CFS 43 Side Event

Adopting African orphan crops to enhance food security, nutrition and safety

Monday, October 17, 13:00 to 14:30
Red Room

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H.E. Amira Gornass
Ambassador From Sudan, FAO

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki
CEO, Nepad

Tony Simons
Director General, ICFAF

Rita Mumm
Executive Director, African Plant Breeding Academy

Howard-Yana Shapiro 
Mars, Incorporated, Chief Agricultural Scientist 

Ren Wang
Deputy Director General, FAO 

H.E Yaya Olaniran
Ambassador of Nigeria

pdf Programme - Adopting African Orphan Crops (536 KB)

pdf Flyer - Adopting African Orphan Crops (973 KB)

Super Crops to Feed Africa - FAO 

View the photos from this side event here

Read the CFS43 event recap


An uncommon partnership of 15 government organizations, scientific, agricultural bodies, universities, companies, regional organizations and NGOs, along with a network of 20 agricultural and horticultural organizations, devoted to improving the diets and livelihoods of the 600 million people who live in rural Sub-Saharan Africa believe that this vision will be a reality.  

The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), is the driver to generate the genomic resources for the selected crops. Approved by African Heads of State at the African Union Assembly and led by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the AOCC is sequencing the genomes of 101 African food plants.  The consortium’s African Plant Breeders Academy in Nairobi, Kenya will train 250 African scientists and technicians to sequence and breed the plants to be more nutritious, productive and resilient in the face of climate change.  

Key Themes & Discussion Points

H.E. Amira Gornass, Ambassador from Sudan: Opened the session stating the importance of Orphan Crops and the FAO’s commitment to this. 

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO, NEPAD: Highlighted the idea that in order to tackle hunger we need to change the way we do business. The African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC), led by NEPAD, is about leap frogging farmers forward using technology. Investment in human capacity is fundamental to creating a successful society. 

Tony Simons, Director General ICFAF: Showcased the need for targeted interventions and reinforced that we need to get rid of our bias for indigenous crops. Agriculture and nutrition messaging is under reported. We need to see diversification of African orphan crops as an opportunity rather than a hindrance

Rita Mumm, Executive Director African Plant Breeding Academy: Discussed how DNA sequence information can translate into large benefits for the African people. Teaching local communities about plant breeding and genomics can result in huge benefits for their communities. The goal of the African Pant breeding academy is to equip and empower scientists to improve crop varieties all over Africa. Professional networks have formed and new communities of practice have been developed through this academy, resulting in new research funding.

Howard-Yana Shapiro, Mars, Incorporated, Chief Agricultural Scientist: Reviewed the current state of stunting in children in Africa and the burden of malnutrition. The notion of nutrition is a human right not a privilege and the difference between good nutrition and high calorie intake is an important note. Howard-Yana Shapiro also reviewed some of the surprising and exciting collaborations that have come from this project.  

Ren Wang, Deputy Director General, FAO: Rein forced that the FAO is committed to transforming our food systems. The FAO admires and endorses the mission of this innovative consortium. The FAO can help advocate the concept and vision of the AOCC, helping orphan crops go above and beyond what they have already achieved

Main Conclusions 

AOCC’s goal is to sequence, assemble and annotate the genomes of 101 traditional African food crops to improve their nutrient content. This will provide long lasting solutions for Africa’s nutritional security. Partnerships, idea sharing and teaching are an important component of this. AOCC hopes to have 5 key outcomes: 

  • quality seed for farmers 
  • improving yields 
  • better nutrition for families 
  • better value and remuneration 
  • new value chains, markets and products