Libyan researchers appeal to farming experts

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[CAIRO] Libya’s Agricultural Research Center (ARC) is trying to get back on track following the country’s recent period of unrest.

The centre requested support from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) last month (6–7 October) to rehabilitate and reactivate the national agricultural research system with technical assistance, strategic support for the quest to find funding and continued capacity building.

ICARDA is sending wheat, barley, legume and forage seeds for the 2011–2012 cropping season, Mahmoud Solh, director-general of ICARDA, confirmed.

"This assistance will be followed by other actions taken by the organisation to save the Libyan agricultural sector after the success of the Libyan revolution," Mohammed El Mourid, regional coordinator for ICARDA’s North Africa Regional Program, told SciDev.Net.

There are still problems with security in the region, said El Mourid, so it will be difficult to send experts to the centre.

"But we would welcome researchers from Libya in ICARDA centres in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia to help rehabilitate the research system," he said.

He added that a Libyan national team, supported by ICARDA, will rapidly appraise the state of infrastructure and the human resources required to sustain an optimal level of agricultural research.

Younes Shouayeb, director of the Libyan centre, said the assessment will help in "identifying gaps and needs for urgent reconstruction of Libya’s agricultural research infrastructure".

Fawzi El Doumi, former overall coordinator of the ARC, attributed ICARDA’s support to fruitful agricultural cooperation between the organisations through the ARC–ICARDA Collaborative Program. The programme, which was implemented in 2008 before being frozen in February 2011, "will soon be reactivated", said El Doumi.

"The efforts of ICARDA during the project resulted in the training of ten Libyan researchers in ICARDA centres in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, and those researchers will be the nucleus of the new, post-revolution collaboration with ICARDA," he added.

The collaboration is remote at the moment but El Doumi said it would progress to an on-the-ground collaboration when the security situation improves.

"I am optimistic that our cooperation with ICARDA will be as successful as our last project, which achieved major results in the areas of wheat production, and enabled us to collect and characterise local genetic resources and save them in gene banks," he said.