Since 2012, KWS has been continuously engaged in Peru and Ethiopia to support young researchers particularly in conserving plant genetic resources, plant breeding, and establishing seed systems. In this context, KWS implements requirements of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. In Peru the focus is on corn and quinoa, in Ethiopia on barley and wheat.
The projects in Peru and Ethiopia will be able to pay for themselves in the foreseeable future, so that KWS can devote itself to new projects in south-eastern Africa to accompany and develop them once the active cooperation has been completed.
Find out here about our development cooperation activities in the following countries:
Projects in Peru
Challenges and goals in Peru
Due to the variable altitudes from zero to over 6,000 meters above sea level, Peru's climate and agricultural production systems are highly diverse. Correspondingly, Peruvian small-scale farmers cultivate a large diversity of quinoa, corn, and other crops. However, climate change and environmental degradation threaten this crop diversity. In addition, young people are relocating to cities and traditional knowledge about cultivation, use and conservation of the crop diversity is at risk. The consequences are chronic food shortages and prevalent malnutrition - particularly in remote regions. To increase the food security of Peruvian small-scale farmers, KWS is focusing on three important goals: Promoting the development of new corn and quinoa varieties, sustainable conservation of genetic diversity, and training young Peruvian scientists.
Current activities and results
Together with the National Agricultural University in La Molina (UNALM) and with the support of Prof. Karl Schmid of the University of Hohenheim, we are working on the optimization of the management of corn genetic resources conserved in the UNALM gene bank.
- A total of 1,781 corn seed samples from various ecological zones of Peru were regenerated, characterized for important agronomic traits in their respective agroecology, genotyped to determine the underlying genetic diversity, and documented in a digital database.
- New phenotyping methods using automated image analysis of the cobs were developed.
- The data analysis helped to group similar seed samples, identify unwanted duplicates and mixtures, and optimize the collection. This reduces the workload of the UNALM gene bank curator in the future. The data obtained can also be used to develop appropriate concepts for in-situ conservation of the most important Peruvian corn landraces.
- The activity also helped to identify promising accessions for breeding improvement with the aim of serving specific market niches.
- A manuscript on the interaction of human and natural selection in the evolution of Peruvian corn landraces is currently in preparation for publication in an international journal.
- Several Peruvian students have contributed to this work and have received hands-on training in the various tasks. In addition, a Peruvian young talented professor was trained at the University of Hohenheim in modern genotyping-by-sequencing techniques so that he can also apply this method in his laboratory at UNALM and thus train even more students in it. Such an approach of "training of trainers" and generally the cooperation with local Peruvian universities enables us to reach more people with our initiative.
Quinoa is an annual, highly nutritious grain crop that was domesticated in the Andes about 4,000 years ago. About 1,200 quinoa accessions (or seed samples) conserved by the National University of the Altiplano (UNAP) and the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco (UNSAAC) were characterized for their agronomic traits and are currently being genotyped using sequencing techniques to understand their genetic diversity. A Peruvian PhD student is being trained at the University of Hohenheim to perform the data analysis, identify duplicates and mixtures, streamline the collections, and identify promising accessions for the development of new varieties. The team also aims to develop automated image analysis tools for more efficient characterization of quinoa genetic resources.
In cooperation with the National University of the Altiplano (UNAP) and Prof. Karl Schmid of the University of Hohenheim, we develop effective quinoa breeding strategies. To that end, we are investigating genetic variation and gain of selection in cross progenies of different parental quinoa materials. The final aim is to identify new robust quinoa varieties and make them available to Peruvian farmers.
Activities required for this:
- Analysis of the genetic diversity of twelve quinoa varieties with almost 50,000 molecular markers.
- Creation of new genetic variations by crossing genetically related and distant parents and by single and double crosses.
- Characterization of twelve splitting populations in field trials at several locations for agronomic traits.
- Analysis of genetic diversity of the same populations using sequencing techniques.
- Identification of superior, early flowering, and high yielding progenies for variety registration.
- Identification of genomic regions affecting important agronomic traits.
