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"Training African Breeders on African Crops, in Africa"
 ACCI students present at UKZN Postgraduate Research & Innovation Symposium

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) hosted their annual Postgraduate Research & Innovation Symposium (PRIS) at their Westville campus on the 25th Of October 2018.

Admire Shayanowako, Olaolorun Boluwatife, Kwame Shamuyarira and Marylyn Christian displayed their research posters at the event and attended various oral presentations which were presented by students from the School of Agricultural, Earth & Environmental Sciences (SAEES). A total of 163 students displayed their research posters and 60 students delivered oral presentations for fellow students, UKZN staff, researchers and guests at this popular event. Students also had the opportunity to meet corporate investors from across the globe who showed great interest in some of the ongoing research projects.

The event also included an exhibition where corporate companies and research institutions displayed their products and services. The day ended with a prize giving ceremony and a lucky draw, with one very lucky student going home with a brand new laptop.
From left: Admire Shayanowako, Olaolorun Boluwatife, Muhammad Ahmad Yahaya, Kwame Shamuyarira , Marylyn Christian, Dr Terence Tapera, Dr Cousin Musvosvi, Aleck Kondwakwenda
Spring Graduation 2018

UKZN hosted their Spring Graduation at their Westville campus on the 13th of September 2018. ACCI staff and students, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) affiliates, as well as the students' family and friends all attended the ceremony.

Three PhD students, Dr Prossy Namugga, Dr Precious Mangena and Dr Mary Asio, graduated. Prossy researched earliness and late blight in potato for her thesis, while Mary researched Striga and nitrogen deficiency in rice. Mary was unfortunately not able to attend the graduation ceremony. Precious developed a superior sweet stem sorghum hybrid over a short period of time, using a male gametocide so that the crop can be used in bio-fuel production and related activities.

Four MSc Plant Breeding students, Lucia Zinzi Ndala, McDonald Nundwe, Mwila Chibanda and Sibusiswangaye Mdluli also graduated.

From left: Caroline Adala-Oremo and Dr Rufaro Madakadze (both from AGRA), Lucia Zinzi Ndala, McDonald Nundwe, Mwila Chibanda (all plant breeding masters graduates), Dr Julia Sibiya (head of the master's programme) and ACCI graduate Dr Prossy Namugga
Dr Prossy Namugga, one of our PhD students from Uganda, researched earliness and late blight in potato for her thesis. Prossy works for NARO in her home country.
Funding will bring Striga-Resistant Sorghum to Farmers

The battle against Striga in Tanzania and South Africa took a step forward with the arrival of funding to register and commercialise new varieties of Striga-resistant sorghum, developed by our recent graduate, Dr Emmanuel Mrema.
ACCI Prof in Demand as Regional Expert

ACCI deputy-director Prof Hussein Shimelis has been busy in the SADC region as an expert, visiting Namibia and Mauritius to advise on regional plant breeding and project collaborations.


PhD Graduates Urged to ‘Make an Impact’

Seven ACCI PhD students who graduated this week were urged to take their achievement forward by making an impact on the lives of farmers. “You must always try to be significant,” said Professor Hussein Shimelis, speaking at a farewell gathering before the ceremony in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.  
The students who graduated — Dr Maurice Mogga, Dr Solomon Assefa, Dr Emmanuel Mrema, Dr Tigist Girsil, Dr Eduardo Mulima, Dr Filson Kagimbo, Dr Ronald Kakeeto and Dr Damien Shumbusha, who did not attend the ceremony — came from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique, South Sudan and Rwanda.

“This is the first step,” said Dr Rufaro Madakadze, a programme officer for the ACCI’s funder, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). She urged the graduates to “look for money, ask for help and talk to people,” in making their way forward in their careers.

ACCI director Professor Mark Laing (Picture left) reminded the graduates that grants often revolve around collaboration. “Use the ACCI network, it’s a powerful tool,” he said.

The graduates’ PhD research focused on a range of improvements including drought tolerance, weevil resistance and higher yield in sorghum, common bean, sweetpotato, rice and groundnut.

Mrema’s work on breeding striga-resistant sorghum has already attracted interest and funds have been secured for the next phase of his research from South Africa’s Technology Innovation Agency.

Shelagh McLoughlin

ACCI Launches New Book

“An amazing journey,” was how Dr Joe DeVries described the last 15 years of the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI), when he spoke at the launch of the centre’s new book. Watch video

DeVries, who is vice president of programme development and innovation for Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), founded the ACCI in 2002 along with Professor Mark Laing, the centre’s current director. The ACCI has until now been funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and later AGRA.

The book, titled “The New Breed— Training the Next Generation of African Plant Breeders, in Africa,” tells the story of the ACCI’s trajectory from start-up hiccups in 2002 to prominance as a world-class training centre for African plant breeders. It describes how a new model for post-graduate education in the agricultural sciences was developed and how the centre’s Phd graduates—all 109 of them— have become sought after as scientists, leaders and innovative, independent thinkers.

Laing, ACCI graduate Dr Albert Changaya and Professor Kevin Kirkman, dean of research in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, also spoke at the launch. Kirkman said the ACCI has developed a successful model that the university would like to apply to other disciplines.

Click here to download a free digital version of “The New Breed”.

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