To help ease the problem of food security that is threatening the Horn of Africa, the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR) and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have early this week launched a joint breeding program for five Ethiopian grain crops, namely maize, tef, sorghum, soybean and faba bean.
The three-year programme, which will cost over US$1 million funded by AGRA, is expected to reach directly and indirectly more than 200 000 smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.
It will make a significant contribution to enhance household food security and incomes, both institutions said in a statement from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The majority of Ethiopians rely on these key grain crops for their calorie and protein intake, but yields are currently low, the statement said.
EIAR crop research director Dr Adeferis Teklewolde said Ethiopian farmers were facing a number of constraints, such as drought, diseases and insect pests that, combined together, greatly lower their yields.
This initiative, he said, will introduce crop varieties that can better withstand these constraints, thereby contributing to improved food security in Ethiopia.
The initiative will be implemented through various EIAR research hubs/centers at Bako, Debre Zeit, Melkasa, Kulumsa and Pawe.
AGRA director for Program for African Seed Systems (PASS) Joe DeVries said his organisation was pleased to have this opportunity to work with the Ethiopian government to tackle a key bottleneck to farmers’ productivity.
“Through this collaboration, 20 tons of breeder and foundation seeds – the basic seed multiplied and sold to farmers – will be availed to seed enterprises annually.”
PASS is the unit overseeing the programme.
This initiative is also set to build capacity among researchers, extension agents, and public-private seed companies, and enhance the linkages between all the seed value chain players of target crops.
AGRA board of directors is chaired by Ghana’s Kofi Annan and its president is Jane Karuku. The organisation is supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development and other donors.
AGRA works across sub-Saharan Africa and maintains offices in Nairobi, Kenya, and Accra, Ghana.