NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 20 (IPS) – Despite the domination of “Big three“Cereal crops and the ever-increasing consumption of meat, a neglected food sector, are expected to become increasingly critical to Africa’s food security and rural economic growth by 2050.
However, for Africa to fully benefit from these environmental superfoods, the continent needs coordinated efforts to optimize, scale up and scale up these robust and valuable crops. More and new, risk-reducing investment models in genetic improvement research programs and inclusive governance systems would be a starting point. Although root crops have traditionally been difficult to grow, recent scientific advances have produced varieties that are even more tolerant of drought, heat and increased salinity.
Genomics-assisted selection has further accelerated this progress, which is fundamental to producing next-generation varieties that are both climate-smart and more nutritious. Hardier, more nutritious root crops would benefit both people in rural areas where they are grown and urban areas, where it may be more difficult to provide fresh, healthy, perishable produce. Developing Africa’s capacity to use agricultural science and research to improve root crop qualities based on regional and local differences also requires greater scientific cooperation. A regional partnership on roots, tubers and bananas is leading the way, encompassing national research programs, CGIAR crop research centers and international scientific partners. Climatic variability across Africa means that the impact on roots and associated crops will differ from country to country. For example, some evidence suggests that future climates could impact potato production in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda, but would favor potato systems in Burundi and Rwanda. The continent would therefore benefit from more integrated and cross-border breeding programs that pool resources and intellectual capabilities for greater efficiency, while simultaneously creating the capabilities necessary to meet the specific needs of different contexts. Finally, and just as relevant, the latest and most adapted varieties must reach the farmers who need them through efficient and accessible seed delivery systems. In Africa, improved varieties of most crops have an adoption ceiling of around 40 percent, meaning the majority of farmers are using seeds and planting materials that have not been optimized for current conditions. The average age of a variety in farmers’ fields is often 10 years or more, robbing farmers and food supply chains of a decade of ever-increasing agricultural progress. Finding and developing the most effective ways to reach farmers, whether through informal channels, cooperatives, government initiatives or non-profit organizations, is key to accelerating the adoption of new varieties climate-smart. The recent Africa Climate Summit demonstrated the power of a unified voice to address the common challenges facing the entire continent. But he also recognized the national-level nuances inherent in dealing with an emergency like the climate crisis. When it comes to ensuring climate-resilient food security, local staple crops such as roots and tubers offer the greatest potential and, with more investment and collaboration, they can become multi-purpose solutions meeting to the needs of Africa. The green revolution that transformed global grain production has not yet taken place for roots, tubers and bananas. By leveraging scientific advances, environmental lessons and regional political leadership, now is the time for these crops to put Africa on the path to a food-secure future.
Hugo Camposresponsible for breeding roots, tubers and bananas at CGIAR, the world’s largest publicly funded agricultural research organization
IPS UN Office
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