North-Africa-ICARDA Partnership on Food Legumes Research for Development: Present Status and Future Strategy
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Food legumes are important crops for human food, animal feed and services for sustainable agriculture. They are the rich sources of protein and micronutrients, thus contributing significantly to the health and nutritional security of low-income consumers. Cool season food legumes (e.g. faba bean, chickpea, pea, lentil) are cultivated on l.1 m ha area in North Africa (NA), out of which faba bean is grown on 442,000 ha, chickpea on 128,000 ha and lentils on 48,000 ha. These crops suffer significant yield losses due to various biotic and abiotic stresses in the region, making them less remunerative to small-holder farmers. Some of the major biotic and abiotic stresses in the region are Orobanche spp. infestation, weeds, fungal diseases, and severe and recurrent drought. In addition, nonavailability of quality seed of improved varieties, lack of improved varieties suitable for machine harvest, high production costs, and government priorities are other key constraints to higher productivity. Research conducted by ICARDA in collaboration with National Research System (NARS) of NA countries has resulted in the development of improved germ plasm, which combines high yield with resistance to key stresses and other desirable traits like SUitability to machine harvest and improved seed quality. Winter or early spring sown chickpea technology, which clearly demonstrated its yield superiority in the region, could not be adopted by farmers because of a lack of timely availability of seed of appropriate varieties and limited technology transfer efforts. Collaborative research has also resulted in the development of faba bean varieties with tolerance to Orobanche. Breeding for wilt resistance has been successful in releasing improved lentil varieties. ICARDA's relations with national programs have strengthened through bilateral and regional collaborative research projects, and through support to specific food legume research networks. The regional networks in the Nile Valley program and with NA-NARS are good examples of such collaboration. However, collaboration on food legumes research for development needs further strengthening to respond to the needs of the small holder farmers, especially under climate change.