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Apr 20, 2010

African Centre for Crop Improvement Graduates New Ag Science PhDs

The Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) issued a press release from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on 20 April 2010 that discussed the graduation of seven Ph.D. students it had sponsored at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.  All the students received their doctorates from an advanced studies program in plant breeding. 

The objective of scholarships program was to educate African scientists who can "employ the tools, knowledge, and experience  ... to take on the challenge of improving food security against the backdrop of unstable economic systems, rising food prices and input costs, diminishing soil health, and climate change."

As background, only one in four African researchers holds a Ph.D., compared with nearly two thirds in India.  "Africa has 70 researchers per million, compared to North America with 2,640. In sub-Saharan Africa, the total gross domestic expenditures for agricultural research and development are roughly $4 billion compared to $573.79 billion in wealthy countries."

Students in this particular program were selected from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.  The completed a five-year study and research period that included plant breeding, biometry, genetics, biotechnology, and plant pathology courses, which all emphasized scientific communication and project management skills.  Course work was for two years at UKZN followed by three years of field research in their home countries.

AGRA noted that the "work of previous ACCI graduates has already had a significant impact in communities in southern and eastern Africa. They have delivered new crop cultivars, improved the skills of plant breeders, and raised the status of plant breeders and scientists at research stations and government agencies. ... For example, Dr. Joseph Kamau has registered 21 cassava varieties for the semi-arid regions of Kenya; Dr. David Mariote has released two maize hybrids in Mozambique; Dr. Andrew Efisue has delivered new Nerica rice cultivars in Nigeria; and Dr. Philip Kwena, Dr. Theresia Munga, and Dr. Crispus Oduor are poised to register new cultivars of maize, cassava and finger millet in Kenya. The plant breeding of Dr. Martin Orawu and Dr. Stanley Nkalubo in Uganda on cowpea and dryland beans is at the final stage before release, where farmers assist in selecting the best varieties."

The director of the scholarship program, Professor Mark Laing has developed the "novel curriculum and process to empower African plant breeders so they can address the issues of food security and ultimately contribute to changing the face of agriculture in Africa."

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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