Orphan tree crops
Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) face the daunting challenge of increasing production to feed a growing population, while improving the sustainability and resilience of cropping systems. The African population is set to boom over the next few decades, and is predicted to reach 2.5 billion by 2050.
Africa faces serious nutrition-related challenges; a lack of nutritious foods has come at a huge cost for African nations, affecting not only human wellbeing but also economic progress and infrastructure development. Improving the quality, as well as the productivity, of food crops is vital for food and nutritional security.
Novel breeding approaches deploying sequencing can be applied to new and orphan tree crops that are often characterized by their resilience, adaptation to environmental stress and nutritional value, compared with many better-researched commodity crops. The overarching goal of the African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC) is to develop foundational resources that support the strategic, long-term genome-enabled domestication of 101 new and orphan African crops for SSA. These 101 crops, half of which are food trees, were selected by New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency (NEPAD) as priorities for African consumers’ nutrition. Their sequencing is being undertaken to expedite improvements that exploit the full potential of species for yield, nutritional quality, pest resistance, adaptation to abiotic stresses and other constraints.