KNUST Secures Funds To Train Soil Scientists

A 6.2 million-dollar grant has been invested into the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, by the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an international non-governmental organisation (NGO), to produce soil scientists in the country.

The grant, specifically given to the KNUST’s Faculty of Agricultural (FoA) under AGRA’s Soil Health Project (SHP), is to sponsor nationals from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Niger in Masters (MSc) and Doctorate (PHD) programmes in Soil Health.

The Project Co-ordinator, Prof. R.C. Abedu, explained to journalists at the faculty on Friday, that the programme aimed at producing more soil scientists to improve soil quality in the sub-region to positively impact on food security.

He said the project had allocated 2,195,348 dollars for the 20 students offering PHD, and 500,157 dollars for the 15 students pursuing MSc. Enrolments were made in 2010, with the first graduation expected in November this year.

Explaining the course structures, Prof Abedu said a new curriculum, different from the traditional course module, was put up by a team of “experienced soil professors” from the beneficiary countries.

This, he said, reflects on communication in agriculture, agriculture business and an Integrated Soil Fertility Management that goes beyond fertilizer application to making the earth rich enough to maintain its potency even in the face of environmental degradation, erosion and other fertility impeding factors.

“The intention is to improve the health of the soil”, said Prof. Abedu. “We believe that without the soil, there is no way we can get a healthy crop and a healthy food security. The situation was really bad and that is what, I think, prompted AGRA to come in to invest.

“For me, AGRA must never die. Agriculture, in general, has suffered in terms of capacity building. Statistics show that only two per cent of agriculture scientists are soil scientists so you can imagine what this means if really soil research is important for the sustainability of food production,” he stressed

Dean of the FoA, Prof. Richard Akromah, counting the benefits enjoyed by the Faculty in the project, said thanks to AGRA, the “Faculty is now a regional centre for agriculture training since they admit students from other foreign nations”.

He said the grant has reduced their financial burden so much that they have gotten the room to invest their internally generated funds to equip their library to a required standard, built a graduate school block and provided internet at the faculty to ease up student’s research.

A Nigerian beneficiary pursuing MSc, Dorcas Ezekiel Adewoyin, was full of thanks to AGRA since “I could not have done this without AGRA’s help. Back home in Nigeria, people use expensive loans to see themselves through courses like this and you would marvel how difficult it is for them to pay back these loans after they have completed the course.”

For Ghanaian PHD student, Bismark Parker, ‘doing PHD in Ghana, was for me very difficult because one never knows when one would complete. But this one is different since it enjoins the faculty to graduate at least, some of the students after four years’.

From Kingsley E. Hope, Kumasi

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