advanced research institutes with experience in dryland systems research, farmers’ organizations, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, water users associations, womens’ organizations, government representatives and policy makers, extension and rural advisory services, development agencies, as well as the international Centers themselves. The lead CGIAR centre for DS is the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dryland Areas (ICARDA).
The preparatory work and the structure of the Workshop were developed by an interim Interdisciplinary Research Team in Tashkent, composed of AVRDC – the World Vegetable Centre, Bioversity International, International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), International Potato Center (CIP), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), supported and facilitated by the CGIAR Program Facilitation Unit (PFU) and several consultants.