New Plant Breeding Academy to Improve Food Security in Africa
10 December 2013: To improve Africa's resilience to climate change, pests and disease, the African Plant Breeding Academy (APBA) has announced that it will train scientists and technicians to breed plants and trees that have previously received little scientific research attention because of their low market value. The APBA was established to boost the profile and production of "orphan crops," which are neglected but nutritious crops.
APBA is an initiative of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), a group of international agencies, research institutions and companies launched in 2011. APBA's overarching goal is to promote food security in Africa by developing high-yielding varieties of crops that have in past years been replaced by maize, rice and wheat. Over a five-year period, the Academy, hosted by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Nairobi, Kenya, will train around 250 scientists and technicians in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement. The first cohort of 25 trainees, all crop breeders from African countries, started a two-week training conducted by scientists from the Universities of Illinois, Hampshire and Arizona, US.
APBA will also develop strengthened planting materials for over 100 abandoned or neglected crops, many of them drought-tolerant and affected by few known diseases or pests, which will then be offered to smallholder farmers throughout Africa. Crops promoted include the baobab, the marula fruit tree, Ethiopian mustard, African eggplant, amaranth, bananas and moringa.
ICRAF is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). [ICRAF Press Release]