Training Africa’s Plant Breeders

Africa has an acute shortage of world-class plant breeding specialists. At the moment, the continent has about 500 active breeders, which is about a tenth of the recommended number. Disproportionately, a majority of these specialists are men. This is despite the fact that women constitute the bulk of Africa’s agriculture labor force and the established wisdom of the higher returns on investing in women education and training.

To address this twin challenge, AGRA has invested over US$4m in the last 10 years to train plant breeders for the East and Southern Africa region through this programme implemented in partnership with the Africa Center for Crop Improvement (ACCI). This investment aims to tap the passion, will and commitment of students who believe that Africa’s weather, good soils, and human resource are sufficient to cater for the continent’s food needs.

The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) is a partnership between the University of Ghana (UG) and Cornell University, USA that was established in June 2007 with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) at the University of Ghana to train Plant Breeders in Africa working on the improvement of African crops in local environments for farmers in Africa.

Dr. Mamadou Mory Coulibaly works at the ‘Institut d’Economie Rurale’ (IER). Mory was funded by AGRA for his PhD at WACCI and is the first maize PhD trained breeder for Mali. He popularised a maize hybrid called Tieba which was entirely bred in Mali that is early maturing (100-105 days), high yielding (7-8 t/ha), drought tolerant and adapted to growing conditions in the country.

Dr. Aissata Mamadou Ibrahim, is the first female graduate of WACCI and the first female PhD plant breeder in her native country Niger. Aissata was funded by AGRA for her PhD from which she graduated in July 2012.