PBWB Ethopia 2015


In February of 2015, Anthony Leddin travelled to Ethiopia to carry out the first pilot plant breeding training with Plant Breeders Without Borders (PBWB), a new NGO. The training was facilitated in Ethiopia by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which is a part of the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), a network of agricultural research centres for the public good. The training was delivered to 18 people including local farmers that ILRI is encouraging to start their own businesses in forage seed production. Technical staff from ILRI were also included in the training to give ILRI the option of doing pre-breeding development of material for farmers to use. The training was focused on temperate forage species, for land regions in Ethiopia with an altitude of greater than 1700 metres.

In the pilot project the attendees were trained how to become plant breeders in both cross and self-pollinated species. This training was important for a number of reasons. Currently Ethiopia is experiencing a great bottleneck in the supply of forage for its livestock. No overseas company is willing to invest their newly bred varieties into a marketplace where the informal seed system would quickly see the loss of control of production of that variety. Registration of new varieties coming into Ethiopia can take up to seven years before they can be allowed to be used by farmers. This strict system implemented by the government could be stifling investment in this sector.

In gauging the success of the course there are a couple of indicators that showed that the knowledge transfer was being taken up:

  • The practical crossing techniques in the field shown by everyone were very good with minimal flower damage. This would lead to a high percentage of successful crosses.
  • There were many questions asked in the theoretical section showing that there was genuine interest.
  • At the end of the course everyone had to design their own breeding program and everyone did this well.

Attendees filled in a survey after the training and this is available for the Crawford Fund to review. In summary a question asked what were the most limiting factors of you going out and starting your own breeding program in Africa and these were the answers:

  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of money
  • Poor government policies in this area
  • More training was needed
  • More land was needed
  • They didn’t have the commitment
  • An undeveloped market
  • Not enough awareness of improved forages in Ethiopia

Read a more detailed report of the project.

Upcoming Projects

Plant Breeders Without Borders is currently developing a webinar that people can listen to at any time. The topics of discussion will include:

  • Participatory plant breeding, how it works
  • CGIAR in a 3rd world/developing country
  • The shortage of plant breeders around the world
  • Plant breeding education for the new generation of plant breeders around the world
  • World food shortages and how plant breeding can help
  • Under utilized plant species
  • A plant breeders experience of working overseas

Guest speakers are being finalized and more details will be made public soon so watch this space.

PBWB is also in discussions with universities, government aid agencies and non-government aid groups to develop a masters short course in plant breeding in Australia for international plant breeding students from developing and third world countries that are interested in further development of their plant breeding knowledge. More details shortly.

Since the first pilot project in Ethiopia PBWB has received requests for more plant breeding training in developing and third world countries, and interest in people being volunteers. Keep the interest coming.