Hearty applause mingled with the sound of drumbeat at the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) as the African Plant Breeding Academy came into being shortly after midday on 3 December 2013. The Academy, an initiative of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), is hosted by ICRAF and will be used to train around 250 African scientists in the latest biotechnological techniques to optimize the yield and nutritional content of 100 important but little-researched edible crops and trees native to Africa. Grown widely on farms, the improved varieties will help address the serious challenge of poor health caused by chronic malnutrition and recurrent episodes of hunger among Africa’s populations, especially the rural poor.
Professor Onesmo ole MoiYoi, the event’s keynote speaker, was emphatic: “We have to get serious about getting people out of episodes of starvation,” he said. Ole MoiYoi, chair of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute Board, discussed the many dangers of poor nutrition in mothers, babies, and young children. These include an acquired predisposition to life-threatening conditions like coronary disease, hypertension, certain cancers, and even schizophrenia, later in life. “Imprinting during fetal development commits an individual to develop traits that can be passed on to grandchildren,” he stated, citing observations from Europe and China.
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