Technology generation to dissemination: lessons learned from the tef improvement project

Gina Cannarozzi, Solomon Chanyalew, Kebebew Assefa, Abate Bekele, Regula Blösch, Annett Weichert, Dominik Klauser, Sonia Plaza-Wüthrich, Korinna Esfeld, Moritz Jöst, Abiel Rindisbacher, Habte Jifar, Victoria Johnson-Chadwick, Ermias Abate, Wuyan Wang, Rizqah Kamies, Negussu Husein, Worku Kebede, Kidist Tolosa, Yazachew GenetKidu Gebremeskel, Brikti Ferede, Firew Mekbib, Federico Martinelli, Hans Christian Pedersen, Suhail Rafudeen, Shimelis Hussein, Muluneh Tamiru, Naomi Nakayama, Mike Robinson, Ian Barker, Samuel Zeeman, Zerihun Tadele*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Indigenous crops also known as orphan crops are key contributors to food security, which is becoming increasingly vulnerable with the current trend of population growth and climate change. They have the major advantage that they fit well into the general socio-economic and ecological context of developing world agriculture. However, most indigenous crops did not benefit from the Green Revolution, which dramatically increased the yield of major crops such as wheat and rice. Here, we describe the Tef Improvement Project, which employs both conventional- and molecular-breeding techniques to improve tef—an orphan crop important to the food security in the Horn of Africa, a region of the world with recurring devastating famines. We have established an efficient pipeline to bring improved tef lines from the laboratory to the farmers of Ethiopia. Of critical importance to the long-term success of this project is the cooperation among participants in Ethiopia and Switzerland, including donors, policy makers, research institutions, and farmers. Together, European and African scientists have developed a pipeline using breeding and genomic tools to improve the orphan crop tef and bring new cultivars to the farmers in Ethiopia. We highlight a new variety, Tesfa, developed in this pipeline and possessing a novel and desirable combination of traits. Tesfa’s recent approval for release illustrates the success of the project and marks a milestone as it is the first variety (of many in the pipeline) to be released.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • Eragrostis tef
  • Farmer-participatory research
  • Marker-assisted breeding
  • Orphan crops
  • Tef


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