Visit to India cements bond with ICRISAT
The African Centre for Crop Improvement has been strengthening ties with an important international partner.
In March, deputy-director Professor Hussein Shimelis travelled to Hyderabad, India to visit ACCI PhD candidate Seltene Abady from Ethiopia. Abady, a staff member at Haramaya University in Ethiopia, is currently in Hyderabad breeding groundnut for drought tolerance and early maturity in Eastern Ethiopia. Shimelis is one of his co-supervisors.
For the past five years the ACCI has been working with ICRISAT, and two of its graduates, Dr Seleman Kaoneka from Tanzania and Dr Jimmy Obala from Uganda, also did their field research at the Hyderabad centre.
Abady is using a conventional breeding approach, genomic tools and near infrared analysis for his breeding, which is being funded by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, ICRISAT and the International Foundation for Science.
Explaining the relationship, Shimelis said ICRISAT, as a global organisation with a strong focus on crops important to Africa and Asia, needs partnerships with scientists in Africa, and invests in capacity building. Students selected to be part of these training opportunities must be registered with a reputable African university, with whom a partnership is established, and “most student have chosen the ACCI (at the) University of KwaZulu-Natal,” he said. “These students register with us and we train them as African scientists in conventional breeding. ICRISAT provides research funding and genetic analysis, using their state-of-the-art facilities in Hyderabad.“We also have access to their gene bank of many crops, which makes it easy to access germplasm, and we have co-published articles in high-class journals with them,” he said.
A significant development for the ACCI’s sustainability is its involvement in ICRISAT’s Hope-II project, which aims to increase sorghum and millet yields of small holder farmers in west and east Africa and some states of India. Five ACCI students are being supported by this project: Adane Gebreyohannes Ethiopia), Armel Rouamba (Burkina Faso), Muhammed Rislan (Nigeria), Charles Andiku (Uganda) and Happy Daudi (Tanzania).
While at ICRISAT, Shimelis also met with deputy-director Dr Kiran Sharma and other top management to discuss collaboration on a deeper level. Talks covered research collaboration, research and human capacity development in plant breeding and germplasm development and exchange. He also met with scientists involved with breeding sorghum, pigeonpea, chickpea, and pearl millet.
In addition, Shimelis delivered a seminar for ICRISAT staff on demand-led plant breeding that was well received. “This was an interesting platform to discuss issues related to the needs and requirements of value chains and stakeholders during variety development, for high adoption rates and so that they are relevant to the market place in Africa and Asia,” he said.
Shimelis’ visit and discussions were organised by Dr Janila Pasupuleti and ICRISAT’s groundnut breeding team.