“We adopted the South African releasing system, drafting one for Namibia, and a bill on plant breeder rights is to be presented to the parliament to be passed,” he says.
Shimelis’ connection with Namibia was forged when he supervised the PhD research of Namibian ACCI graduate Lydia Horn. Her research on developing drought tolerance in cowpea using gamma irradiation was funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It was part of a collaboration with the Namibian government to use nuclear science and technology to develop new varieties of crops, especially drought-tolerant and high-yielding cowpea, sorghum and pearl millet.
Horn is currently a researcher at the University of Namibia and co-coordinator of this breeding project, which, in collaboration with the ACCI, has developed four new varieties of drought-tolerant sorghum and six of cowpea, that have all been released.
“We helped them develop new varieties,” says Shimelis. “Seeds of those varieties now need to be developed and multiplied to develop foundation seed. This should be ready in the second half of 2019.” Once two to three tonnes of seed has been produced it will be distributed to farmers.