On May 18-19 in Rome, the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soil (VACS) Phase 1 Technical Workshop took place, convening approximately 40 global stakeholders with expertise in nutrition, agriculture, and climate modeling.
The VACS Phase 1 Technical Workshop, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the African Union Commission and the United States government and through the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation, brought experts together to identify an initial list of the most important traditional African crops for nutrition within the five African Union economic sub-regions.
The two-day workshop began with opening remarks from Lynnette Neufeld, Food and Nutrition Division (FAO), Dr. Godfrey Bahiigwa, Director of Agriculture and Rural Development (African Union Commission), and Special Envoy Dr. Cary Fowler (State Department). In addition, Dr. Julie Sibiya, professor at University of KwaZulu-Natal gave remarks on the work of the African Orphan Crops Consortium and the African Plant Breeding Academy.
VACS Phase I Technical Workshop co-chairs Dr. Namukolo Covic (CGIAR) and Professor Lindiwe Majele Sibanda (CGIAR) led a discussion on VACS and its connection to the Africa Common Position as well as other current global food security events and priorities. Technical presentations followed from Jaron Porciello (Notre Dame) on evaluating current evidence on traditional and indigenous crops using artificial intelligence, Bridget Holmes (FAO) on nutrient composition data, and Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig (AgMIP) on preliminary climate modeling.
The workshop concluded after in-depth and rigorous discussions facilitated by Dr. Covic and USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Dr. Robert Bertram of the six crop-group types, which narrowed a list of 150 crops to approximately 60 potential crops based on criteria such as geography, food group, nutrition, breeding potential, consumption, economic marketability, and soils.
FAO Chief Economist Máximo Torero Cullen addressed workshop participants, noting the significant alignment between VACS and FAO strategy pillars and Agenda 2063, and the opportunity for VACS to serve as a catalyst for critical investments in soil health and prioritized crops.
Over the following weeks, additional review and analysis will continue to finalize the initial list of crops. After a final list is created, the next steps of VACS will begin, which include test modeling the draft list of crops against climate change conditions. The VACS Phase II Technical Workshop in New York is scheduled for November.