New nutrition sources for populations, increase farmer income and new expertise for national research partners.

A public-private-partnership between ICARDA and Mexican company Impulsora Agricola (IASA) is a win-win-win for smallholder farmers, crop researchers and local industry. Improved barley varieties are provided to Mexico’s commercial food products market, ICARDA gains new expertise in barley, and smallholder farmers have potential new income streams, producing barley for national markets.

In developing countries, barley brings benefits to smallholder communities living in the world’s most marginal agro-ecosystems. The most common use is for low-input barley, known as the ‘climate change crop’, which requires little labor and inputs and ensures stable yields for communities faced with drought and degraded lands – providing farmers with  feed for livestock, food and forage.

For smallholder farmers in some drylands areas, cultivation of high-input barley to supply local food and drink industries is emerging as a new income option, with the potential to bring significant earnings to rural communities. Farmers in India, for example, can earn $70 per hectare per season of additional income under contract farming for local producers. Similarly, in African countries like Ethiopia, farmers are joining guaranteed-income schemes with price premium and assured procurement. They are cooperating with local industry that provides technical support, certified seeds and advice on crop management for better grain quality.

In November 2012 ICARDA entered into a three-year agreement with Mexican producer Impulsora Agricola (IASA) where the company has the exclusive right to evaluate ICARDA’s barley varieties for their potential in food and drink processing as well as to commercialise the varieties in Mexico.  The aim is to better understand the characteristics of barley for malting , which could support the growth of local industry and bring income to smallholders in countries like Ethiopia, Eritrea, India and Nepal.

Through its barley improvement program, ICARDA delivers to IASA advanced barley genotypes that have the best potential to be adapted to Mexican conditions after evaluation. IASA tests these genotypes for their quality and provides the data to ICARDA, who shares high quality barley varieties with national partners. ICARDA, a world leader in barley improvement with developing countries, focuses its efforts on developing high-yielding drought and cold-tolerant barley for food, feed and fodder. Through this partnership with IASA, the Center is gaining new expertise in barley improvement.

Started in 2009, the partnership has transferred 321  barley lines to the Mexican partner, under the terms of the FAO Standard Material Transfer Material of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food in Agriculture. The varieties are currently under evaluation of physical and biochemical grain traits.

The Transfer allows for the use of the barley varieties developed in the partnership to be used by the private sector partner for commercial purposes, within this specific agreement, and ICARDA also preserves it as an international public good that is freely available for use by partners in developing countries.

Building on these skills, ICARDA is expanding its research with Ethiopia, Morocco, India and other countries, where the demand for barley and high-protein malt as an industrial raw material are on the rise. Expanding national  barley cultivation can create more income for farmers as they supply national industries, and other market opportunities, producing barley for value-added food and snack products such as baby food and Kolo in Ethiopia which are excellent new sources of minerals and nutrition for children.

Source: ICARDA