- The same Peruvian PhD student is working on the data to obtain a PhD at the University of Hohenheim. His goal is then to return to Peru and become an international quinoa expert.
Bettina Haussmann, Manager Strategic Projects
“By focusing on the intersection of plant genetic resources conservation, plant breeding and small-scale farmers’ access to improved seed, CD Seed is an exemplary model project for bilateral benefit sharing in accordance with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources.”
Projects in Ethiopia
Challenges and goals in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a center of diversity for several crop species, including barley. In the face of climate variability and environmental degradation, it is of utmost importance to conserve this valuable diversity for future generations. Small-scale farmers dominate Ethiopian agriculture and need robust cultivars with high resistance to predominant abiotic and biotic stress factors such as dryness or fungal diseases. However, the availability of such robust cultivars is limited, as is small-scale farmers' access to quality seed.
Our “Capacity Development in Seeds (CD Seed)” project in Ethiopia therefore has the following objectives:
- Professionalization of the national gene bank at the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI).
- Making plant breeding programs at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) more efficient, with a focus on barley.
- Improving small-scale farmers' access to high quality seed of barley and wheat.
The CD Seed project is embedded in a larger program on Supporting Sustainable Agricultural Productivity (SSAP) in Ethiopia funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture - with co-funding from KWS and the German Association for the Promotion of Plant Innovation (GFPi). The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) leads the SSAP program and is therefore an important partner alongside the Ethiopian institutions involved.
“Our cooperation helps our Ethiopian partners to develop new food and malting barley varieties more quickly and to foster their cultivation by small-scale farmers.” according to Bettina Haussmann.
Current activities and results
In cooperation with the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute (EBI), GIZ, and the German Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), the following results were achieved:
- Several long-term trainings of EBI employees in gene bank management at IPK.
- Several short-term trainings in Ethiopia in the fields of documentation, conservation and characterization of plant genetic resources, as well as aspects of gene bank management.
- Repatriation of 7,200 barley and wheat samples that had been lost in Ethiopia.
- Provision of equipment and materials for gene banks.
- Construction of a cold room.
- Assist in the characterization of barley and wheat genetic resources to facilitate their use.
This activity was implemented jointly by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), KWS, GFPi, and GIZ-Ethiopia, with the following results:
- Provision of German elite barley and wheat varieties for transferring grain quality traits to local Ethiopian varieties.
- Training of employees in basic breeding methods, field trials and data analysis techniques in both Ethiopia and Germany.
- Ethiopian PhD thesis on breeding strategies for adaptation of barley to acid soils (still in progress).
- Delivery of laboratory equipment for grain quality evaluation.
- Provision of irrigation and other field equipment that will enable cultivation of two generations per year and help strengthen the breeders’ seed production.
- Restructuring the breeding scheme to shorten the breeding cycle and increase selection gains.
- Team building and identification of responsible employees for each step of the breeding cycle.
- Currently planned: Create value chain linkages with the Ethiopian malting industry to enable stable markets and, via licensing, longer-term sustainability of the breeding program.
The following progress was implemented by GIZ-Ethiopia and KWS:
- Until 2016 our project had enabled at least 9,000 farmers to experiment with improved barley and wheat cultivars.
- Since 2016 we have focused on nine farmer-managed seed cooperatives, three each in Tigray, Amhara and Oromia. These are supported in the production of certified barley and wheat seed and in the development of business and investment plans.
- Construction of seed stores at three sites.
- Facilitating stakeholder networking and cooperatives’ access to basic seed.
- Through the cooperatives a total of 1,035 farmers participated in seed production during the 2018-2019 season, producing 1,215 tons of certified wheat and barley seed, representing a total income of approximately € 384,000. Assuming an average seeding rate of about 125 kg / ha, the produced seed allows the cultivation of the improved varieties on a total of about 9,700 ha.
- In the 2019-2020 season a total of 983 tons of seed were produced, corresponding to a total income of about € 338,000.
- Until the end of 2020 eight of the nine supported cooperatives developed a profitable seed business and can be considered as self-sustaining.