Conserving Afghanistan’s Rich Genetic Resources : Prof M S Swaminathan
Chennai, March 28, 2016: The Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India is extending help to Afghanistan for establishing an Afghanistan National Agricultural Science and Technology University (ANASTU) and a Genetic Garden of Afghanistan at the Tarnak Farm in Kandahar under the auspices of ANASTU. For facilitating the conservation of the rich genetic heritage of Afghanistan in natural resources, two staff members of ANASTU, Mr Rahmatullah Nazir and Mr Zabihullah Sherzad, were provided intensive training at the MSSRF in its centres in Kalpetta, Kerala and Koraput in Odisha. The Afghanistan genetic garden will have two major zones namely Agrobiodiversity zone and Rare, Endangered and Threatened species (RET) zone. The agrobiodiversity zone will have different sections dealing with fruit trees like pomegranate, apricot, peach etc, medicinal plants, fodder grasses and cereals and legumes. The RET species zone will have a collection of threatened species and will concentrate on the conservation of the genetic heritage of Afghanistan in agriculture. Gene banks and seed banks will be established while the entire garden will concentrate on exsitu conservation. Afghanistan has already undergone severe genetic erosion due to conflicts and ANASTU will try to preserve for posterity the remaining genetic diversity in major plants of significance to food, health, livelihood and climate security. Mr Rahmatullah Nazir and Mr Zabihullah Sherzad will take the lead in the collection of both agrobiodiversity and RET species comprising rare medicinal plants and fruits trees. A special wing of biofortified plants will help to provide horticultural remedies for nutritional deficiencies. Thus it is hoped that the genetic garden of Afghanistan will mark the beginning of a new era in Afghan agriculture based on indigenous genetic heritage and knowledge built over centuries.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.