Breeders’ views on the production of new and orphan crops in Africa: a survey of constraints and opportunities


Abstract

New and orphan crops, which in the past have received only limited research attention, have great potential to support healthy diets in Africa. However, limited systematic data are available on the constraints to production faced by these annual and perennial crops, and the possible opportunities for intervention to remove critical barriers. We report on the results of a survey of African plant breeders to begin identifying constraints to crop production, guide the direction of crop genetic improvement activities and identify appropriate agronomic management interventions. The survey was completed by 67 plant breeders affiliated with institutions in 18 African countries and focused on crops prioritized for genetic improvement by the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC). Of the survey respondents, 38 worked on new or orphan crops on the AOCC crop list. In total, respondents provided specific data on 30 of these crops. We discuss the findings of the survey, which indicate that pest and disease attacks, and lack of access to – or availability of – high-quality planting material are important barriers to be addressed in enhancing production. Other insights from the survey include the differentiation of responses based on the part of the crop used for food, and breeders’ views on the future importance of these plants. These results and additional findings are elaborated along with opportunities for future research to delve deeper into production constraints and solutions for new and orphan crops.

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Supporting human nutrition in Africa through the integration of new and orphan crops into food systems: placing the work of the African Orphan Crops Consortium in context


Abstract

Better integrating currently under-researched nutrient-rich new and orphan crops (NOC) into food systems could play an important role in addressing poor human diets. Understanding the multiple interventions required to support effective integration is, however, not straightforward. Current research to support this objective has generally been inadequate, in large part because insufficient attention has been given to draw together the multiple disciplines needed to explore and reach solutions. A broad interdisciplinary research programme is needed to provide answers to the following questions: how do dietary diversity and crop diversity interrelate at national and local food system levels? What drives crop integration or exclusion in food systems over time? How can new technologies be embraced in combination with best existing practices to genetically improve, better manage and more effectively process crops? And what are the best approaches to bring about behavioural change among farmers, food processors, consumers and other stakeholders to introduce new practices and foods?These questions are of particular pertinence in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where the problem of ‘hidden hunger’ is especially significant. Specific initiatives such as the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), which seeks to apply new technologies to genetically improve 1-1nutritionally-important annual and perennial NOC in the region to help address hidden hunger, have to be viewed within a food system context if they are to be effective. Here, we explore food system issues affecting the SSA region, consider the specific crops and interventions of the AOCC initiative, and draw out six possible ‘quick win’ knowledge generating activities that, if undertaken, will support AOCC objectives and NOC integration. Through setting out research needs, our intention is to promote the creation of broad interdisciplinary teams to carry out systems-oriented work on NOC. We also hope to encourage other stakeholders, including funding agencies, to support this important research, in SSA and elsewhere.

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