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North Africa and West Asia

Farmers cultivating lettuce, while another farmer digs a small chanal (marrwa) with a donkey ( Photo credit : Hamish John Appleby (IWMI) )

About our work 

The North Africa and West Asia (NAWA) region extends from Morocco in the west, through Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran in the east. It covers 996,961,262 ha and is home to 191 million rural people. In this vast region water scarcity, variable rainfall patterns, salinization, and soil erosion are major constraints on agricultural productivity. Water tables have fallen and water quality has deteriorated. Rangelands too are degraded. Lack of water and overgrazing prevents regeneration, especially around watering points. Smallholder farmers suffer disproportionately during droughts when crops fail and animal starve. The problems facing rural communities are exacerbated by limited access to credit, a lack of resources, and emigration of young people, which depletes the region of crucial human capital.      

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems is working to mitigate land and resource degradation that affect the lives of 191 million people living rurally in this region. This involves identifying and understanding the needs of farmers, working with local communities and partners to deliver tangible research-for=development solutions, and sharing and communicating evidence to scale out these solutions at landscape level. Major interventions focus on identifying and implementing more effective water management practices, intensifying and diversifying crop production, increasing food security and resilient livelihoods, strengthening value chains and targeting lucrative export markets for high value agricultural products.

Priority activities 

  • Implementing climate change adaptation strategies – Climate-smart technologies and practices delivered to rural communities
  • Increasing land productivity – Raising yields and introducing sustainable feed strategies
  • Increasing water productivity – Sustainable irrigation and proven water harvesting techniques
  • Integrated crop-livestock systems – Strengthening community resilience through integration of crops and livestock production
  • Increasing incomes – Adding value to production activities through new innovations that lead to higher product quality and incomes
  • Strengthening nutrition – Improving household access to nutritious and healthy food, prioritizing women and children
  • Empowering Women and Young People – Creating opportunities for women and young people facilitating their participation and contribution to critical decision-making processes

Research projects 

  • Middle East and North Africa Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI):  The goal of the WLI project is to improve the livelihoods of rural households and communities in areas where water scarcity, land degradation, water quality deterioration, food security and health problems are prevalent in the eight participating countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.
  • Adapting conservation agriculture for rapid adoption by smallholder farmers in northern Africa: Conservation Agriculture for North Africa (CANA): This project aims to promote adoption of conservation agriculture (CA) practices by smallholder farmers in North Africa  in order to reduce natural resource degradation and increase the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the crop/livestock systems in the region. The project works to identify and address constraints to adoption of CA practices by small and medium scale farmers, develop suitable  low-cost machinery and adapted cropping systems, and upgrade the CA capacity of national agricultural research systems in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. It is expected that the results of this project  will be scaled out to other African and Middle Eastern countries.
  • Enhancing Food Security in Arab Countries: This project is taking innovative approaches to increase productivity of the dryland production systems in six countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Syria and Jordan. With multiple technology transfer methods, rigorous 'live' testing in farmers' own fields, and integrated capacity-building components, the project works to develop practical solutions for improving wheat production, enhancing food security and ensuring sustainable agriculture in the Arab region.
  • Enhancing Sustainability and Fodder Production of Lowland Pastures through Integrated Alley Cropping & Conservation Agriculture in Arid Agro-Pastoral Ecosystems: This project aims to improve the livelihood of rural communities through the application of integrated alley cropping systems and conservation agriculture technologies to enhance productivity in the lowlands of arid and semi-arid rangeland areas. It is expected that these project interventions will enhance sustainable production in lowland pastures by increasing food and fodder, while conserving the environment and biodiversity. This project is implemented in Jordan, Yemen and Tunisia.

For more information, please contact Hichem Ben Salem, North Africa and West Asia Flagship Coordinator at H.BenSalem@cgiar.org .