"Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa"
Funding will bring Striga-Resistant Sorghum to Farmers
The battle against Striga in Tanzania and South Africa took a step forward with the arrival of funding to register and commercialise new varieties of Striga-resistant sorghum, developed by our recent graduate, Dr Emmanuel Mrema.
Seven ACCI PhD students who graduated this week were urged to take their achievement forward by making an impact on the lives of farmers. “You must always try to be significant,” said Professor Hussein Shimelis, speaking at a farewell gathering before the ceremony in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
The students who graduated — Dr Maurice Mogga, Dr Solomon Assefa, Dr Emmanuel Mrema, Dr Tigist Girsil, Dr Eduardo Mulima, Dr Filson Kagimbo, Dr Ronald Kakeeto and Dr Damien Shumbusha, who did not attend the ceremony — came from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, South Sudan and Rwanda.
“This is the first step,” said Dr Rufaro Madakadze, a programme officer for the ACCI’s funder, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). She urged the graduates to “look for money, ask for help and talk to people,” in making their way forward in their careers.
ACCI director Professor Mark Laing (Picture left) reminded the graduates that grants often revolve around collaboration. “Use the ACCI network, it’s a powerful tool,” he said.
The graduates’ PhD research focused on a range of improvements including drought tolerance, weevil resistance and higher yield in sorghum, common bean, sweetpotato, rice and groundnut.
Mrema’s work on breeding striga-resistant sorghum has already attracted interest and funds have been secured for the next phase of his research from South Africa’s Technology Innovation Agency.
The book, titled “The New Breed— Training the Next Generation of African Plant Breeders, in Africa,” tells the story of the ACCI’s trajectory from start-up hiccups in 2002 to prominance as a world-class training centre for African plant breeders. It describes how a new model for post-graduate education in the agricultural sciences was developed and how the centre’s Phd graduates—all 109 of them— have become sought after as scientists, leaders and innovative, independent thinkers.