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Global Gathering Features Leading Authorities on Cassava Research

An impressive lineup of the leaders in cassava research and development from around the globe will present during the second scientific conference of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21), June 18 – 22, 2012 in Kampala, Uganda. More than 300 leading cassava researchers and stakeholders from around the world will attend, including three AWARD Fellows representing Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.

GCP21 consists of 45 member institutions working on research and development of cassava, a staple crop relied on by more than 700 million people worldwide. The ultimate goal of the partnership is to improve cassava productivity through scientific research and development. Topics to be covered at the conference include climate change, pests and diseases, genomics, breeding, and biodiversity.

The Global Cassava Partnership serves as an advocate for cassava issues and leverages research and development by facilitating dialogue among farmers, stakeholders, producers, researchers, and donor agencies via scientific and technical meetings, collectively seeking smart strategies, funding opportunities, and catalyzing solutions to technical challenges such as cassava genomics.

“The greatest reward during my life time will be to bring about a significant transformation in cassava to impact on many lives that depend on the crop,” said Dr. Yona Baguma, a scientist at NaCRRI and chairman of GCP21-II.

Cassava is cultivated mainly by hundreds of millions of subsistence farmers, often on marginal lands and is vital for both food security and income generation. In Asia and Latin America, cassava serves as livestock feed, an industrial input, and a source of fuel and food. In Africa, it is the second most important source of calories after maize, an inexpensive and essential food for the poor, and an emerging cash crop. Tapioca, yucca, and manioc are other names for cassava.

Although cassava has many properties that make it an important food across 105 countries in the world, it also has many limitations. Cassava lacks essential vitamins and nutrients and is susceptible to many pathogens, particularly in Africa, where one-third of the continental harvest is lost each year to viral diseases.

During the conference, concurrent sessions will be held on a variety of topics such as biodiversity and genetic resources, physiology and abiotic stress, agronomy, modern breeding, metabolic engineering and cassava seed systems.

Since it was founded in 2003, GCP21 has developed a list of technologies and research themes to focus activities and promote investment in those priority areas. In the last year, several research projects totaling more than $60 million in grants in the areas of cassava genomics, genetic engineering, biofortification, genetics and biology have been initiated and will be reported on during the five-day program.

Participants will exchange knowledge and experiences in the areas of socio-economics, biodiversity and genetic resources, post-harvest, starch modification, nutrition, genomics, molecular genetic markers and gene discovery, tissue culture and transformation, biotic and abiotic stresses, participatory research and technology transfer.

After reviewing advances made to date, members of GCP21 will present a synopsis identifying gaps in technical, capacity and funding as well as set additional priorities for R&D that will enable cassava production to withstand global changes in climate and related issues.

Participants will include representatives from NARS, international agricultural research centers, advanced laboratories and universities from developed and developing countries, United Nations’ agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations, donor and development organizations, businesses in the ag-biotechnology and food processing industries.

GCP21 is chaired by Dr. Claude Fauquet, Principal Investigator at the Danforth Plant Science Center and Director of International Laboratory for Tropical Agricultural Biotechnology (ILTAB) in St. Louis, MO and Dr. Joe Tohme, Director of Agrobiodiversity Research of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia.

“It is crucial for humanity to invest science and technology into cassava if we want the fourth source of calories in the developing world to feed more than one billion people by 2050,” said Fauquet.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for some of the world’s leading crop scientists to join up to support smallholder farmers across the tropics in boosting production of one of their most important and promising food crops,” said Tohme.

Participating AWARD Fellows include:

  • Ugo Chijioke, Nigeria
  • Dr. Damaris Odeny, Kenya
  • Vincentia Naa Ayele Hammond, Ghana
  • Dr. Josephine Songa, AWARD