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In an attempt to explore the scientific solutions available to address these challenges, the ICBA is hosting its inaugural Global Forum on Innovations for Marginal Environments (GFIME) in Dubai this month (20–21 November).
The event will bring together a global audience of 250 influential policymakers, decision-makers, and scientists to consider the enormous impact of soil and water salinisation and climate change on ecosystems, agricultural productivity, livelihoods and food security worldwide.
“Crop diversity is the key to tackling the upcoming challenges in marginal environments, especially considering the climate change impact, which is going to hit marginal environments hardest,”
Ismahane Elouafi, director general, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA)
In an interview with SciDev.Net, ICBA director general Ismahane Elouafi explains how the forum aims to shape policies and projects and chart progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eradicating poverty and hunger in these marginal lands.
What are the main objectives of the ICBA?
Through its work, ICBA helps to improve food security and livelihoods for some of the poorest rural communities around the world. Its strategic objectives are to promote sustainable management of natural resources; provide climate change solutions; enhance agricultural value chains, and advance sustainable food, feed, and biofuel agri-technologies.
Could you give us examples of grassroots projects and joint research implemented through ICBA?
Crop diversity is the key to tackling the upcoming challenges in marginal environments, especially considering the climate change impact, which is going to hit marginal environments hardest. The centre is working to identify and introduce new varieties of climate-resilient, salt-tolerant, and water-efficient crops that can survive in marginal environments, including quinoa, sorghum, and pearl millet.
Since 2006, ICBA has implemented a global research programme on quinoa, resulting in the identification of five high yielding quinoa lines. This programme is under way in the UAE, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.
The GFIME kicks off next week in Dubai. Could you tell us more about the relevance of this to the wider region?
I'm very optimistic that through GFIME we will be able to identify some of the most innovative solutions to tackle growing challenges such as water scarcity, salinity, climate change, nutrition and hunger in the marginal environments of the region and the world.
The forum will allow the development of valuable policies, partnerships, and projects while showcasing the latest progress made to address Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 and 2 on no poverty and zero hunger.
The event follows a series of projects, events, and research done by ICBA. What impact is this work having on agriculture in the region?
Tackling marginal environments is a complex phenomenon and probably no single institution can address it. It requires synergies, alignments, and strong coalitions of multiple players.
ICBA has joined hands with both public and private organisations and national collaborators from a number of countries from Africa and Central Asia, to provide optimum solutions and improve the livelihoods of small-scale and marginal farmers. To go to large-scale, we need to do more and enlarge both our innovation platforms and our partnerships.
Who are you expecting to attend the conference and what do you hope to come from it?
One of the key outcomes of this year’s GFIME will be a report titled “The State of Agriculture and Food Production in Marginal Environments: 2020”. The report will present up-to-date data and information on key challenges in marginal environments as well as insights on the latest trends in science, technology and development to address these. Most importantly, it will offer an overview of solutions from around the world and recommendations for tackling these challenges.