Alignment of MaRCCI
with Global Initiatives CAADP, AGENDA 2063, SDGs
Estimates show that Africa countries imported substantially more food than they exported, and 85% of food imports were from outside the continent (inter-continental, rather than from other African countries). This led to a net annual food import bill of USD35 billion from 2016 to 2018. Assuming little change in the food production strategies and actions, this bill is predicted to reach USD110 billion by the year 2025. With the disruptions in the food value chain caused by the Covid 19 pandemic, the importation cost is likely to be even higher. This reliance on world food markets is a driver of food insecurity and is a harbinger of social and political conflict. The UN projects the population of Africa to grow from the present 1.355 billion to 1.467-billion by 2025, a further billion by 2050 and climb to 4.185-billion by 2100, greatly increasing the demand for food. Food production deficits in Africa are caused by technical, infrastructural, policy, and institutional constraints.
The availability of high-quality seed of high-performance cultivars underpins the achievement of high yields and the sustenance of crop productivity. Among the technical constraints to food production widely cited are the use of low low-quality seed combined with use of low yielding landrace varieties. Stress factors associated with climate change exacerbate the situation, calling for the use of crop varieties with climate resilience. The ceiling performance of a crop depends on the genetic potential of the planting material used. Suitability of varieties is environment specific and qualified breeders are required to develop such climate resilient, high yielding varieties adapted to specific localities. Widespread consultations by the Regional Universities Forum (RUFORUM) showed a serious shortage of plant breeders in Sub Saharan Africa along with weak seed delivery systems. Other research involving 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa showed an average of five breeders per country for all crops. There are eight major food crops grown in Africa, feeding a population of about 1.4 billion people. For comparison, in 1996, the USA had 2241-science person years devoted to plant breeding serving a population of 331 million people in the USA. These data illustrate the magnitude of the deficit of plant breeders in Africa and points to the level of investment needed to bridge the gap.
The vision of MaRCCI is “An African continent free from hunger and malnutrition.” In pursuit of this vision, MaRCCI supports the training of fit-for-purpose plant breeders capable of planning and executing a plant-breeding program and release climate resilient improved varieties. It also carries a seed systems program to support the training of seed systems experts targeted at taking positions in the seed value chain in order to improve the seed delivery system so as to avail good quality seed. Adoption of good quality seed of improved varieties contributes to increased crop yield, food and nutrition security, higher incomes to the farmers and contributes to economic growth. This is in tandem with The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Program (CAADP) policy framework that calls for “agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food and nutrition security, economic growth and wealth for all”. Plant breeding and seed systems training provides the human capital for development of higher yielding varieties and seed quality improvement. It is therefore integral and central to wealth creation by the agricultural sector. In pursuit of increased agricultural production, through training that enables development of higher yielding varieties, the Centre targets sustained agricultural productivity. This is in tandem with Aspiration 1 of the seven aspirations in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 “A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development”.
In addition, MaRCCI is aligned towards achievement especially of the UN sustainable development goal number 1 “access to basic human needs of health, education, and sanitation” and 2 zero hunger: “providing food and humanitarian relief, establishing sustainable food production”. Through increasing food production and income generation, MaRCCI also contributes indirectly towards achievement of sustainable goal number 3 “good health and wellbeing”, 4 “quality education through the indirect effect of improved disposable incomes”, and 9 “industry, innovation and infrastructure” through enhanced value addition due to increased yields achieved by adoption of good quality seed and improved verities. In order to strengthen the contribution of plant breeders towards inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa, more investment for training as well as other aspects is imperative. This enhances the seed systems, dissemination of practical information, and the uptake of modern technology.