Gambia commences creation of next generation of plant breeders

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Young research scientists of breeders and agronomists working on variety development or testing in the public and private sectors, yesterday commenced another five-day training course on rice, maize and groundnut breeders in The Gambia. The training is on the Concepts and Principles of Plant Breeding and Participatory Varietal Selection (PVS) at the NARI head office in Brikama.

Twenty-six participants from the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), The Gambia College School of Agriculture, National Seed Secretariat, National Coordinating Organisation of Farmer Associations Gambia (NACOFAG) and variety release committees are currently participating in the course. Some two weeks ago, another crop of senior and junior research scientists also underwent similar training at NARI, both targeting to develop the next generation of young home-grown agricultural breeders to adapt modern tools for enhancing the precision and efficiency of their breeding programmes.

The course component is part of the European Union (EU) funded 20.5 million Euro, about 1.2 billion dalasis from its 11th European Development Fund implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations under its “Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security and Nutrition to mitigate migration programme and WFP.

Director general of NARI Ansumana Jarju reminded the young research scientists at the start of the course on Monday that the training was just the beginning and that they do not have to become professors to be breeders. “We count on you for agricultural researches.”

The course will provide theoretical background on modern breeding methods and techniques including use of biotechnology, experimental techniques, planning, information management tools and software to able to adopt good principles of breeding methodologies and to improve the quality of their research.

Project consultant and FAO senior breeder Moussa Sie said the course became a requirement and need because currently there is no breeder at NARI and the University of The Gambia is not providing breeder programme. “We need to improve capacity by combining both practical and theoretical trainings. Due to climate change, some plants cannot work here but they can be nurtured to produce new varieties.”

He said the course will also provide opportunity to share experiences with other crop breeders and enable the young scientists to provide latest updates on areas relevant to rice breeding and the worldwide exchange of rice genetic resources. 

Gambia is a net importer of food and produces only half of its national requirements of staple foods. The government’s effort to address the deficit in the agriculture sector has resulted in designing a project aimed at creating sustainable production and productivity of crops and livestock; reduce food insecurity, malnutrition and create enabling environment for improved national economy.

Kebba Drammeh, NARI director of Crop Research admitted that the agriculture research institute has been handicapped in the area of research for a long time and the training will help in the creation of next generation of researchers. “For more than 30 years NARI have been depending on outside expertise for crop breeding. This is expected to lift the burden of hiring outside breedership on NARI.”

Author: Amadou Jallow