Aim: The aim of ISABB Division of Genetics is to Promote the use of genetic tools to increase food supply and household income for Africa, leading to reduced cases of malnutrition by breeding plants and animals of increased yields, increased tolerance, diversity and evolutionary potential.

Specific goal: Healthy people feeding on plants and animals rich in nutritional value.

Outputs: (1) Healthy African people feeding on nutritionally rich plants and animal protein, thereby reducing cases of malnutrition and vulnerability to infant mortality; (2) Increased household incomes from sales of farm produce, making parents able to afford school fees and medical services, thereby increasing literacy standards through increased school enrolment and prolonged life expectancy through access to medical services; (3) Decreased pressure on land through domestication of plants and animals with superior yields and (4) Improved conservation and utility of African genetic resources for the benefit of humankind and the environment.

Genetics is a rapidly developing field that has received considerable investment for major crop and animal species worldwide. However, many genetic techniques require considerable investment in infrastructure, consumables, staff salaries and training. These resources, however, are not available for low-income countries such as in Africa. Despite the low investment in infrastructure for genetic research, Africa has a rich bank of indigenous genetic resources; potential reservoirs of adaptive and functional genes (genes for tolerance, resistance to extreme environments, parasites, diseases). These include: crop plants, livestock, poultry, aquatic resources, forest trees and other plants with medicinal value. The variation within these species and their relationships to other taxa has received little attention and investment in formal research. As a result, these species do not have appropriate policy frameworks to support their production and marketing.

With genetic tools, we can:

(1)   Objectively, precisely and systematically characterize the various plant and animal strains as a basis for their further utilization and conservation

(2)   Develop genetic maps; use Linkage Disequilibrium mapping to locate genes involved in quantitative traits

(3)   Perform marker aided selection for superior genes/genotypes for domestication

(4)   Model population genetic changes- such as inbreeding, bottlenecks, over-exploitation and other trends that can cause extinction

The Division of Genetics encourages and facilitates the application of genetic tools to characterize, map and select for improved crop and livestock yields. Through partnership with other Institutions with similar goals, ISABB promotes:

(1)   Ability to identify needs for which research can deliver cost-effective solutions

(2)   Ability to deliver research solutions

(3)   Ability to raise the funds necessary to finance the research

(4)   Strengthening partners is provision of platforms for undertaking research

A key strategy of ISABB management will be to facilitate and provide rigorous oversight to such partnerships without getting in the way of innovation. Facilitation involves the training and mentoring of National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) personnel involved in such partnerships in how to engage successfully in such partnerships. This is backed by rigorous support for (and assistance in) developing management structures for the resulting projects that maximise the chances of success.

Subheadings:

Characterising genetic diversity

Genetic maps

Marker assisted selection