Challenges and opportunities highlighted at the African Plant Breeders Association conference.
From developing improved crop breeding lines, setting up quality seed production and distribution systems, to stimulating demand and creating enabling environments for climate-resilient crops, ICRISAT’s contribution towards enhancing food security in West Africa has been substantial. This message was shared at the 2nd African Plant Breeders Association (APBA) Conference held at Kigali, Rwanda, by Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-WCA. The conference was held during 25-30 Oct 2021.
In his presentation titled ‘Enhancing crop productivity and nutrition in the drylands of West Africa: Challenges and Opportunities’, Dr Tabo recalled that over 1.6 million children across seven countries in Africa’s Sahel region are under the risk of acute malnutrition, one of the big challenges in the drylands. “In order to break the stubborn grip of hunger and poverty, and enhance resilience to climate variability and other shocks, we have developed a strategic agricultural research-for-development (R4D) plan to not only generate food systems to provide sufficient, safe, nutritious and affordable food, but also help address poverty by creating jobs and sustainable livelihoods,” he said.
“Specifically, this research supports development of crop breeding lines that have proven tolerance to diseases, drought and aflatoxin; quality seed production and distribution; generating demand and sustainable markets, creating an enabling environment and capacity, increasing public awareness of their value, and strengthening a wide range of partnerships,” Dr Tabo explained. In his presentation, he provided an overview of new sorghum and millet hybrids that can yield up to 40% over the previous breeding materials and those are in the process for registration in the national catalogs. “These breeding materials have increased productivity by 51% for sorghum and 72% for pearl millet in some regions of Mali. Meanwhile, recent studies in Nigeria identified landrace sorghum genotypes with high grain iron and zinc concentrations for improvement of farmer-preferred varieties and development of commercial hybrid parental lines.’’
In the context of creating enabling environments to support adoption of improved varieties/hybrids, ICRISAT has (1) developed approaches to improve productivity through integrated management of natural resources at the farm and landscape/watershed levels, (2) made value chains more efficient for better access to infrastructure, market information and credit through an ICT tools, and (3) improved consumer-oriented policies to attract private sector investments and diversified markets through the Smart food campaign.
In his presentation, Dr Michael Quinn, Director, Excellence in Breeding (EiB), CIMMYT, focused on the ‘One CGIAR’ innovations. He discussed the breeding innovations for genetic gains in farmers’ fields as well as CGIAR’s strategy to achieve that goal, and explained why production gains were critically required. He emphasized how innovations in breeding would contribute to accelerated and optimized breeding within the CGIAR using performance management aligned with genetic gain and varietal turnover. “The ‘One CGIAR’ genetic innovation goals are to increase rate of genetic gain in the form of farmer-preferred varieties to at least 1.5% per year,” said Dr Quinn.
The panel discussion was moderated by Dr Rufaro Madakadza, Senior Programs Officer, AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa). It was chaired by Dr Jude Obidiegwu, Assistant Director and Coordinator for Yam Programme, National Roots Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Nigeria.
Reported by Ms Agathe Diama, Senior Manager Regional Communications and Information, ICRISAT-WCA.