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  • Matt Spencer

The African Orphan Crops Associaition

The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) recently opened the African Plant Breeding Academy which is aimed at assisting the development of livelihoods of Africa’s smallholder farmers and their loved ones. The project’s objective is to essentially reduce hunger and boost Africa’s food supply.   The African Orphan Crops Consortium‘s will achieve this by making use of the latest scientific equipment and techniques to genetically sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 100 traditional African food crops to guide the development of more robust produce with higher nutritional content.

‘Orphan crops’ are African food crops and tree species that have been abandoned by researchers and industry professionals because they are not economically significant on the global market.

The association is comprised of the NEPAD Agency; Mars, Incorporated; World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); BGI; Life Technologies; World Wildlife Fund; University of California, Davis (UC Davis); iPlant Collaborative and Biosciences eastern and central Africa – International Livestock Research Institute (BecA – ILRI).

Located at ICRAF in Nairobi, Kenya, the Academy will train 250 plant breeders and technicians in genomics and marker-assisted selection for crop improvement over a five-year period.  The work will drive the creation of improved planting materials that will then be offered to smallholder farmers throughout Africa.  The Academy provides scientists and technicians a dedicated place to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes to help develop food crops with higher nutritional value and which can better withstand climate changes, pests and disease.  The data derived from this collaborative effort will be made publically available with the endorsement of the African Union through a process managed by the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture.

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