New $40 Million Project to Revitalize Africa’s Orphaned Crops

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Despite being a rich with very fertile land, Africa’s agricultural potential has yet to be tapped. Fortunately, there are efforts to changes. During the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City, a consortium of international partners, including the University of California, announced a $40 million project intended to boost Africa’s health and economic vitality by genetically sequencing and breeding some of the continent’s most important, but neglected, native crops.

The recently formed African Orphan Crops consortium will tea-up with African scientists to identify at least two dozen African food crops and tree species that have been neglected by science because their economic insignificance.

An integral part of the new initiative will be the establishment the African Plant Breeding Academy by UC Davis researchers in Ghana to train African scientists in incorporating the latest technologies for breeding these orphaned crops on the continent.

The the primary task of the project is to sequence the genome for each species and make that information freely available to scientists around the world. The information will then be applied, using the most advanced breeding techniques and technologies, to develop new varieties of crops that are more nutritious, produce higher yields and are more tolerant of environmental stresses, such as drought.

The consortium has so far developed a list of 96 species, which will be narrowed to 24 food crops and tree species whose genomes will be sequenced. Some of the species to be considered for sequencing include amaranth, marula, cocyam, Ethiopian mustard, ground nut tree, African potato, acacia, baobob, matoke bananas, African medlars, African eggplant and Cape tomato.

On a continent where thousands die everyday from hunger and malnutrition, and where per-capita food yields have been declining for decades, the need for enhanced, native crops is acute. This project is a great addition to helping make a healthier Africa.

Source: PHYORG