ZOMBA, Malawi 25th March, 2022 (AEJ) - The Department of Agriculture Research Services (DARS) on 24th March, 2022 launched the genetic reserves for the conservation of crop wild relatives linked to long term ecosystems sustainability, support to agro-biodiversity and overall national development.
The launch event took place at Zomba Mountain where a site has been identified to protect species of high value for crop gene trait improvement, ecological, pharmaceutical and medicinal value among other aspects.
DARS Director Wilkinson Makumba in his speech said the theme, “conserving crop wild relatives for improved crop resilience and sustainable management of ecosystem,” underscore the importance of encouraging conservation of species in their original ecosystem.
“We are all aware that the ecosystem services are what support our livelihoods and boost our economy. The improved varieties we have, require the presence of genetic diversity, crop wild relatives have adaptive traits that can be used to improve cultivated crops and the potential to improve food security and boost the economy,” Makumba emphasized during his speech.
Malawi 2063, Makumba added under pillar one agriculture productivity and commercialization optimal utilization of land resources including environmental sustainability need to be attained.
The launch of the genetic reserve today, he added is one of such initiatives that ensures adaptive agriculture as well as maintaining a healthy and sound environment. It also makes a step ahead in ensuring the availability of genetic material for crop improvement.
Presenting an overview of crop wild relatives and the range of genetic diversity that breeders require to produce resilient crops amidst climate change. Nolipher Mponya, Lead Scientist for crop wild relatives at the Malawi Plant Genetic Resources Centre said they mapped the populations of these species in four protected areas to ascertain their conservation status.
“This was done with support from the Darwin Initiative funded project – Bridging Agriculture and Environment Southern Africa crop wild relative regional mapping. Three sites Nyika National Park, Mulanje and Zomba Mountain Forest Reserve were identified as suitable for immediate active in situ conservation.
This added Mponya is because they harbour unique species not found in any of the protected areas. The sites also already have management plans in place that can easily be adapted to conservation of crop wild relatives populations, and will maintain suitable conditions for the existence of the identified species least impacted by climate change in the long term.
Crop wild relatives are wild plant species closely related to cultivated plants, from which crops were originally domesticated and which can still contribute useful genomic traits to the crops. These species have potential to improve agriculture production, enhance ecosystems services and improve livelihoods of rural masses that depend on the natural resources for their survival.
In his parting remarks Boniface Chimwaza of Environment Affairs Department urged for collective institutional efforts and support to conserve the genetic reserve among staff from Forestry, National Parks, Environmental Affairs Department and National Herbarium and Botanical Gardens.