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
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
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.