Forest people of DR Congo guide orphan crop research


Tasked to identify orphan crops for DRC by the national agricultural research body, Dr Dowiya takes a leaf sample from a bean plant in an exercise at the African Plant Breeding Academy at ICRAF
Tasked to identify orphan crops for DRC by the national agricultural research body, Dr Dowiya takes a leaf sample from a bean plant in an exercise at the African Plant Breeding Academy at ICRAF

Dr Benjamin Dowiya Nzawele, 42, arrived at the World Agroforestry Centre, also known as ICRAF, in Nairobi with an important brief from his national agricultural research institute: To “identify orphan crops not currently taken into account by INERA, their contribution in the context of climate change and how to improve them”.

The scientist from the L’Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomique (INERA) station at Mulungu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had come to ICRAF to attend the African Plant Breeding Academy (AfPBA), where he and 28 other senior plant breeders from Africa are learning new genomic methods for plant breeding. But he had already been out of his duty station for some time.

“I started my search for orphan crops from Yangambi where there was a large research station during the colonial period. It still has a herbarium. Then I went into the Okapi Wildlife Reserve. Pygmies were the ones showing me the forest. These pygmies do not cultivate fields but collect everything they need. They follow the season by the fruit. They know everything.”

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