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Daily Archives: June 30, 2018

High-quality research is needed to improve food security – Prof Danquah

High-quality research is needed to improve food security – Prof Danquah

By Iddi
Yire, GNA

Accra, June 28, GNA – High-quality research is
needed to improve food and nutrition security in the West African sub-region,
Professor Eric Y. Danquah, Founding Director, West Africa Centre for Crop
Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, has said.

Professor Danquah said there is, therefore,
the need to rebuild agricultural research capacity in the sub-region to develop
our institutions into Centres of Excellence for agricultural innovation and
quality research needed for the development of game changing products for the
transformation of agriculture in West and Central Africa.

He said any country that trains the majority
of its gifted students at the graduate level abroad was bound to lose a
significant percentage of talent needed for advanced research and called for
the strengthening of graduate schools in Africa to attract gifted students.

Prof Danquah lauded governments of West Africa
which have signed onto the World Bank Africa Centres of Excellence Impact
Project to strengthen postgraduate programmes and called for increased
investments in the Centres on a case by case basis.

He said these in an interview with the Ghana
News Agency during a recent a two-day workshop on demand-led plant variety
design, which was organised by WACCI, University of Ghana.

Prof Danquah said in the past, breeders did
not take account of what happens in the market place; adding that a number of
improved varieties that do not meet the needs of market and industry have been

He said as part of efforts to address the
situation, WACCI has put together a series of modules which would provide
students and breeders with the information they need to develop varieties for
the market and the industry.

The workshop sought to equip WACCI’s alumni
from different cohorts, students at various stages of PhD training and Masters’
students in Plant Breeding and Genetics in the Department of Crop Science with
the knowledge and tools needed for developing varieties for markets and

Prof Danquah said the adoption rates of
improved varieties were very low in the sub region adding that only 11 per cent
of farmers in the country use improved varieties.

He said if 50 per cent of farmers in Ghana
would use improved varieties, productivity would be high and this would satisfy
the needs of people and meet the market demand as well.

Prof Danquah said Ghana needs a critical mass
of plant breeders well trained with the knowledge and skills needed to develop
varieties that would put the smiles back on the faces of farmers as well as
meet the demand of markets and industry.

He also said institutions needed strengthening
in the area of infrastructure development to allow breeders to deliver on the

“Plant breeding has now become a top applied
science which means that you need laboratory facilities so that you can use
science to get the information that you precisely need to make informed
decisions,” he said.

Prof Danquah said well-equipped laboratories
are needed for effective plant breeding research adding that “this calls
for funding agricultural research to enable scientists do what they have been
trained to do”.

Prof Pangirayi Tongoona, Associate Director of
Breeding Programmes at WACCI, said the concept of the demand-led plant breeding
is to improve the adoption of improved varieties, as it provides an environment
for breeders to interact with people in the value chain.

Mr Mohammed Saba, a final year PhD student at
WACCI, said the old methods of designing breeding programmes and trying to
develop varieties for farmers have not really worked due to the non-involvement
of stakeholders.

He said there is a huge gap between adoption
in Africa and other parts of the world; “as such, for us to really compete
and be able to feed ourselves; we need to scale up the current practices and
expressed the hope that the demand-led plant variety design is the key to
achieving that.

Dr Matilda Bissah, a WACCI Alumni, commended
the Centre for the initiative adding that the training would enable
researchers, structure their breeding programmes such that they would come out
with varieties that would be much easier for farmers to adopt.



GIMODE: GMOs no panacea for food security needs

GIMODE: GMOs no panacea for food security needs


The fall armyworm crisis has brought to the fore one of the multifaceted failures that characterise the sad state of affairs in Kenya’s agriculture.

Ours is an agrarian economy and any shocks due to diseases, pests or climate change leave farmers susceptible to severe losses besides heightening the risk of starvation. The resultant instability in commodity prices influences inflation.

It, therefore, makes sense to find a solution to the predicament; hence the in-creasing calls for adoption of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) technology in agriculture.

Indeed, genetic engineering (GE) is a potent tool to combat plant diseases. In many places, it has proved effective in developing plants that are resistant to pests, such as the European corn borer in the United States, and viruses such as the one that was the cause of papaya ringspot in Hawaii.

However, GE is not the panacea for all crop problems. Usually, its success depends on the availability of what scientists call “simple genetic traits”.

For example, if GE is to be applied against fall armyworms, the resistance to the pest has to be mediated by ideally one or a few genes. If many genes are involved, GE just cannot work.

