Agriculture experts seek to develop drought- and disease-resistant crops

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KIGALI, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Developing drought- and disease-resistant crops is vital amid concerns of growing effects of climate change on food security on the African continent, agriculture experts said in Kigali on Monday.

The experts are in the Rwandan capital attending the 7th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA).

The five-day meeting, which opened on Monday, draws participants from over 140 countries, signatories to the treaty, which binds members to conserve and sustain use of all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, while ensuring fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use.

"Science and research plays an essential role on agricultural systems including crop varieties. It's better countries invest in research for improved food plant genetics," said Kent Nnadozie, secretary for ITPGRFA.

He called on African countries to allocate more funds to do research on crops able to resist climate change, droughts and other shocks to bridge crop production gap and ensure food security.

Rwandan minister of agriculture Gerardine Mukeshimana described crop diseases as a major global issue which calls for development of resistant varieties.

The minister said in Rwanda this year, armyworm attack caused a loss of about 5 percent of crop yield.

Countries need to have as many varieties as possible in circulation among farmers so that when one crop is attacked, others will grow, she said.

Broadening research in climate resilient food crops will play a central role in helping farmers in drought-affected regions, said Selim Guvener, general counsel of International Potato Center based in Peru.

"Biodiversity can help us face the impacts of climate change. So we need to introduce various kinds of crop varieties capable of surviving dry conditions," he said.

The meeting's theme is "2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Role of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture."

Hunger is on the rise in the world as, overall, hungry people increased to 815 million in 2016 from 777 million in 2015, according to a report issued by the Food Agriculture and Organization of the United Nations. Enditem

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