The Founding Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), Professor Eric Y. Danquah, has argued that it is not right for students from Africa to study agriculture in some countries abroad.
According to him, Africa and Ghana, for instance, has one of the leading agriculture institutions in the world to train crop breeders for the benefit of the continent.
He cited the recent war in Ukraine, which compelled students from Africa to run for shelter, stating that some of these students were studying agriculture in that country.
“You recall that during the Russia-Ukraine war, you saw students from Africa running for shelter. Some of them were studying agriculture in Ukraine. It is ridiculous that we send our students to such countries to study agriculture when we have some of the leading agriculture universities in Ghana. Why can’t they access scholarships to study in Ghana or Africa?” he quizzed.
Prof. Danquah opined that it was important for Africa to begin thinking of how to retain talents, citing that funding should be made available as scholarships for all top graduating students to do their postgraduate studies in Africa.
On their part, he said WACCI has launched an endowment fund expecting to access about $50 million, though it has been “a challenge because governments are not supporting us.”
He said the fund was necessary as donor partners appeared stressed.
This fund, he explained, is an investment in good science, technology, and innovation to enable them to develop new crops.
Prof. Eric Danquah was speaking on the sidelines of a 3-day celebration of the 16th anniversary and alumni homecoming conference.
To mark the milestone, the Centre has outlined the 3-day event to serve as a special occasion to recognize and honor the exceptional contribution of WACCI alumni to food and nutrition security in 20 African countries.
The event also presents a unique opportunity for stakeholders and partners to converge, network, and strengthen partnerships. He said the event was to draw attention to the fact that Africa could come together to raise funds to support its students in agriculture.
There was a panel discussion on the strategies for identifying and attracting quality students, with Prof. Kwadwo Ofori, Associate Director Academic and Student Affairs, WACCI, leading.
Dr. Eric Danquah, speaking to the media after welcoming participants to the conference, said the anniversary was launched to create awareness for more people to be trained as plant breeders.
In his opening address, he stressed the importance of crop research and explained to the media that without research, varieties could not be continually developed.
He said for the past few years, WACCI has released three hybrid maize varieties that are resilient and yield 9–11 tons per hectare.
“In fact, our varieties are so robust that if you use them in the northern sector of Ghana, you can’t get less than 6 tons per hectare. Meanwhile some farmers don’t get even one ton per hectare of maize in their fields,” he asserted.
It was the view of Prof. Danquah that it was important for all farmers in Ghana to access improved varieties of crops, citing rice.
According to him, the varieties of rice in Ghana do not yield four tons per hectare, compared to Vietnam and Thailand, whose varieties yield about six tons per hectare.
He said that the aim of WACCI is to build resilience in Ghanaian crops and double the yields of all crops that farmers use, but it takes only research to improve.
The event, which opened yesterday in Accra, continues today and ends tomorrow.