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Next Generation Cassava Breeding (NEXTGEN)

The Next Generation Cassava Breeding project (NextGen Cassava) aims to significantly increase the rate of genetic improvement in cassava breeding and unlock the full potential of cassava, a staple crop central to food security and livelihoods across Africa. In 2018, the project was renewed for a second 5-year phase, with a $35M grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UK aid from the United Kingdom. In this second phase, the project will expand international efforts to deliver improved varieties of cassava to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

The NextGen Cassava project initially focused on improving cassava using genomic predictions. In Phase I (2012-2018, also funded by the Gates Foundation and UK aid), the project worked successfully to shorten breeding cycles, improve data collection and management, increase germplasm exchange, improve physical infrastructures of programs, and increase the number and capacity of cassava breeders in partner African breeding programs. Building on these successes, Phase II entails a shift toward implementation for the delivery of improved varieties to smallholder farmers.

In Phase II, NextGen Cassava seeks to:

  • Expand resources for applied breeding to obtain higher quality data and maximize the ability to improve varieties.
  • Initiate greater communication to multiple audiences, from smallholder farmers, to other African breeding programs, to other cassava research centers.
  • Consolidate research efforts to directly serve breeders and ensure quality control at all process steps.
  • Identify traits preferred by farmers and end-users, to ensure that breeding is demand-driven and inclusive.
  • Release improved cassava varieties in each breeding program’s region that meet criteria for quality acceptability and sustainably improve smallholder farmer livelihoods due to improved yield and disease resistance.

It is the project’s aim that these steps accelerate not just genetic gain but adopted genetic gain, increase the yields and resilience of cassava production by smallholder farmers, and incrementally move African cassava breeding toward greater capacity. NextGen Cassava works with the following institutional partners across seven countries on three continents: International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the National Root Crops Research Institute in Nigeria; the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement in Ghana; the National Crops Resources Research Institute and Makerere University in Uganda; and the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute in Tanzania. In South America, collaborators include Embrapa in Brazil and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. In the US, collaborators are Cornell University (who leads the project), the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell, the University of Hawaii, and the USDA-ARS in Ithaca.

Target Regions:

East Africa | West Africa

Project Dates:

Oct 2012 - Oct 2023