The Observer (Kampala)

27 December 2012

Uganda: Bill Gates Funds Cassava Growing

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom (DFID) are to invest $25.2m (about Shs 65.5bn) to improve cassava productivity, build human and technical capacity for plant breeding in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Cassava is a tough woody plant, and it is predicted to be one of the few crops that can withstand the effects of climate change, especially drought. Cornell University, in the United States, is hosting the five-year project with five partner institutions: the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research in New York and US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

"Increased support for strengthening the research capacity in Africa and harnessing novel technologies are critical to improving overall agricultural productivity and food security for poor people," said Yona Baguma, project coordinator for NaCRRI.

Cassava breeding is typically a lengthy process. It takes almost a decade to multiply and release a new variety. Using the new technological process of genomic selection (statistical modelling to predict cassava performance), new releases of cassava could be ready in as little as six years.

The partners will share cassava data, expertise, and information on a publicly available website, www.cassavabase.org . In addition to using the latest genomic information, project partners will hold awareness-building workshops for farmers, scholars, researchers and policymakers.

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