11 African countries to share plant genes

Kenya and Uganda are among 11 African countries that are using and sharing plant genetic diversity to adapt to climate change, ensure food security and alleviate poverty.

In a programme known as Seeds without Borders, the 11 African countries will jointly implement two international agreements to conserve and exchange plant genetic resources with each other and with the rest of the world, and share related benefits.

The agreements — the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Plant Treaty) and the Nagoya Protocol, govern how countries exchange seeds beyond their borders.

“But to implement these agreements at the country level is not always straightforward,” said Michael Halewood, a senior scientist and head of policy research and support unit at Biodiversity International  

The International Panel on Climate Change predicts that agricultural production is set to decline, with yields of major crops in Africa declining by up to 8 per cent by 2020 and from 10-20 per cent by 2050.

This means that there is an urgent need for alternative varieties or replacement crops that can grow in the changing climatic conditions.

Andreas Drews, manager of the ABS Capacity Development Initiative said that if countries are to make the most out of the biological diversity that they have at their disposal, they have to implement these agreements together.

“The continent is faced with new environmental challenges, such as increased flooding, heat and drought — and that is why everyone needs crop diversity, to be able to maintain food security for everyone,” said Dr Drews.

The other nine countries sharing plant genetic diversity are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Malawi and Senegal.