After the request for proposals (RFP) by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Africa Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International (Africa Harvest) submitted a research proposal entitled Nutritionally Enhanced Sorghum for the Arid and Semi-Arid Tropical Areas of Africa otherwise known as the Africa Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) project.
The ABS project was one of the 43 projects that were selected from more than 1,000 applications. The aim of the project is to create a highly nutritious biofortified sorghum that grows well in the semi-arid and arid environments of Africa. The project seeks to develop a more nutritious but also easily digestible sorghum variety which contains increased levels of essential amino acids, especially lysine, increased levels of Vitamin A, and more available iron and zinc.
The project falls under grand Challenge number 9 whose goal is “to create a full range of optimal bioavailable nutrients in a single staple plant species with the aim of improving nutrition to promote health”. It addresses malnutrition as a major global health problem which disproportionately affects developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
After obtaining funding, Africa Harvest established a credible scientific consortium in order to achieve the goals of the project. Africa Harvest partnered with 11 institutions namely, DuPont through its business Pioneer Hi-Bred, United States; Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), South Africa; African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Kenya; the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India; the University of Pretoria (UP), South Africa; the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley), United States; the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa (ARC); the Environmental and Agricultural Research Institute (INERA), Burkina Faso; Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI); Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Nigeria; and the West African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), Senegal to conduct research and development of the biofortified sorghum.
The ABS consortium brought together a team of African-based international research institutions and set the example of how globally significant research projects can be done on the Africa continent. Of the 43 GCGH projects that were funded, ABS was the only project that was awarded to an African institution.
The first phase of ABS project started in July 2005 and is scheduled for completion in June 2010.