African Plant Breeding Academy of the African Orphan Crops Consortium

The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) on 3rd December 2013, launched the African Plant Breeding Academy to help improve the livelihoods of Africa's smallholder farmers and their families, reduce hunger and boost Africa's food supply. AOCC's goal is to use 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 neglected by researchers and industry because they are not economically important on the global market.

The consortium includes the African Union- New Partnership for Africa's Development (AU-NEPAD Agency); Mars, Incorporated; World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF); Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI); Life Technologies; World Wildlife Fund; UC Davis; iPlant Collaborative and Biosciences eastern and central Africa - International Livestock Research Institute (BecA - ILRI)

Located at the World Agroforestry Centre, the Academy will train 250 plant breeders 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 100 targeted crops are the 'back garden' crops of rural Africa, home to 600 million people. So improving them will greatly improve the diets of Africa's children, helping to eliminate hunger and malnutrition, which causes stunting.   Stunting - short stature for age and incomplete neurological development - is rife among the children of rural Africa.

The first orphan crop to be sequenced, assembled and annotated at the Academy will be Baobab, which can be used as a dried fruit powder for consumer products. By sharing knowledge of the genome sequences of baobab and other African crops, scientists and technicians working at the Academy will inform plant breeders and farmers of species varieties that are more nutritious, productive and robust.

AOCC was officially launched at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting in 2011 as an effort to improve the nutrition, productivity and climatic adaptability of some of Africa's most important food crops. In June 2013, during the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture held in partnership with World Bank Group in Washington D.C., AOCC announced it would be making its data publically available to scientists, plant breeders and farmers. At the 2013 CGI meeting, Howard-Yana Shapiro, who gave an opening speech, confirmed that AOCC had raised approximately $40 million USD in-kind contributions to date to support its work.

Photos from the Launch

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