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Understanding the needs of Afghanistan’s rainfed wheat

January 16, 2012

RF-WheatIn 2011, the level of wheat production in Afghanistan fell by approximately 1.8 million tons, from the record levels harvested in 2009. This decrease was largely due to a lack of rainfall and irrigation, primarily in North and Northwestern provinces, and such future losses could therefore be reduced through improved irrigation scheduling, sowing time, seed, and alternative crops. To discuss these issues, CIMMYT-Afghanistan organized a two-day round table on “Rainfed wheat: Status and R & D Imperatives” during 18-19 December 2011, in conjunction with the Department of Extension and Agricultural Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation & Livestock (MAIL), Agricultural Research Institute of Afghanistan (ARIA) and ICARDA-Afghanistan.

The meeting was attended by 45 participants from the Department of Extension and Agricultural Development, ARIA, CIMMYT, ICARDA, FAO, USDA, USAID, AusAID, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and NGOs such as HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, and Joint Development Associates (JDA). Hukum Khan Habibi, MAIL Director General (Extension and Agricultural Development), inaugurated the meeting and welcomed this timely initiative aimed at capitalizing on available resources and providing guidelines for tackling such problems in the future.

Participants were welcomed by Javed Rizvi, Country Manager, ICARDA-Afghanistan, who emphasized the importance of rainfed wheat research. The comparative differences between the harvests of 2009 and 2011 were presented by Rajiv Sharma, Country Liaison Officer, CIMMYT-Afghanistan, to highlight the constraints encountered in 2011. Four technical brainstorming sessions were then chaired by T.S. Pakbin, Senior Technical Advisor, ARIA, Hukum Khan Habibi, Qasem Obaidi, Director of Research, ARIA, A.R. Manan, Advisor, ICARDA-Afghanistan, and Jalal Kamali, Senior Wheat Breeder, CIMMYT-Iran, who was specially invited to share the success of Iran’s rainfed wheat programme with the participants.

Concluding the meeting, participants stressed that emphasis should be given to developmental issues such as water harvesting provisions, irrigation facilities, timely availability of quality agri-inputs and machinery, trained manpower, credit and marketing infrastructure, alternative cropping sequences, and dedicated research facilities for rainfed wheat. Participants expressed their satisfaction that, for the first time, researchers and extension workers had met to evaluate the current issues and work together for the improvement of rainfed wheat in Afghanistan.