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Sustainable Agriculture for Sub-Saharan Africa (SASSA)

Copyright: World Agroforestry Centre on Flickr by CC 2.0

Funding has been granted to nine important projects to improve sustainable agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.

SASSA is a £10 million project to address research challenges relating to the sustainable intensification of agricultural systems.

It was informed by the needs of countries in SSA, raised in a Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded workshop held in Kenya in March 2017.

The projects aim to enhance food security in SSA through collaborative research that combines the expertise of scientists in the UK with the knowledge of and research involvement of partners in the region.

The focus is on African farming systems in which crops are grown, primarily for local human consumption, and their interactions with the environment.

Research was particularly encouraged on regionally important crops relevant to the needs of smallholder farmers in multiple African countries.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “Stresses such as drought, and the restriction of vital resources including nutrients and water are among the challenges affecting the development of sustainable agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“By bringing together UK researchers with partners in the region, these projects will play an important role in addressing these challenges and unlocking the potential of sustainable agriculture to transform food production and improve lives.”

These projects are funded from the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The GCRF aims to deploy the UK’s world-leading research capability to address challenges faced by developing countries.

The list of projects that have been funded under SASSA are as follows:

  1. Durable Rice Blast Resistance for Sub-Saharan Africa
    UK lead: Nicholas Talbot, University of East Anglia
  2. Enhancing crop diversity and ecosystem services to promote biological control of fall armyworm in smallholder cropping systems
    UK lead: Toby Bruce, Keele University
  3. LegumeSELECT: Science-driven Evaluation of LEgume Choice for Transformed livelihoods
    UK lead: Elizabeth Baggs, The University of Edinburgh
  4. Natural Pest Regulation on Orphan Crop Legumes in Africa (NaPROCLA)
    UK lead: Philip Stevenson, University of Greenwich
  5. Unlocking the Potential of Grasspea for Resilient Agriculture in Drought-prone Environments (UPGRADE)
    UK lead: Cathie Martin, John Innes Centre
  6. Improving production efficiency of African Eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa
    UK lead: Gerard Bishop, National Institute of Agricultural Botany
  7. GLTEN Africa: Cropping system diversity, a cornerstone of sustainable intensification.
    UK lead: Jonathan Storkey, Rothamsted Research
  8. Harnessing the benefits of African leafy vegetables for smallholder farmers and their households
    UK lead: Katherine Denby, University of York
  9. Mechanisms and genetics of iron toxicity tolerance in African rice
    UK lead: Guy Kirk, Cranfield University


Notes to editors

The workshop on 13-15 March 2017 was hosted by the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute Hub in Nairobi, Kenya. It was co-organised with BBSRC, the John Innes Centre and the Sustainable Intensification Research Network (SIRN). The report of the workshop is available on SIRN’s website.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is the area of the continent of Africa that lies south of the Sahara.

About the Global Challenges Research Fund

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Alongside the other GCRF delivery partners, BBSRC is creating complementary programmes that:

  • Promote challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, including the participation of researchers who may not previously have considered the applicability of their work to development issues
  • Strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in the UK and developing countries through partnership with excellent UK research and researchers
  • Provide an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

GCRF is part of the government’s commitment to allocate 0.7% of the UK’s Gross National Income to Official Development Assistance (ODA) for promoting the welfare and economic development of developing countries. As well as being scientifically excellent, research supported by GCRF must meet the criteria for classification of expenditure as ODA. For further information see: UK Research and Innovation: Global Challenges Research Fund.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £498 million in world-class bioscience in 2017-18. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

More information about UK Research and Innovation.
More information about BBSRC, our science and our impact.
More information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes.

Header image copyright: World Agroforestry Centre on Flickr by CC 2.0.


UK Research and Innovation Media Office

Tags: food security crops GCRF international funding BBSRC press release