FAO and ICARDA have been working hand in hand in providing technical support to CACTUSNET, a network that has been catalyzing the expectations of a group of scientists and producers of a useful multipurpose plant (Opuntia spp.) that is a valid ecological and economical alternative for marginal agricultural lands of arid and semi-arid areas.
CACTUSNET is an R&D network, created under the auspices of FAO in 1993, to promote the cultivation and uses of cactus pear. It aims to collect and disseminate information on production, processing and trade; promote and facilitate germplasm exchange; develop new food and carminic acid uses; and strengthen the technical capacity of partner institutions. The Network has provided support to cactus R&D efforts in Angola, Argentina, Chile, Iran, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Italy, Libya, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, South Africa and Tunisia.
After ten years the International Congress comes back to a Mediterranean country. It will be held in Agadir, Morocco, from 17 to 22 October 2010. In occasion of the International Congress the members of the CACTUSNET gather to review the functioning of the Network and plan future activities. Although emphasis is given to the beneficial aspects such as environment conservation, rangeland improvement, feed and food production from fruits and cladodes, medicinal uses and carminic acid, the controversial characteristic of some invasive Opuntia species is concern of the cactus pear community. Since 1996 the congress is held with the sponsorship of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) and the proceedings are published as a special number of Acta Horticulturae.