The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) successfully initiated the ambitious genome sequencing project of 101 African orphan crops/trees with 6 genomes sequenced, 6 near completion, and 20 currently in progress.
Addressing stunting, malnutrition, and hidden hunger through nutritious, economic, and resilient agri-food system is one of the major agricultural challenges of this century. As sub-Saharan Africa harbors a large portion of the severely malnourished population, the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) was established in 2011 with an aim to reduce stunting and malnutrition by providing nutritional security through improving locally adapted nutritious, but neglected, under-researched or orphan African food crops. Foods from these indigenous or naturalized crops and trees are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidant, and are an integral part of the dietary portfolio and cultural, social, and economic milieu of African farmers. Through stakeholder consultations supported by the African Union, 101 African orphan and under-researched crop species were prioritized to mainstream into African agri-food systems. The AOCC, through a network of international–regional–public–private partnerships and collaborations, is generating genomic resources of three types, i.e., reference genome sequence, transcriptome sequence, and re-sequencing 100 accessions/species, using next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology. Furthermore, the University of California Davis African Plant Breeding Academy under the AOCC banner is training 150 lead African scientists to breed high yielding, nutritious, and climate-resilient (biotic and abiotic stress tolerant) crop varieties that meet African farmer and consumer needs. To date, one or more forms of sequence data have been produced for 60 crops. Reference genome sequences for six species have already been published, 6 are almost near completion, and 19 are in progress.