UKZN Academic at Plant Design Workshop in Kenya
The workshop was organised by partners including the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the Australian International Food Security Research Centre, the Crawford Fund (Australia), Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
About 35 delegates attended the event. Shimelis’s paper was on the contribution of the ACCI to plant breeding education and its unique PhD training programme which aligns to demand-led variety design in Africa.
In Africa the uptake rate of new plant varieties by small holder farmers over the past 15 years is estimated at 35%, relatively low compared to the adoption of new plant varieties in Asia (60%) and South America (80%).
Factors for the low adoption rate of newly bred varieties include lack of access to seeds, credit and other production inputs. Furthermore, lack of suitability of new varieties to meet the current and changing customer demand due to new market opportunities presented a key limiting factor in plant varietal adoption.
The workshop was thus organised to discuss critical issues on demand-led plant variety design in Africa to enhance uptake of new plant varieties in ensuring food security.
The two day programme discussed:
- Issues of demand led plant variety design and uptake of new plant varieties in Africa. This session proposed target crops for further case studies of adoption or non-adoption of new varieties. Further, it suggested pilot plant breeding programmes to test new breeding approaches and identified key partners and responsibilities.
- Current plant breeding education, training and professional development programmes in Africa. The theme provided an overview of education, training and professional development of plant breeders in Africa. Presentations were made on current approaches, gaps and needs in relation to education and training in demand led variety design. Future discussions will be held to: a) devise content of courses or curriculum to be developed on demand led plant variety design, b) propose source of teaching materials to be adapted in future courses, c) review modules offered in the formal post graduate training as well as professional development courses and d) follow up on establishing the Association of African Plant Breeders.
- Implications of demand led approaches on policies and institutions.
This session addressed the scope and content of policy issues on demand-led plant variety design through various contributions of NEPAD, the Forum of Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in eastern and central Africa (ASARECA), Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF), private seed companies such as AFRISAM-Tanzania, and East-West seeds-Kenya.
Overall, the workshop highlighted the need to develop customer and demand based plant varieties with pre- and post-harvest traits for successful uptake by growers.
Prior to the actual breeding of their respective crops, most ACCI students assess socio-economic aspects such as farmers’ production constraints, priorities and trait preferences through a Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) study.
The ACCI approach was commended by the workshop delegates because it ensures successful uptake of newly developed varieties by farmers.