Educating plant breeders in Africa to fight food insecurity

July 19, 2018

Africa needs plant breeders to fight food insecurity. Our Plant Breeding E-Learning in Africa program is part of an effort to help educate the next generation of plant breeders in Africa thanks to support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Representatives from partnering institutions and organizations came to Ames July 16 and 17 for a strategic program meeting. Fellow partners include the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Makerere University in Uganda and Kwame-Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana.

The goal is to train MS and Ph.D level plant breeders to support national research organizations and build capacity for agricultural systems across countries. Over 90 plant breeding master’s graduates have been trained since the beginning of the project. Africa needs a critical mass of plant breeders to effectively manage, scale up, and market seed of improved crop varieties to ensure food security.

Launched in 2013, the initiative involves three elements: 

  1. The Improved Master of Science in Cultivar Development for Africa - AGRA

  2. Plant-Breeding e-Learning in Africa (PBEA) – ISU Agronomy

  3. PBEA Professional Learning Community (PBEA-PLC) – ISU Agronomy and Ag Education and Studies 

The Improved Master of Science in Cultivar Development for Africa program led by AGRA is providing highly specialized training to prepare African plant breeders to manage independent breeding programs in the region. The program includes intensive course work with practical hands-on experiences, and a research project thesis addressing smallholder or industry-based problems through plant breeding. 

The mission of the PBEA program is to develop and deliver post-graduate level course e-modules to prepare plant breeders to manage cultivar development programs.  The PLC component was established to improve instructional effectiveness and assist African universities to effectively use the PBEA e-curriculum. Together, the programs unite the university partners in their efforts to embrace common goals, share knowledge, and build consensus around the competencies needed of their graduates.