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Indigenous African orphan legumes: potential for food and nutrition security in SSA
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In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), both crop production and the hidden hunger index (HHI, a combination of zinc, iron, and vitamin A deficiency), continue to be worse than the rest of the world. Currently, 31 out of 36 countries of SSA show the highest HHI. At the same time, several studies show climate change as a major constraint to agriculture productivity and a significant threat to SSA food security without significant action regarding adaptation. The food security of SSA is dependent on a few major crops, with many of them providing largely only an energy source in the diet. To address this, crop diversification and climate-resilient crops that have adaptation to climate change can be used and one route toward this is promoting the cultivation of African orphan (neglected or underutilized) crops. These crops, particularly legumes, have the potential to improve food and nutrition security in SSA due to their cultural linkage with the regional food habits of the communities, nutritionally rich food, untapped genetic diversity, and adaptation to harsh climate conditions and poor marginal soils. Despite the wide distribution of orphan legumes across the landscape of SSA, these important crop species are characterized by low yield and decreasing utilization due in part to a lack of improved varieties and a lack of adequate research attention. Genomic-assisted breeding (GAB) can contribute to developing improved varieties that yield more, have improved resilience, and high nutritional value. The availability of large and diverse collections of germplasm is an essential resource for crop improvement. In the Genetic Resources Center of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the collections of orphan legumes, particularly the Bambara groundnut, African yambean, and Kersting’s groundnut, have been characterized and evaluated for their key traits, and new collections are being undertaken to fill gaps and to widen the genetic diversity available to underpin breeding that can be further utilized with GAB tools to develop faster and cost-effective climate-resilient cultivars with a high nutrition value for SSA farmers. However, a greater investment of resources is required for applying modern breeding to orphan legume crops if their full potential is to be realized.
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Permanent link to this itemhttps://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12478/7539
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