The Africa Vegetable Breeding Consortium (AVBC) is a partnership for research with a track record of commercial success. Established in 2018, AVBC is a joint initiative of Worldveg and the Africa Seed Trade Association (AFSTA). AVBC helps companies to learn about the latest developments in vegetable breeding research from the WorldVeg team of internationally renowned plant breeders and obtain improved breeding materials (varieties, inbred lines, and hybrids) to enhance their cultivar catalogs. It also facilitates meetings with breeders, pathologists, entomologists, and other researchers to strengthen their knowledge network, share experiences with colleagues from other vegetable seed companies operating in Africa, and invest in joint projects with other consortium members that target the specific needs of their companies. AVBC focuses on the development of tomato, pepper, onion, okra, habaneros, pepper, African eggplant, amaranth, mungbean, and pumpkin.
Last year, 2022, was marked by a growth in the consortium to 58 members that together ordered more than 200 WorldVeg breeding lines samples. The consortium has also been very active in sharing information through five online webinars, with an average participation of 35 people per webinar. After a two-year hiatus, AVBC held its annual workshop on 6-7 September 2022 at the IITA campus in Benin, which hosts the World Vegetable Center’s regional office for West and Central Africa, with 45 participants including 17 seed companies from West, Central, and East Africa as well as from Europe.
AFSTA holds a congress each year that brings together seed companies to establish business partnerships. This time it was held in Dakar from 6-8 March 2023, with more than 50 seed companies and associations operating in Africa attending. To promote WorldVeg and the AVBC, a team from Benin’s regional office was present in Dakar with a booth that attracted more than one hundred visitors. Formal meetings with 10 seed companies (Bayer Crop, Syngenta, East West Seed, Advanta Seeds, Enza Zaden, Sakata Seeds, Suba Seeds, Vokkal Seeds, GSN Afrique, and UPL OpenAg) were also held.
There was much interest in okra, in particular okra lines with resistance to two begomoviruses Okra enation leaf curl virus (OELCV) and Okra yellow vein mosaic (OYVMV). Seed companies also raised the need to work on resistance against tomato spotted wilt tospovirus (TSWV) in tomatoes and pepper, which has become a major problem worldwide. The AFSTA congress enabled building relationships with companies producing seed sold in Africa under local brands. If WorldVeg can improve the genetic quality of these seeds, the impact on smallholder farmers would be significant.