The phenomenon makes the resistance trait complex — as with most pest and disease resistances in plants. GE has, hence, been used in breeding for only a handful of crops and a few traits.

The US has the highest number of GM crops with only 10 commercially produced as GMOs. They are maize, soybean, papaya, canola, alfalfa, cotton, sugar beet, squash, potato and apple.

For a vast majority of agriculturally important traits such as yield and most pest and disease resistances, there exists a wide array of technologies for improved crop varieties — including conventional breeding, marker-assisted breeding and genomic selection.

While the debate on whether or not cultivation of GMOs should be allowed in Kenya rages, it is not the magic bullet to our food security challenges.

Instead, the government needs to heavily invest in agricultural research, attracting and retaining skilled scientists and incentivising the translation of research output into improved crop varieties. Even after the fall armyworm scourge, cli-mate change and other emerging pests and diseases will give us greater challenges to contend with.

The only way to assure food security is to anticipate these challenges and build responsive rather than reactive agricultural systems.

For every crop production region, we need teams of soil scientists, plant breeders, plant pathologists and agronomists constantly working in concert to develop improved varieties for future release.

Also needed are properly functioning seed systems to facilitate scaled production of improved seeds. Also vital is good infrastructure to convey produce to markets.
While I support speedy adoption of GE in Kenya, the issues plaguing our agriculture are more complex than is admitted. But we have the requisite resources intellectually and otherwise to turn the tide.

Mr Gimode is a graduate research assistant at the Institute of Plant Breeding Genetics and Genomics (IPBGG), University of Georgia, USA. [email protected]


Solutions for Food Security Challenges Remain Excellent Ideas for Entrepreneurship

Solutions for Food Security Challenges Remain Excellent Ideas for Entrepreneurship

Food security is a greater concern than ever before. According to one study by the United Nations, the human race may not be sustainable by the year 2100, because massive food shortages will be a major problem.

Modern food security concerns are not so severe, but they are still serious cause for concern. Climate change is making it more difficult for societies to produce the food they need to sustain the growing population. Food deserts are also a growing concern. Of course, one of the biggest concerns of all is the number of health problems people have these days, which make it difficult for them to consume food.

food security for entrepreneurs
Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Gajus

While all of these challenges present serious concerns for the global community, they also offer new opportunities for dedicated entrepreneurs. Here are some ways that business owners are tackling food security concerns to generate a profit.

Finding ways to scale food production

Food shortages are one of the biggest concern is that the world faces in the 21st-century. The biggest concern is not producing enough food for the world, but rather making sure that it is accessible. Unfortunately, it is difficult for agricultural companies to develop the necessary supply chain networks to distribute food to people that need it. Some regions are too far away for them to ship food and ensure its quality. Others are not even accessible at all.

Many entrepreneurs are coming up with solutions to scale food production. These include new aquaponic systems, which can help people produce up to four times as much food with 90% less land and water. Other solutions allow people to grow food in their own homes, which is ideal for people living in urban areas where they don’t have large plots of land to grow food on.

Producing food for people with various health problems

Unfortunately, many people have serious health problems which limit their ability to eat. Food allergies are obviously the biggest issue that they face.

One of my brother’s old friends was allergic to almost every natural food known to man. He had to live off of special food that wouldn’t trigger an allergic reaction.

“I can’t express how grateful I am every single day for the companies that produce the food I eat,” he told me. “For many people, new food items are a fad. For me, it is necessary to even survive. I would have died of starvation or an allergic reaction half a century ago. I just have to hope that I never get stranded on a desert island!”

While food allergies are the biggest reasons that people can’t eat normal food, there are other health problems that require attention too. They may have health problems that make it hard for them to process food without using a food thickener. The good news is that new thickeners such as Simply Thick have filled this void.

Tackling Food Challenges will be one of the biggest entrepreneurial opportunities of this century

Food is one of the most basic human needs. Unfortunately, even in the 21st Century, it is not always readily available. There are a lot of reasons that people face the risk of starvation.

There are a number of problems that require solutions. Clever entrepreneurs that tackle these problems will have the opportunity to make a lot of money, while also getting the satisfaction of doing good for the world. What problems do you think food entrepreneurs will tackle next? The opportunities seem virtually endless as we enter a new era of food security challenges around the world.

The post Solutions for Food Security Challenges Remain Excellent Ideas for Entrepreneurship appeared first on Catalyst For Business.