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Event Productive and Sustainable Use of Saline Waters and Salt-affected Soils in Agriculture

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) have launched the idea of a "Bridging Workshops" to bridge the knowledge gap between the advanced research institutions, including the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) system, and young professionals from national agricultural research systems (NARS) of the developing countries. These workshops will guide the young researchers towards the state-of-the-art of multi-disciplinary and cutting edge research, applying an open-space and open-mind environment where participants are mentored by experienced scientists, and encouraged to interact and ask all those questions they could never ask in conventional workshops. This initiative will involve lead international scientists and young and mid-career scientists of NARS in the exchange of information and experience.

It is proposed to utilize the complementary skills available among the CGIAR centers and advanced research institutions to organize the 'Bridging Workshops'. The first 'Bridging Workshop' jointly hosted by ICARDA and IWMI in November 2007 addressed aspects relating to the safe use of wastewater in agriculture. With funding from the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Wageningen University, 25 scientists from 13 countries participated in the workshop. The second 'Bridging Workshop' is planned for 2009 and will address productive and sustainable use of saline water and salt-affected soils in agriculture. The subsequent workshops, organized every alternate year, will address different aspects of integrated water and land management. Each workshop will culminate in the development of proceedings and post-workshop collaboration will enhance interaction among the workshop participants and other researchers working on related aspects.

The initiative is inviting donors interested in becoming official partners of the second 'Bridging Workshop'. Each workshop is budgeted at US$ 50,000 to sponsor mainly NARS participants and is co-funded by USAID (through Water and Livelihoods Initiative in the Middle East), ICARDA and IWMI.

Given current demographic trends and future growth projections, as much as 60% of the global population is expected to suffer water scarcity, defined as annual freshwater availability of less than 1000 m3 per capita, by the year 2025. Most countries in Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) are already categorized as water scarce. Although agriculture is the dominant user of water, the increasing competition for good-quality water among different water-use sectors in water scarce countries will reduce freshwater allocation to agriculture. This will necessitate the increased use of alternate sources of water in agriculture such as saline drainage water generated by irrigated agriculture and/or groundwater pumped from saline aquifers. Although saline water is already used in agriculture, its uncontrolled use without suitable soil-crop-irrigation management measures poses great risk through the development of salinity, sodicity, ion-specific toxicity, and nutrient imbalance in soils. These conditions reduce crop productivity and limit the crop choice. The same applies to salt-affected soils, which already cover 30% of the world's irrigated land area. In some countries, salt-affected soils cover about half of the irrigated area. Although saline waters and salt-affected soils are often viewed as representing major environmental and agricultural challenges in terms of biomass production, these are valuable resources that cannot be neglected, especially in areas where significant investments have already been made in infrastructure in general and irrigation systems development in particular. Therefore, saline waters and salt-affected soils are expected to be an important component in the overall challenge in addressing the looming food crisis that is emerging.

As the future use of saline waters and salt-affected soils is expected to increase, there will be a need to modify existing soil, irrigation, and crop management practices to cope with the inevitable increases in soil salinity and sodicity that may occur. In addition, the assessment of the future sustainability of using saline waters, in regard to maintaining soil permeability and crop productivity, will become a more serious issue. This scenario warrants rethinking of the ways through which saline waters and salt-affected soils are used in crop production systems.

The development of appropriate technical and policy options for productive use of saline water and salt-affected soils offers great promise. However, the capacity, skilled human resources, and research-based knowledge are lacking in developing countries to tackle the complex issues arising from the agricultural use of these water and soil resources. In partnership with the key national and regional institutions, ICARDA and IWMI are working on the innovative management practices that can significantly increase agricultural productivity and income generation of the communities relying on saline water irrigation and salt-affected soils. Organizing the Bridging Workshop on the productive and sustainable use of saline waters and salt-affected soils in agriculture is another step by both the institutions that is expected to facilitate exchange of knowledge and collaboration between the top researchers from advanced research institutions and young and mid-career researchers from developing countries.

Specific Objectives

To encourage innovative thinking in using saline water and salt-affected soils for sustainable crop production systems
To provide an open space for young and mid-career professionals from developing countries to learn and share knowledge on the latest concepts and approaches addressing the strategies of using saline water in agriculture
To create a conducive environment between the North and South for the initiation of long-term interaction through collaboration on the productive and sustainable use of saline water and possible development of joint project proposals

Program and Sessions
The workshop will start with an opening session outlining the particular character of the Bridging Workshops followed by three different types of sessions as proposed below:
Stimulating presentations by lead scientists/resource persons. In contrast to traditional workshops, the lead scientists will highlight the research challenges and knowledge gaps relating to a predefined topic. Each stimulating session on a different topic is proposed for 1.5 hour, initiating with a keynote presentation (20-30 minutes) by a lead scientist followed by about one hour of questions-answers, informal discussion groups, etc (no specific rules). Other lead scientists will play a supportive role in a stimulating presentation session.
Country presentations by young researchers (15 minutes for presentation plus 15 minutes for discussion). These presentations as case studies will be based on saline water related work in the respective countries.
Session on summarizing research challenges and gaps as identified in the previous sessions and workshop discussions (participatory outline of topics of interest, and selection of 2-3 top issues, and strategies for the way forward)

 Themes and Stimulating Sessions
The following topics will be covered within the scope of themes and stimulating sessions.

Climate change and salinization of water and soil resources
Geographical information systems and remote sensing for mapping and monitoring salinization and distribution of salt-affected soils at different scales
Salt balance, leaching requirement, and steady-state and transient models
Effects of salinity on plant growth and mechanisms of plants to withstand salinity
Integrated approaches using saline water and salt-affected soils in agriculture, such as sequential biological concentration
Renewable energy from abandoned salt-affected lands and saline drainage networks
Biosaline agriculture, cash-crop halophytes, and crop diversification options for salt-affected environments
Linkages between health and salinization
Policies and institutions facilitating productive use of saline water in agriculture

Young and mid-career researchers from developing countries, who are actively involved in research relating to different aspects of saline water and salt-affected soils. It is anticipated that about 25 such researchers will participate. Their selection will be based on their paper submitted to the workshop and related published work. They will present case studies in the respective countries.
Senior scientists leading research on different aspects of saline water and salt-affected soils. They will give comprehensive stimulating presentations followed by extensive discussions with the participants. It is anticipated that about 8 such senior scientists will participate in the workshop as resource persons and mentors.

Workshop proceedings published on CD-ROM and as hard copy.
Identification of topics based on country- and region-specific issues emerging from the workshop discussions for future collaborative activities by the researchers from developing countries in consultation with the lead scientists from advanced research institutes, IWMI and ICARDA.

Contact information Manzoor Qadir, Marginal-Water Management Scientist; ICARDA-IWMI Joint Appointment; International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA); P.O. Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria / Natalia Abeynayake, Donor Relations Officer, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), P.O. Box 2075, Colombo, Sri Lanka. / Elizabeth Bailey, Head, Resource Mobilization and Project Development Unit (RMPDU), ICARDA, P.O. Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria (email: ; ;
Phone: +963-21-2213433 ; Fax: +963-21-2213490
Event type Conference
File link
Geographical coverage Syria
Address at ICARDA's headquarters in Aleppo, Syria
Target audience International
Period [14/11/2009 - 18/11/2009]
Status Confirmed
Working language(s) ENGLISH