Pivotal to achieving Africa Harvest’s vision is the Technology Development and Deployment Program, which focuses on developing and deploying technologies to solve identified challenges facing smallholder farmers in Africa.
The Program identifies technologies that are appropriate in resolving identified challenges facing smallholder farmers and facilitating their acquisition and deployment. Where appropriate technologies do not exist, the Program facilitates their development and subsequent deployment.
The approach of this Program is to partner with many African and international organizations that have undertaken and continue to conduct excellent research and development. When existing technologies do not effectively respond to challenges facing smallholder farmers, Africa Harvest facilitates the formation of scientific consortia to build on or develop new technologies. The organization has defined its value addition around applied or operational research to help domesticate and fast-track technology uptake.
The approach also includes sensitivity to the context of recipients. Often this requires project designs that are responsive to gender, HIV and AIDS challenges facing smallholder farmers.
Other key considerations include:
1) Operational research for technology generation.
2) Capacity building for technology transfer, and
3) Ensuring functional biosafety and regulatory frameworks.
These activities can be grouped in six broad areas:
• Product development systems
• Seed and production systems
• Input and distribution systems
• Farmer incomes and value chain systems
• Markets and food chain systems
• Health, environment and safety systems
The sixth ABS CFT experiment
For the sixth season, planting of ABS sorghum was done in September 2015 and harvesting as
expected to be in March 2016. ABS 188 was crossed with three local sorghum varieties and back crossed with Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KARI) Mtama I, Tegemeo and Gadam. Key results from the second ABS planting season to be obtained include BC4 and BC3. BC4 will be selfed and analyzed for pro-Vitamin A content and stability of the ABS gene insert.
CFT workers training ahead of the sixth CFT experiment
The NBA regulations in Kenya require that all staff who work in the CFT site be trained or retrained in biosafety and regulatory aspects of CFTs. In compliance with these regulations, all CFT workers are trained prior to every planting and harvesting and untrained personnel are not allowed to work in the CFTs. During the period under review, the training was jointly undertaken by Africa Harvest, KALRO, NBA and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate. Services (KEPHIS). Emphasis was laid on the need to strictly adhere to material and genetic confinement protocols already in place.
CFT application of ABS 203
The ABS 203 CFT permit was obtained in December 2014 and because of this, the ABS CFT planting was undertaken in 2015. The application was prepared jointly by Africa Harvest and KALRO with inputs from DuPont-Pioneer. PMI analysis of ABS genes in progeny population The objective of the PMI test was to determine whether the inserted genes that have the pro-Vitamin A traits had been successfully transferred from ABS into local sorghum varieties, including Gadam, Tegemeo, and KARI Mtama. The PMI analyses were done and confirmed by a positive PMI test. The positive results indicated that the ABS pro-Vitamin A trait was successfully transferred to local sorghum varieties through backcrossing.
The seventh ABS CFT in Nigeria
The effectiveness of the Nigeria biosafety regulatory system resulted with the country overtaking Kenya in terms of the number of CFTs, although its first experiment came after Kenya’s. Nigeria therefore became the first African country to have an ABS 203
CFT. This was carried out during the period January to December 2015. ABS 188 and crosses were being planted for the seventh time while ABS 203 was being planted for the first time.
Planting was carried out with the participation of IAR, Internal Biosafety Committee (IBC) and NABDA staff. ABS 203 germination showed high germination results similar to those of Tx 430, ABS null and local sorghum cultivars.
The plants were planted in beds referred to as SAMSORG 17, SAMSORG 14 and SAMSORG 40. The plants are grown at staggered dates to synchronize their flowering for hybridization. SAMSORG 17 and SAMSORG 14 are photoperiodic, and as such are first germinated in darkness before transplanting into the ground. The highest ABS backcrosses to local sorghum varieties were at BC3.
ABS planting attendance and postharvest monitoring
As required by Nigeria biosafety regulations, the planting was attended by IAR, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), and IAR’s IBC. Others included NABDA as well as Africa Harvest Staff. The previous ABS CFT site that was used for the fifth CFT was put under post-harvesting monitoring of 3 months in early 2015. This includes watering and uprooting
volunteers and burning them in the incinerator in compliance with Nigeria’s NBMA regulations.