Crops For the Future becomes the first Malaysian entity to be awarded a prestigious International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture research grant

A project supported by the European Union
Image source: FAO 

Crops For the Future, together with its partners – the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI) and Bogor Agricultural University (BAU) – received a grant approval of just under USD500,000 from the Third Cycle of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture – Benefit Sharing Fund (ITPGRFA – BSF). It is the first project to be funded by ITPGRFA – BSF through the benefit-sharing system with a Malaysian entity as the lead.

With the title “Genetic and trait characterisation of farmer and genebank sources of bambara groundnut for the development of drought tolerant lines in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia”, the project focusses on the molecular breeding and field trials of bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea (L.) Verdc.) in multiple sites in four countries: Malaysia, Nigeria, Ghana and Indonesia. The Southeast Asia – West Africa cross-continent collaboration is a unique approach to conducting scientific research. The project aim is to improve an already healthy and resilient legume to promote nutrition security, environmental protection and income generation for the world’s most vulnerable regions.

The multi-locational field trials are currently underway, having started since mid-2016. As part of the project, Dr Aryo Feldman (Project Coordinator) recently visited partners in Africa to assess experimental sites and available expertise, and to understand partner issues, challenges and opportunities. Speaking on the impacts that this international project will have for future agriculture, Dr Feldman says, “the conservation and scientific analyses of different bambara groundnut seed types from local farmers, seedbank collections and developed lines from partners will make new material available for farmers to select from for their own circumstances. Such material is anticipated to be higher yielding, more resilient and easier to cook; and so will increase the food supply of this nutritious legume.”

In addition, this project will help boost the research and ‘relevance’ of this crop, with “the development of long-term research ‘hubs’ – one in Southeast Asia and one in West Africa -  that will help to ensure that there is continued research and development through farmer participation beyond the end of the project’s lifespan,” stated Dr Feldman.

As drought stress becomes more prevalent in a globally changing climate, resilient underutilised species like bambara groundnut serve as an alternative to crops that may perform poorly in stressful environments. The prestigiously awarded project provides an opportunity for both local and global collaborators to address similar issues, particularly in terms of conserving crop diversity and assisting smallholder farmers to adapt to a changing world.