Food sustainability: Scientists target leap in African food systems



Ten Molecular Scientists from six African countries are targeting a quantum leap in nutrition, climate resiliency and sustainability in the continent’s food systems for crops of nutritional and economic value, including orphan crops.

Orphan crops are those crops which are typically not traded internationally but that can play an important role in regional food security.

Dr Shakirat Ajenifujah-Solebo, acting Director of Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics Department, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), spoke in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja.

Solebo, one of three Nigerian doctoral scientists among the ten molecular scientists from six African countries who received professional training from AfPBA CRISPR Course, gave NAN an update.

The scientist said that AfPBA was an abbreviation for African Plant Breeding Academy, while CRISPR denoted a technology that research scientists use to selectively modify the DNA of living organisms.

Solebo said that the task before them was to apply the knowledge of Genome editing to facilitate a quantum leap in nutrition and food sustainability.

She mentioned people who gave the task at the graduation ceremony to include; Prof. Howard Shapiro, founder of the AOCC and Prof. Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Laureate, Patent Owner of the CRISPR technology and CEO, IGI.

Others were: Dr Allen Deynze, Director of Research, Seed Biotechnology Centre, UC Davis and Prof. Rita Hogan-Mumm, Director of the AfPBA.

She said their expectations were for the initiative to attract maximum support of governments in Nigeria and across Africa in order to address the food and nutrition security in the continent

The News Agency reports that the African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA), an initiative of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), partnered UC Davis Seed Biotechnology Centre and Innovative Genetics Institute (IGI).

In partnership also with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) among others, graduated the first Cohort of the AfPBA CRISPA Course in October 13 at ICRAF World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

The AfPBA CRISPR Course trained 10 plant molecular scientists from six African countries of Ethiopia, Ghana, Keenya, Malawi, Morocco and Nigeria.

The intensive six-week theoretical and hands-on laboratory sessions spanned from January to October 2023.

The scientists were charged with development of research proposal with some seed fund to support reagent and small equipment.

Three Nigerian doctoral scientists, Shakirat Ajenifujah-Solebo, Pamela Akin-Idowu and Effiom Ita graduated from the professional development training on CRISPR Course.

The three Nigeria scientists were from NABDA, Nigeria Institute of Horticultural Research and Training (NIHORT) and the University of Calabar, respectively.

NAN also reports that the goal of the course was to train molecular scientists engaged in crop improvement, especially those working in national programmes at institutions desiring to implement or initiate gene editing programmes. 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here