African Plant Breeders Association launched in Ghana

Presidium of speakers at the official opening of the APBA conference. Photo: M Magassa-ICRISAT

The African Plant Breeders Association (APBA) was launched recently to bring together plant breeders from several African nations to work towards achieving food security in Africa through breeding.

Dr Sagri Bambangi, Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in Ghana, urged the breeders to begin conversations on securing the food future of Africa through plant breeding. He also advised APBA to use the platform to kickstart a political debate on the importance of genetic crop improvement for environmental and socio-economic objectives through unbiased quantitative and qualitative data.

Prof Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana, said that APBA would help Africa reach its goal referred to as the ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’.

Prof Eric Y Danquah, Interim President of APBA and Director of the West Africa Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI), asked the members to reflect on the current state and future prospects of plant breeding research in Africa and said that the formation of APBA would open doors for collaborations needed to generate innovative solutions for agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa. “We can unlock the African dream and free the next generation to take the continent to the next level. This is all that the APBA is about,” he said.

The Association was launched during the conference ‘Advances in classical breeding and application of modern breeding tools for food and nutrition security in Africa’, co-sponsored by the AVISAProject and CRP-GLDC, led by ICRISAT. Participants shared their research findings, discussed recent developments in their fields, and deliberated on potential collaborative actions to be put in place.

Dr Abhishek facilitates a workshop during the conference. Photo: M Magassa-ICRISAT

As part of the APBA conference, ICRISAT through the AVISAproject, also held a four days’ workshop on ‘Digitalization of Breeding Programs and Data Management’, to help develop problem-solving skills to address agricultural challenges. Two days of the workshop focused on increasing usage of the Breeding Management System (BMS) platform. “We got an official account on BMS during the training. We now have access and can enter our data safely,” said Dr Nofou Ouedraogo, a sorghum breeder at INERA in Burkina Faso. For Ms Viola Furaha, a research technician in ICRISAT-Kenya, the training was an excellent opportunity to learn, train and manage data directly in the system. She added that the idea of involving everybody in the training shows that the AVISA project was not only interested in senior breeders but also other stakeholders, including young scientists. More than 70 researchers, breeders, technicians and students participated in the workshops.

The conference saw over 400 scientists, researchers, national agriculture policymakers, students, professionals, private and public sector actors from 30 countries converge at the University of Ghana, Accra. Representatives from international institutions including the Alliance for Green Revolution Africa (AGRA), MARS Inc., International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), ICRISAT, AfricaRice, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Potato Center (CIP) pledged their support for APBA activities.

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