ICARDA Board of Trustees visit the Cereal Rust Research Center near Izmir, Turkey
On May 3, SP Senior Partner Dr. Sue Schram departed for Izmir, Turkey, for her final meeting as a Trustee on the Board of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). Sue has served as a Trustee on the ICARDA Board and as a member of its Executive Committee at a difficult time in the Center’s history.
In 2010, at the beginning of her first term on the Board, ICARDA’s headquarters was located at Tel Hadya, outside Aleppo, Syria. When the situation in Syria became unsafe for international staff in 2012, ICARDA was forced to evacuate its headquarters. Syrian rebels seized the headquarters building, vehicles and equipment were stolen, and facilities damaged. Fortunately, no damage was done to ICARDA’s gene bank, which houses valuable genetic material from crops in the region. For safety, the genetic material was duplicated and deposited in gene banks across the region and at the “doomsday” Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.
Capitalizing on excellent relationships with countries in the region, ICARDA decentralized and relocated its research staff from Syria to relevant sites in Lebanon (the temporary headquarters), Jordan, Morocco, Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkey. Sue has the highest regard for ICARDA staff and their families who fled their homes and schools in Syria on short notice, and for the country-based research facilities and staff that have given a new home to researchers from HQ and, in some cases, built facilities for them. The stress on the staff has been extraordinary, with many foregoing any time off for years, in order to keep operations going.
Local Syrian ICARDA technicians from surrounding villages near Aleppo have bravely continued to work ICARDA’s 950 hectares of land in order to assure continued soil productivity. Lives have been lost as a result of shelling in the fields. Remarkable people risk their lives to do this work that is so important for food security in water-limited and conflict-ridden areas. It is critical that institutions like ICARDA are sustainable for long-term research to continue.
ICARDA is one of 15 research centers in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) — a group of 15 research centers placed strategically around the world — each contributing to specific aspects of global food security research. ICARDA manages over 200 projects outside Syria. Its regional research programs involve more than fifty developing countries in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa, run by country offices.
ICARDA meeting with officials of the Turkish government to discuss food security
Last summer Sue coordinated the activities of a U.S.-based group that fought successfully to restore $30 million of World Bank funding to the centers. The Bank had released plans indicating that they would reduce their support to zero over a period of three years, which would have been devastating to the system of centers.
Research shows that global agricultural productivity must increase by 1.75 percent annually to meet the demands of an estimated 9.7 billion people in 2050 and to meet the consumer demands of an expanding middle class. Assuring that future generations have access to adequate nutritious food in the face of population growth and climate change requires more, not less, attention from public and private sectors alike. The agricultural, environmental and nutrition research at CGIAR research centers contribute to reaching that goal.
Sue will miss visiting the beautiful Middle East and her dedicated professional colleagues and friends from around the globe who serve on ICARDA’s Board and staff. SP Consulting is proud of Sue’s commitment and salutes her dedication and hard work towards this humanitarian cause.