Walter Suza, assistant professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, leads the Plant Breeding E-learning in Africa team.
Walter Suza, assistant professor of agronomy at Iowa State University, leads the Plant Breeding E-learning in Africa team.

Iowa State University is a partner in a World Bank project to strengthen graduate education and collaborative research in crop improvement in Africa. 

The $6 million project is part of a larger World Bank-funded initiative called the Eastern and Southern Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence, also known as ACE II (http://www.ace2.iucea.org). The five-year project is working to establish 24 centers of excellence in countries in eastern and southern Africa.

Iowa State's agronomy department and Seed Science Center will collaborate with the lead institution, Makerere University in Uganda, to establish the Makerere University Center for Crop Improvement. Funding for ISU’s portion of the project totals approximately $700,000. Included in the project is an Iowa State-led online plant-breeding graduate curriculum with Makerere and two other African educational institutions, which is called Plant Breeding E-learning in Africa.

“As we travel across Africa, we’re meeting others who are showing interest in e-learning for agriculture, and we are branching out and adding institutions with this new crop improvement center of excellence,” said Walter Suza, assistant professor of agronomy who leads the Plant Breeding E-learning in Africa team.

The plant-breeding educational effort is in its third year of developing a master’s and doctoral plant-breeding e-curriculum for Africa with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The Makerere University Regional Center for Crop Improvement will expand the doctoral program in plant breeding and biotechnology to prepare industry-ready plant breeders who can use the latest science to develop new crop varieties. The center will develop an enhanced curriculum through e-learning.

ISU’s Seed Science Center will contribute two courses, one on seed science and technology and the other on seed systems. 

“The Seed Science Center will also help to establish a seed testing laboratory at Makerere University,” said Manjit Misra, director of the center.