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Molecular breeding training workshop for eastern Africa breeders

From 12–16 October 2009 the Eastern Africa Regional Program and Research Network for Biotechnology, Biosafety and Biotechnology Policy Development (BIO-EARN); the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) hub; and CIMMYT jointly conducted a molecular marker assisted breeding and data analyses training workshop. Kassa Semagn, CIMMYT maize molecular breeder, played a major role in organizing and providing the technical components of the training. This included defining the course syllabus and selecting resource materials and software for data analyses. The workshop was opened by Segenet Kelemu, BecA hub director.

Twenty breeders from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, attended the training, which was conducted at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Nairobi, Kenya. Participants received hands-on experience in plant tissue sampling, molecular data scoring, and various data analysis techniques.

Other resource persons included Jagger Harvey and Etienne deVilliers, scientists based at BecA, Nairobi; Eric Bongcam Rudloff of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; and Michael Kovach, Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University, USA. The participants were impressed with the organization of the training workshop, describing the relevance of the course content to their work as “excellent,” and “an eye opener in planning the integration of molecular markers in our breeding programs.” The five-day training was funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The success of the course was summed up by a participant who said: “Before the training workshop, I was very pessimistic in believing that molecular markers are useful in breeding programs.” He went on to add that the training clarified how and when to use markers in breeding programs, the requirements, and the pros and the cons.