The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) will invest US$25.2mn to improve cassava productivity in sub-Saharan Africa
The funds will be primarily directed at building human and technical capacity for better breeding facilities for the crop.
The five-year long Next Generation Cassava Breeding project will be hosted by the Cornell University with five partner institutions - the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Nigeria, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research in New York, and the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
IITA cassava breeder and geneticist Peter Kulakow said, “The Next Generation Cassava will give breeders in Africa access to the most advanced plant breeding technologies to deliver improved varieties to farmers more rapidly.”
Kulakow added that this project will ensure that cassava genetic research was on par with other top food crops such as wheat, rice, maize and potato.
Cornell professor of plant breeding and genetics Ronnie Coffman said, “Partners on the Next Generation Cassava project will use a state-of-the-art plant breeding approach known as genomic selection to improve cassava productivity for the 21st century.”
NaCRRI project coordinator Yona Baguma said, “Increased support for strengthening the research capacity in Africa and harnessing novel technologies are critical to improving overall agricultural productivity and food security for poor people.”
The crop has assumed so much importance in Africa because it has for long been the foundation of food security in the continent. African small farmers produce more than half of the world’s cassava, or about 86mn tonnes from more than 10mn hectares of crop land.