South & West Asia
The South and West Asia region includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. ACIAR’s strategy in each of these countries is specifically tailored to suit individual country needs.
India faces very significant problems in its rural sector, even as the overall economy forges ahead. Indeed, the greatest number (approximately 300 million) of poor and undernourished people in any country is found in India, and most live in rural areas. ACIAR will maximise collaboration with India in areas of Australian expertise and where India and Australia have strong common interests. Better water management is one of the highest priorities for improving livelihoods in the more-marginal rainfed areas of central India. Water harvesting is therefore a key policy initiative of the Indian Government, aimed at increasing the water productivity of crop and livestock production systems. Increased efficiency and livelihoods from climate resilient cropping systems intensification especially through conservation agriculture is also an important, especially in relation to poverty reduction. To support cropping systems intensification, partnerships in advanced marker assisted wheat and sorghum breeding are operational. Australia also has significant expertise in policy analysis, particularly in assisting India with the implications of its transition from a highly regulated economy to a more-open market economy.
Bangladesh has been a partner country of ACIAR since the mid 1990s. ACIAR’s program in Bangladesh focuses on constraints to broadacre crop production (especially the rice-wheat system) and the potential for increasing legume production in cropping systems. Low-lying areas and rainfed cropping systems in Bangladesh are particularly impacted by the effects of seasonal climate variability and climate change. The improvement of mechanization services and agronomy for conservation agriculture is another important topic. This raises considerable concerns about Bangladesh’s ability to maintain food security, considering its high vulnerability. ACIAR will continue to consult with Bangladeshi partners on priorities for climate change adaptation research with impact at the farm level.
Pakistan has been an ACIAR partner country since 1984. Increasing pressure on the availability of water resources for irrigation exists due to competing demands from urban and industrial uses. Given the similarity of some of its own water resource and salinity issues, Australia is well placed to assist Pakistan in addressing these issues. ACIAR’s main focus in Pakistan is on linkages within the horticulture and dairy sectors and on natural resources management issues such as efficient water use, salinity management and integration options for irrigated cereal cropping. The geographic focus in ACIAR’s Pakistan program is on Punjab, Sindh and North-West Frontier provinces.
Iraqi scientists have had limited access to international developments in the agricultural sector for over two decades. Consistent with other support provided by the Australian Government, ACIAR-managed and AusAID-funded projects are intended to facilitate the development of modern and sustainable agricultural production and marketing systems in Iraq. The development of dryland conservation agriculture systems has been one major success in Iraq. Another project in Iraq focuses on understanding salinisation processes, water management and the use of moderately saline soil for agricultural production. These issues are particularly relevant within the Australian experience as they mirror the issues that confronted managers in the Murray-Darling Basin in the late 1960s through to the mid 1980s. The actions taken by Australian bureaucrats and researchers, as well as farming system changes at the local level, are particularly relevant to the Iraqi situation. A third project will support the development of forages for improved livestock productivity.
Two decades of war coupled with a recent severe drought have devastated Afghanistan’s food production capabilities and depleted critical seed stocks, leaving the nation heavily dependent on food aid from international donors. ACIAR’s collaboration with Afghanistan, which began in 2002, provides support to wheat and maize production. Activities have aimed principally to establish on-farm participatory testing of imported germplasm for the identification of better adapted improved cultivars, and undertake local multiplication and distribution of selected cultivars. ACIAR is also promoting improved crop management, along with the provision of improved cultivars of both wheat and maize. A second project focuses on improved water management. Improved small ruminant production is the goal of a third project.
Because of Bhutan’s relative lack of capacity to effect significant change across many agricultural sectors at once, ACIAR’s program will remain small and tightly focused. Earlier ACIAR research to develop Newcastle vaccine for village chickens was extended and adapted for the situation in Bhutan with the help of AusAID funding, and projects have been initiated on the management of fruit flies and footrot in ruminants. A major initiative on the improvement of citrus production – Bhutan’s largest horticultural export industry – through pest and disease management is being implemented.