The British Department for International Development (DFID) says it will provide £90 million to support research that will lead to the creation of new “super-crops” to address the problems of food security and nutrition in Africa.
DFID is the international development aid agency of the British government. In a statement issued on 26 January, the DFID said the fund will be disbursed over the next 3 years through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global research partnership that works in the area of livelihoods and food security.
The research projects are based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and seek to create crops that are more nutritious, more resistant to disease and better able to withstand adverse weather phenomena like flooding and drought. Researchers are also developing new vaccines to better protect livestock from tropical diseases.
“Millions of farmers in Africa, who depend on agriculture to support their families, struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table because of natural disasters such as drought, or floods, which destroy their livelihoods.
“Now, UK scientists are using their expertise to identify specific genes in crops that help them to be more nutritious, grow faster and be more resilient to disease and extreme weather. This scientific work on ‘super-crops’ will help up to 100 million African farmers out of poverty, in turn building stability and prosperity, which will help African countries become our trading partners of the future,” the DFID said.
LIVESTOCK VACCINES RESEARCH
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh are presently working on vaccines to wipe out livestock killer diseases that include Animal African trypanosomiasis (AAT). According to estimates, AAT kills over 3 million African cattle, with an estimated value of US$4 billion annually.
It also causes sleeping sickness in people. The scientists believe that a new drug to treat AAT will be available within the next 5 years, breaking a 40 year absence which allowed the disease to spread. British International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said by focusing on crop and livestock improvement, the research would improve African agriculture and help address poverty arising from food and livelihood insecurity.
“Unpredictable flooding, plant diseases and drought are threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers in Africa who struggle to grow enough crops to put food on the table. The urgency of the task is clear. That is why UK aid is supporting British scientists to develop new crops that are more productive, more nutritious and more resistant to droughts and flooding.
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“It will also create new medicines to protect cattle and poultry from devastating diseases. This transformative UK aid research will not only stop diseases from destroying the livelihoods of African farmers, it will also help control livestock diseases on British farms.
The scientists are also researching ways to reduce the impact of several other livestock diseases that can be transmitted to people. The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation is a major financing partner of the British livestock vaccines Research and Development (R&D) project.