The RCAL Program

Rich Crops Action Lab

The Rich Crops Action Lab Vision™

The Rich Crops Action Lab (RCAL) platform is inspired to reach beyond the success of the Rich Oats for Africa (ROA) program and aims to expand the vision and impact of introducing and deploying more nutritionus crops. The strategic vision of the RCAL platform is to foster innovation to deliver resilient crops that provide reliable nutrition. This will include (i) accelerated breeding innovations, (ii) technical assistance, transfer, and training, (iii) seed systems development, and (iv) increasing market demand for farm production through the expanded capacity of agro-processors serving consumers that seek locally produced, nutritious foods.

RCAL will continue to work in the core countries of Morocco, Ethiopia, and Nigeria while also exploring expansion into neighboring countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The crops under development will also expand beyond oats to include other nutritious cereals – barley and select wheat varieties. As the platform grows, other Rich Crops will be evaluated for inclusion, development, and release into focus countries. Rich varieties can benefit farming communities, develop local economies, and anchor resilient systems by working in regions already using these crops in traditional foods.

Rich Oats for Africa Background

Funded by the Sall Family Foundation, Rich Oats for Africa (ROA) was a 6-year program (2017-2023) that was inspired to re-introduce nutritious oat varieties from the first successful domestication of a native plant of the Atlas Mountains in current-day Morocco – Avena magna. The ROA program focused on three countries: Morocco, Ethiopia, and Nigeria.

ROA accomplished this by developing and releasing new Rich Oat varieties in all three countries – starting from varietal development, moving into germplasm transfer, native adaptation, and validation trials, and through product registration – all within the program timeframe. The new oat varieties deliver significant nutritional advantages over common oats: (i) twice the protein, (ii) 2-3x the iron, zinc, magnesium, and folic acid, and (iii) a 25% increase in calories and B vitamins.

Resourced also worked with NARS research partners across each country to develop a pipeline for future oat breeding, supporting technology transfer and technical training for novel accelerated breeding innovations.
Seed system advocacy in Ethiopia led to adding oats to the national food crop mandate and selection as a nutritional security crop for the highland regions. Native Avena magna (Moroccan oats) and Avena abyssinica (Ethiopian oats) were brought back into their historic centers of origin to support nutritional development and food security. Rich Oats were also the first varieties of oats ever released in Nigeria. Through these efforts, ROA increased the availability, access, and acreage of a climate-resilient and soil-smart crop across all three countries.

Vision for Change

By working in regions already using these crops in traditional foods, rich varieties can benefit farming communities, develop local economies, and anchor resilient systems.

Production and Product Testing

Agronomy and Sensory panel trials will target local production of local foods, looking at factors such as nutritional profile to create high-protein, locally adapted crops.

Agro-Processing and Food Manufacturing

Focusing on nutritious food products in school food programs, replacing imported-based foods, and empowering community-level processing for system change.

From the Rich Oats for Africa Program

Inspiring Sustainable Businesses

YAMNA women’s cooperative in Morocco has incorporated Rich Oats into their traditional food products, including cous cous.

NutriDense, a woman-owned agro-processing enterprise in Ethiopia, has built the first factory for locally produced oat foods. Resourced funded processing equipment pilots to validate the milling procedures and business potential for oat-based products.

Watch the close-up with Alem Abraha, an oat processor and founder of Nutridense: