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Osorno Leads Gender-Responsive Plant Breeding Capacity Building Initiative with International Group

In collaboration with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research managed by Michigan State University, and the Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project, North Dakota State University dry bean breeder Dr. Juan Osorno recently led a multi-faceted effort to create an online course titled Gender Responsive Plant Breeding for researchers and scientists working in sub-Saharan Africa.

March 11, 2021

North Dakota State University dry bean breeder Dr. Juan Osorno recently led a multi-faceted effort to create an online course titled Gender Responsive Plant Breeding for researchers and scientists working in sub-Saharan Africa. In collaboration with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research managed by Michigan State University, and the Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project, Osorno and a team from the U.S., Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique developed a pilot initiative to adapt a normally multi-week, in-person course to an online program. All this is thanks to an additional award given by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research, which is funded by USAID under the Feed the Future initiative to focus on USAID cross-cutting themes.

Osorno, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research gender advisor Dr. Andrea Allen, and GREAT consultant Dr. Margaret Mangheni worked together to bring the course, which was held November 12-16, to fruition. Osorno is the lead PI for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research funded project Genetic Improvement of Dry Beans for Bruchid Resistance for Southern Africa known as the “Bruchid Resistant Bean Team”.

Allen said that although they had been discussing possible in-person courses with GREAT, it became evident that these plans needed to be revised in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The groups decided that an online program would help keep the GREAT objectives on track, and the November course was quickly organized. 

Allen and GREAT program administrator Elizabeth Assimwe say they are pleased with how quickly the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research team and the GREAT team pulled the entire online course together. They say that not only was a top-notch program presented, but planning precedents and protocols for online courses were established, which will lead to future successful online events. Allen and Assimwe said, “It was a groundbreaking experience for all individuals involved.”

The Genetic Improvement of Dry Beans for Bruchid Resistance for Southern Africa project focuses on developing bruchid resistant common bean varieties for production in southern Africa. Osorno, Dr. Phil McClean from NDSU, Dr. Carlos Urrea from the University of Nebraska, Dr. Kelvin Kamfwa from the University of Zambia, Virginia Chisale from the Department of Agricultural Research and Technical Services (DARTS) in Malawi, and Dr. Celestina Jochua from Investigaҁꞔᾶo Agraria de Mozambique (IIAM) are team members of this project. As a result of this training, new gender-responsive activities have been incorporated into the project’s workplan.

GREAT is a five-year collaboration between Cornell University in the U.S. and the Makerere University in Uganda designed to provide sub-Saharan African researchers opportunities to create effective and inclusive agricultural systems for both women and men in these regions.

Four cohorts (Roots, Tubers and Bananas; Cereal Grains; Legumes; Plant Breeding) have been the focus of the GREAT program over the last five years. Each cohort includes agronomists, plant breeders and pathologists, agricultural economists, rural sociologists and anthropologists, and has presented in-person courses to educate and increase opportunities for women and men in all levels of agriculture research and production, especially smallholder farms and entrepreneurs.

GREAT is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is funded through International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

Read more about GREAT at https://www.greatagriculture.org/

Read more about the Gender Responsive Plant Breeding program at https://files.constantcontact.com/e099215a701/d2b5e29b-4ae2-4906-add3-c40e42765ad4.pdf

Read more about the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research at https://www.canr.msu.edu/legumelab/project/

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The activity noted in this article was made possible through support provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Sources: Juan Osorno (juan.osorno@ndsu.edu), Andrea Allen (allenan9@msu.edu), Janet Fierro (fierroja@msu.edu)
Author: Karen Hertsgaard (karen.hertsgaard@ndsu.edu)
Editor: Kamie Beeson (kamie.a.beson@ndsu.edu)

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