Dr Margaret Catley-Carlson, Chair, ICARDA Board of Trustees, formally introduced Dr Mahmoud Mohamed Bachir El-Solh as the new Director General to the guests during the Center's Annual Presentation Day on 7 May. The guests included ministers, ambassadors and other senior officials from the various embassies in Damascus and Aleppo, donor representatives, leaders of national agricultural research systems, former ICARDA Board chairs and members, former ICARDA Directors General, and media representatives. Dr Solh assumed office on 8 May, taking over from Prof. Dr Adel El-Beltagy, who retired after serving as the Director General of the Center for more than 11 years.
Welcoming Dr Solh as ICARDA's new Director General, Dr Margaret Catley-Carlson said: "Dr Solh is no stranger to ICARDA and therefore I hardly need to introduce him to you. Being a Lebanese, he is the son of the soil, knowing the ICARDA region and its challenges well. He has been associated with the international agricultural research and development in the dry areas since 1972 when he became a staff member of the Arid Land Agricultural Development (ALAD) Program in the Near East, the predecessor of ICARDA."
The Dr Solh returns to ICARDA after serving as Director of Plant Production and Protection Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for four years. Prior to that he had served ICARDA with distinction for nearly 16 years in various capacities - as Lentil Breeder, Regional Food Legume Breeder in North Africa, Regional Coordinator of the Nile Valley and Red Sea Regional Program, and Assistant Director General for International Cooperation.
Dr Solh holds a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Davis, USA and has an impressive record of scientific publications. He has rich experience in donor relations and fund raising, and an in-depth knowledge of needs and aspirations of the national agricultural research and development systems in the Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) region and beyond.
Addressing the Presentation Day guests, after his formal introduction by Dr Catley-Carlson, Dr Solh said, "I would like to thank the ICARDA Board of Trustees for their highly-valued confidence placed in me to fill this position. I would also like to express my appreciation to H.E. Dr Adel Safar, Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Syria for his encouragement and continued support to ICARDA and to me personally. Through him, I would like to convey my special thanks to H.E. Dr Bashar Al-Assad, President of Syria, and his government, for their unwavering support to ICARDA since its establishment in 1977. I sincerely hope to be up to the expectations of all stakeholders in meeting the challenges facing ICARDA to contribute effectively to agricultural research and provide quality science and technology necessary for the development of dry areas globally.
"The success of ICARDA in achieving its noble mission of alleviating poverty and hunger depends greatly on the support and input of all major stakeholders. The challenges of agriculture in the harsh environments of dry areas are diverse, and these could only be addressed effectively through strategic partnerships." He then summarized the priority areas that would receive his immediate attention, including the finalization of a new strategic plan that takes into account the changing priorities of agricultural research in the context of the changes taking place in the external and internal environment.
The ICARDA staff members are pleased to welcome Dr Solh and his family and look forward to working under his able leadership.