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Africa Project Foundation Onlus 

Loc. Abbadia snc - 00060 Ponzano Romano (RM)  +39 3791854829 | +39 0765 338310

Piazza Duomo 20  20121 Milano (MI) 

+39 0282 956937

Via Picone , Malfa, Isola di Salina (ME)

+39 090 9587852 
 

The Foundation’s project aims to help African and Middle Eastern peoples to obtain a source of income directly in their country of origin,  through the creation of great agricultural holdings supported by European governments.

The Foundation’s project aims to help African and Middle Eastern peoples to obtain a source of income directly in their country of origin,  through the creation of great agricultural holdings supported by European governments.

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Evolutionary and participatory genetic improvement: perspectives for African agriculture

2022-03-22 11:28

Lorenzo Turino

agrobiodiversità, climate, change, climatechange, peolple, evolutive,

Evolutionary and participatory genetic improvement: perspectives for African agriculture

Evolutionary and participatory genetic improvement: perspectives for African agriculture

 

 

Evolutionary and participatory genetic improvement: perspectives for African agriculture

 

In 2001, the third evaluation report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlighted the potential impacts of climate change on global agriculture, affirming that rising temperatures and drought could lead to a significant drop in harvests for many developing countries; this has stimulated a new set of global commitments to research and promote more agro-efficient farming practices to mitigate the impact of agriculture on the climate. *1 The latest FAO forecast for world cereal production in 2021 has been increased by 2.2 million tons and is now set at 2,796 million tons, 0.7 percent more on an annual basis. *2

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As for African agriculture, it is based on the cultivation both of domestic plants introduced from the Near East (wheat, barley), and of numerous indigenous plants, to which have been added in the last 500 years also various American species. Currently the hypothesis proposed by N.I. Vavilov (1935), according to which the Ethiopian-Somali plateau was a primary center of cultivation of wheat and barley, no longer seems sustainable based on factual evidence. In turn, the varieties of cultivated plants and techniques used by different populations, as well as the wide range of exploited natural environments, indicate the complex character, innovative and dynamic African agriculture, and its ability to adapt to vastly different situations. As for the cultivation of indigenous plants, three main complexes can be distinguished: the savannah complex, the marginal forest complex, and the Ethiopian complex. *3

Agriculture accounts on average for 43% of the gross domestic product of African nations, although the precise proportions vary considerably from country to country; given the heterogeneity of environmental, pedo-climatic and agro-systemic, due to a climate in continuous change, it is necessary to follow the path of adaptation of the varieties present in the places of origin for the different species most cultivated, so as to minimize the inputs such as water, fertilizers and pesticides. One of the options for making agricultural production in African nations safer is evolutionary or participatory genetic improvement. Participatory or evolutionary genetic improvement is an innovative method of addressing varietal constitution programs because, as the term itself says, research is carried out jointly between researchers and farmers. In a conventional genetic improvement program, crossings, selection tests, and production tests are conducted in research centers and, typically, by a few researchers who define objectives. The farmer is involved only at the end of the process to make the last varietal tests. What is obtained is a mostly genetically homogenous variety and that derives from genetic improvement conducted with the use of optimal energy inputs (availability of fertilizers, water, and pesticides), in places distant from those of actual use.

In conventional genetic improvement trials are centralized in experimental stations. This mode is a problem in all those cases where the cultivation environment is very different from the one where the research is carried out, meaning by the term «environment» not only the environmental conditions, but also the cultivation practices. Modern agriculture has, therefore, adapted the environment to the varieties thanks to the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation, which have made the cultivated fields homogeneous with each other and, in this way, the same variety can be cultivated on ever wider surfaces.

To meet the needs of the so-called "marginal" farmers, the research began to leave the experimental stations, decentralizing the selection work in the fields of farmers, involving the end users of varieties (farmers) the various stages of an improvement program, including the setting of objectives. This type of genetic improvement is therefore defined as "participatory". *4 Since the program is a continuous process, it also creates a rapid variety exchange, thus creating agro-biodiversity over time.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

*1 Todd S. Rosenstoc , Andreea Nowak Evan Girvetz; The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers Investigating: the Business of a Productive, Resilient and Low Emission Future.

*2 Global cereal stocks in 2021/22 up; early prospects point to higher cereal production in 2022; Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations.

*3 Riccardo Fattovich ;La domesticazione delle piante e l'agricoltura: Africa; i tipi di colture e i sistemi di produzione.

*4 S.Ceccarelli, M.Angelini; “Mescolate contadini mescolate: cos’è e come si fa la selezione genetica partecipativa”; 2016.

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