Bright Future for Plant Breeding in West Africa

When about two dozen plant breeders were invited to Dakar, Senegal, in early March 2020, the primary goal was to launch a new breeding project – the West Africa Breeding Networks and Extension Empowerment (ABEE). The European Union funds ABEE and CORAF implement it alongside several other partners.

But as it turned, most of the plant breeders invited to launch ABEE also had a few things in common. Most of them were young, part of the new generation of plant breeders in West Africa, and graduated from the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI).

The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) is a partnership between the University of Ghana and Cornell University. It was established in 2007 with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. The primary objective of WACCI is to train plant breeders in Africa to improve African crops in local environments for farmers in Africa.

Having completed their studies in Ghana, most of these plant breeders have returned to their countries and are today employed in their national research system and are helping to advance plant cropping in their countries.

In the implementation of ABEE, CORAF is working with three national agricultural research systems. They include the Institute of Agricultural Research of Senegal through the Regional Study Center for Enhancing Adaptation to Drought, the Environment and Agricultural Research Institute of Burkina Faso (INERA), and the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRAN) of Niger.

At the launch of ABEE in Dakar, most of this new generation of plant breeders met unexpectedly with one of their former lectures, Dr. Abdou Tenkouano, also Executive Director of CORAF.

“This unexpected reunion testifies to the WACCI approach’s soundness, of having well-trained, competent breeders using modern breeding techniques for the advancement of agriculture in Africa,” said Dr. Abdou Tenkouano.

Asked what this represents for the future, Dr. Tenkouano said it was a source of satisfaction and morale comfort for the future of plant breeding in the region.

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