AGRA boosts African seed market with a plant breeding initiative

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is implementing an initiative to increase availability of a new set of plant breeders who can better service Africa’s seed sector.

The Improved Msc in Cultivar Development for Africa (IMCDA) program has a revised practical training and internship approach to enable students to be more productive and useful to the private and public sectors.

The Program will train 90 students in three regional training hubs in Africa – Ghana (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology), Uganda (Makerere University) and South Africa (University of Kwazulu Natal).

The Ghana component of the initiative was launched at KNUST, where 30 students from Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will be trained.

AGRA is providing a grant of $2.67million to offer full scholarship to students over a five year period.

The agric sector continues to face challenges of improved quality seed for improved yields.

According to Vice-Chancellor of the KNUST, Prof. Otoo Ellis, certified seed usage and marching applications of other simple agricultural technologies can lead to higher crop yields.

“Therefore an increase in the number of plant breeders who can develop improved varieties with significant genetic gains quickly, in either the private seed companies or the public sector using modern data management and breeding methodologies, can result in higher crop yields and improved incomes for our resource poor farmers,” he stated.

The program, he believes, will empower the KNUST to train industry-ready graduates to produce improved varieties more quickly and efficiently in order to address the “dwindling productivity of staple food crops due to the inability of unimproved local varieties to adequately tolerate emerging biotic and abiotic constraints”.

He believes KNUST is adequately positioned to address problems of smallholder farmers in crop production.

AGRA has been funding other programs in soil science and seed systems at the university.

Dr. Rufaro Madakadze, Programme Officer at AGRA, the program should be beneficial to farmers and the private sector agricultural actors.

“We are beginning to realize that providing scientists for the public sector without some for the private sector does not work,” she stated. “The whole point of breeding is to develop a variety of cultivar that the farmers will adopt, that the farmers can grow and improve their yields.”

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