Ten plant breeders sponsored by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) a non- governmental organisation, last Saturday graduated with Phd honours from the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, Legon.
The group from Ghana, Nigeria Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya and Niger brings to 28 of the number of plant breeders trained at the centre.
The Director of the centre, Professor Eric Y. Danquah, told the media that training Africans on crops would help address the food challenges facing the continent.
According to him, 53 more plant breeders were undergoing training at various stages of their Phd’s and urged African governments to set aside a percentage of their agriculture budgets to help train more plant breeders for the continent.
He indicated that no university could single handedly produce plant breeders to feed the agriculture sector because every country needs about 500 experts whose research activities would constantly produce new plants that would stand the test of time.
“The country needed about 500 plant breeders to ensure food sustainability, adding that, “each crop needs about two breeders, a situation that calls for constant training,” he said.
Prof. Danquah, hinted that since 50 to 80 per cent of African soils were acidic, the efforts of the breeders must yield better varieties that could resist diseases, reduce cooking time as well as identify new challenges confronting farmers.
He indicated that the graduates have produced promising varieties of new plant breeds and would return to their home countries and continue to develop varieties that are not yet grown.
The Director stated that the AGRA programme would end in 2018 and hinted that the centre is developing a strategic plan to train more plant breeders.
“We are in the process of bringing on board more strategic partners to improve capacity at the centre as well as exchange programmes with sister institutions to advance the course of quality training,” he said.
Prof. Danquah said the centre had been endorsed by an external panel to become one of the top plant dreading centres in Africa.
He urged for more resources to equip farmers with the knowledge to enable them enter the value chain, adding that, “farmers need the value chain as well as the university to produce”.
He said AGRA had expressed interest in continuing the partnership towards launching a one stop shop for all vegetable crops and other root crops that are key to food security.
By Lawrence Vomafa-Akpalu