Agribusiness must be driven by science and technology- WACCI Director

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Prof Eric Danquah (second left) in group photograph with the AGRA delegation

Accra, Sept. 4, GNA – Africa needs to mainstream the utilization of science and technology to drive agribusinesses, Professor Eric Danquah, the Founding Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, has said.
     He noted that agribusiness would not flourish if the drive is not underpinned by a good science and technology.
     He said WACCI’s yet-to-be launched enterprise hub for agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship would be a game changing platform to equip the youth with the knowledge and skills to run businesses.
     Prof Danquah said this, when Mr Hailemariam Dessalegn Boshe, Board Chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and former Prime Minister of Ethiopia paid a courtesy call on him in Accra.
     Mr Boshe was accompanied by Dr Agnes Kalibata, AGRA President and five other members of the AGRA Board.
     The visit was to enable the AGRA delegation to have an overview of the impact of the efforts by WACCI towards becoming the foremost Centre for post-graduate training and research in crop improvement in Africa.
     The AGRA Board is also in Ghana as part of the African Green Revolution Forum, which is being hosted by the Government of Ghana, this year.
     AGRA is one of the architects of WACCI, supporting its educational programs for research; the idea is to see how best the partnership could lead to the commercializing of some of the top hybrids that they have been able to release.
     Prof Danquah noted that, a five -week startup labs with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States (US), which was held recently, saw students who had no knowledge about businesses, pitching after the training.
    Touching on its maize breeding programme, he stated that, WACCI had developed three maize hybrids yielding nine to 11t/ha.
     He said the hybrids had been approved by the National Varietal Release and Registration Committee for release and commercialisation.
     The Director said the Centre was scaling up and commercialising the maize hybrids in partnership with LCIC and government to ensure farmers have access to improved seeds.
     He said in 2018, WACCI received a grant of eight million dollars to bolster postgraduate programmes, improve curricular, attract Visiting Scientists from Advanced Laboratories, offer specialised courses for research scientists, expand research capacity, and work with industry and other academic partners in the region.
     He said the aim of the African Centre of Excellent (ACE) Project at WACCI was to train plant breeders, who would be at the forefront of developing superior climate-smart and resilient varieties of staple crops to increase productivity.
     He said, again, WACCI had been selected to receive a grant of $5.5 million, under a new project, ACE impact, to transform the Centre into an agricultural innovation and entrepreneurship institution.
     Prof Danquah said the expected outputs and outcomes under ACE II were improved, resilient, productive, marketable and profitable varieties of soybean, maize, tomato and cassava for agricultural transformation and prosperity in Africa.
     Mr Boshe in an interview with the Ghana News Agency lauded WACCI for its role in transforming Africa’s agriculture.
     “WACCI is one of the Pan-African institutions that is working on agricultural research and human capital development by training young professionals in plant breeding and strategic staple food crops.”
     He noted that Africa was moving towards the right direction and therefore, needed the requisite support.
     He said however, African governments must be on top this agenda and as well adopt science and technology that would ensure a drastic change within the food and agriculture system.
     WACCI was established at the University of Ghana in 2007 with initial funding from AGRA, to train the next generation of Plant Breeders at the PhD level.
     An innovative Masters Programme in Seed Science and Technology was launched under the World Bank Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) project in 2015.
      Since its inception, the Centre has enrolled 127 PhD Plant Breeding students and 49 MPhil Seed Science and Technology students from 19 countries in Africa.
     The WACCI’s 81 PhD graduates and 14 MPhil graduates are now transforming breeding programmes of National Agricultural Research Institutions (NARIs) in their home countries.

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