Food

Helping African agriculture

JASMINE CLARKE

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $14.5 million to the CSIRO today in an effort to generate hybrid crops for African Farmers.

CSIRO Project Leader Anna Koltunow said the five-year humanitarian project would was aimed at developing tools which would generate hybrid, self-producing cowpea and sorghum crops.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation specified the money has to be spent on a project that benefits and improves the lives of the poor in southern parts of Africa,” Dr Koltunow said.

Dr Koltunow said one of the foundation’s main areas of work was in agriculture.

University of Western Australia Professor Kadamot Siddique said devloping hybrid sorghum was possibl, but producing self-reproducing cowpea would be more challenging.

CSIRO said in a media release the creation of hybrid crops would allow farmers on small land holdings to self-harvest high-quality seed. This would provide a secure food supply and potentially increase their income.

The agency said it would use the grant to partner with research teams from Switzerland, USA, Germany and Mexico.

“This technology is something that requires a multinational collaboration because we don’t have all the capabilities in Australia,” Dr Koltunow said.“If we can prove this concept in cowpea and sorghum, then I think we can work to adapt it to other crops in Australia.”