African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC): progress

African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC): progress

The AOCC’s goal is to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 101 traditional African food crops that rural Africans know and understand, to allow scientists to efficiently improve the crops’ nutritional quality, productivity, climate resilience and disease and pest resistance, while training African scientists to best use the genetic information.

Ultimately, the objectives are to ensure that African plant breeders have access to and knowledge of ways to integrate the latest genomic technologies and tools to efficiently develop and release improved varieties of orphan crops to smallholder farmers for cultivation. By this means, both diets and farmers’ incomes are improved, allowing the 600 million people who live in rural Africa to grow their own food and nutrition security and support a growing urban population in Africa.

This 2019 progress report highlights 10 key achievements:

  • AOCC financial and in-kind support tops $80 million.
  • African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA) alumni launch 37 improved crop varieties.
  • Celebration of AfPBA’s fourth class achieves graduation of 112 scientists from 27 African nations including 87% PhDs and 38% women.
  • The fifth AfPBA class will begin in late 2020 to increase the graduates to 150 and funding for a sixth class has been secured.
  • AfPBA alumni publications reach 171 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.
  • 185 national breeding programs focused on African orphan crops across the continent are being directed by AfPBA alumni.
  • AfPBA scientists were awarded more than $13 million highly competitive plant breeding and research grants.
  • AOCC published three new genomes in 2019.
  • AfPBA alumni created and organized the inaugural meeting of the African Plant Breeders Association.
  • The FAO-AOCC partnership is working to take the orphan crops movement global in 2021 with a High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Crop Improvement to Help Lift Africa out of Poverty through Enhanced Nutrition: The Unique AOCC Approach.

By 2030, the use of nutritious, climate resilient African crops stimulated by the AOCC activities and individual and collective efforts of AfPBA alumni are expected to be part of dietary improvements in 20% of Africa’s rural populations and 10% of its urban populations.

On a global scale, through collaboration with FAO, the AOCC approach has the potential to spur a global revolution in local crops. This success will be an important contribution to the nutritional agendas of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Decade of Action for Nutrition, and the 2021 UN Summit on Food Systems, especially their Action Track that seeks to ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all.

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