Seven students including a physically challenged who were sponsored by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) on Friday graduated with Philosophy Degrees in Plant Breeding from the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) of the University of Ghana, Legon.
This brings to 35 the total number of plant breeders sponsored by the organisation for the past eight years.
The PhD holders were from Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cameroun with their research work targeting priority crops including maize, cowpea, sorghum and cassava.
Dr. Rufaro Madakadze Program Officer, Education and Training, AGRA commended group for their efforts and urged them to apply the skills to improve food security in Africa.
“You have acquired the skills, it’s your turn to apply that technology to produce new varieties that would boost food production for the continent,” she said.
She said the last 10 years have witnessed a significant growth in the agricultures sector as farmers, especially small holder farmers who constitute 70 per cent of the African population continue to increase production with the availability of improved seeds, fertilisers, and markets.
Dr. Madakadze said the continent had about 500 active breeders which was about a tenth of the number recommended
She said although, bridging this gap was still huge, the seven breeders would join the 28 others to conduct further research on higher yielding crop varieties for distribution to farmers.
“Their expertise combined with Africa’s weather, good soils and the industrious of African farmer, there is hope that improved yields of key staples would soon be available to promote food security, towards improved nutrition for general result in socio-economic growth and development,” she said.
The Director of WACCI, Professor Eric Danquah, expressed optimism that the beneficiaries would make transformative contribution to crop breeding not only in West Africa but across the entire continent.
He assured that the centre would continue to develop the needed human resource with the ability to generate improved crop varieties adapted to the sub region with farmer preferred traits.
Prof Danquah said though the centre was established to cater for the West Africa region, it currently hosts students from outside the sub-region.
“We have received unprecedented applications from the continent and appealed to AGRA to consider the centres achievements for the past eight years and provide it with more support.
Ms. Dorcas Olubunmi Ibitoye a Nigerian on behalf of colleagues commended AGRA for the support and promised to continue using her skill to provide solution teething problems confronting tomato farmers on the continent.
AGRA is an African-led alliance focused on putting farmers at the centre of the continents growing economy and advances uniquely African solutions to sustainably raise farmer’s productivity and connect them to a growing market.
It established the WACCI in 2007 to train plant breeders at the PhD level at the University of Ghana, Legon.
By Lawrence Vomafa-Akpalu