NEPAD Southern African Network forBiosciences (SANBio) has established a Task Force on the Enhancement of Capabilities of Conservation and Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources in Southern Africa. The first meeting of this task force was held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, on 2-3 June 2008.
The objective of the task force is to assist in the development of a five year regional project to “enhance the capabilities of conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources in southern Africa”. This is one of the priority projects identified by the region aimed at ensuring sustainable food security and socioeconomic development of the people of the region.
The ACGT was represented at the meeting by Dr Jane Morris (ACGT Director) and Dr Ereck Chakauya (CSIR). Representatives were also present from gene banks in the SADC region.
The meeting participants noted that Conservation of plant genetic resources was a fast expanding field, especially with the advent of climate change, biotechnology and HIV/AIDS.· In order to fully safeguard our plant genetic resources it was recognized that there is a strong need to adopt new and robust technologies, including biotechnology, micropropagation, GIS, non destructive ways of determining moisture, cryostorage, molecular diagnostics, DNA Banking, bioinformatics, etc.
The meeting offered opportunities for presentations on the possible role of the ACGT and the CSIR in a gene banking initiative, with particular focus on DNA banking and bioinformatics, and the link between these and plant biotechnology research.
It was agreed that the Task Force should adopt a tight timetable for the development of a detailed project proposal. This process would be led by the SADC Plant Genetic Resource Centre (Ms. T Lupupa) and UKZN (Prof. Pat Berjak) as Project Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator respectively.
At the end of the meeting, participants were taken on a tour of the laboratory facilities at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.