The University of California, Davis and the newly formed African Orphan Crops consortium have announced the launch of a $40 million effort to increase Africa's health and economic vitality by genetically sequencing and breeding some of the continent's neglected native crops.
In partnership with African scientists, the consortium will genetically sequence at least two dozen food crops, making the information freely available and applying advanced breeding techniques to develop new varieties that are higher yielding, more nutritious, and more tolerant to environmental stresses such as drought. In time, the selected species could play an important role in the African diet and help improve food security on the continent.
As part of the initiative, UC Davis will establish an African Plant Breeding Academy in Accra, Ghana, to train African scientists in the latest technologies for breeding newly sequenced crops. Life Technologies, a California-based biotechnology tools company, will supply the academy with equipment.
Launched at the seventh-annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting last week, the consortium has raised $7.5 million and is seeking new partners and an additional $32.5 million in investments. For a complete list of consortium partners, visit the UC Davis Web site.
"UC Davis is a powerful enterprise for innovations that address the world's most pressing problems," said UC Davis chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. "Few problems are more urgent than the looming global food shortage. I am tremendously proud of the vision and promise of the African Orphan Crops consortium. It is leading the way to an era in which genomics research can be moved from the research laboratory into the hands of the farmers who feed the world."