The African Agricultural Technology Foundation, on 20th March 2024, conducted a stewardship compliance training for the team implementing the Striga Smart Sorghum for Africa (SSSfA) project, a multi-institutional, multi-sectoral project that utilizes CRISPR genome editing technology to develop new sorghum varieties resistant to Striga. The training, conducted in western Kenya, aimed at familiarizing the project team with stewardship compliance processes and biotech stewardship and quality management system for field trial of genome-edited sorghum.

Stewardship encompasses an entire product life cycle and ensures responsible and ethical management of the product. It involves integrity, care, trustworthiness and compliance. General stewardship themes for AATF-developed products include product integrity and identity preservation, permit conditions and compliance.

AATF Product Stewardship Lead Dr. Francis Onyekachi outlined the stewardship delivery pathway for commercialization of Striga-smart sorghum, and exposed the project team to four vital pillars of quality management system. The project team was taken through compliance and contingency considerations which comprise compliance with permit conditions, compliance monitoring and contingency planning for stewarded field trials of SSSfA project.

Dr. Onyekachi emphasized the need for the team to understand all steps that will be followed in the stewarded field trials program developed for the project. The steps include application, storage and transport, planting, harvest and post-harvest of Striga-smart sorghum.

The training happened just two weeks before the first-ever planting of genome-edited sorghum under field trials. Further, the project team participated in a rapid response and project reputation management workshop that was conducted a day later – on 21st March 2024. The objective of the workshop was to train the project team on detection and appropriate remedial action on issues at the site and beyond. The workshop was organized by ISAAA afriCenter. Both workshops were attended by 37 project members (21 male; 16 female) representing all the project partners.

AATF and ISAAA AfriCenter are among partners implementing the SSSfA project. Other partners are Kenyatta University (Kenya), Bio and Emerging Technology Institute (Ethiopia), Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) and United Kingdom’s Beneficial Bio. The project is supported through the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, and led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).