The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) has celebrated its 16th anniversary with an alumni homecoming, which recognised and honoured the exceptional contributions of the Centre’s alumni to food and nutrition security in 20 African countries.
The three-day alumni homecoming and anniversary celebration presented a unique opportunity for stakeholders and partners to converge, network, and strengthen partnerships.
At the Cedi Conference Centre, University of Ghana, Legon, on Thursday, WACCI held its 16th anniversary celebration, which told the story of the Centre from its inception to its vision for the future.
The Founding Director of WACCI, Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah made a presentation about the journey of the Centre. He stated that the strategic plan for the Centre from 2024–2028 was almost ready.
He mentioned the already launched endowment fund, which is seeking to solicit some US$50 million to support Ph.D. students at the Centre.He also stated that the Centre would work to have a sustainable funding model, mainly for research-intensive public-private partnerships.
The Centre further seeks to mobilise resources, adopt some communication strategies and also make a compelling case to African governments and development partners for investment.
Encouraging alumni of the Centre, the Founding Director stated that the “WACCI story must be told.”
The event saw students drawn from some of the Senior High schools in Accra, including Accra Academy and Presbyterian Boys, Legon.
In his presentation, Prof. Eric Danquah encouraged the students to pursue courses in agriculture, as the area holds many prospects for their future.
The Founding Director mentioned that the Centre has so far invested some $40 million, enrolled 160 PhDs from 20 African countries and graduated 105 PhDs from 15 African countries.
He said the Centre, through its alumni, has attracted some $62 million in grants and released some 279 varieties of improved crops that are now on farmers’ fields.
The Centre, Prof. Danquah said, trains farmers in their fields “so that farmers farm better to increase productivity in their fields.
The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Bryan Acheampong, commended the Centre for its contribution to crop development in Ghana while assuring them of the support of the government and his ministry.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Yaw Frimpong,he called for the strengthening of the strategic partnership that had contributed to the success story of the Centre.
He mentioned that “farmers in our regions are in need of resilient, nutritious, and robust varieties of crop from research fields to farmers’ fields and eventually to our tables.”
He emphasised that his ministry would leverage technology and the expertise of WACCI to improve agriculture in the country.
He promised to create an enabling environment as minister by fostering stronger collaborations with existing and potential partners that are making contributions globally.
The Minister for Education, Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, in a speech delivered on his behalf by Rev. John Ntim Fordjour, Deputy Minister for Education, said the government was putting measures in place to enrich education in Ghana.
He indicated that work was being done to operationalize the national research and education fund bill, and that very soon scientists and other scholars would benefit from it.
He highlighted the credentials of WACCI and commended them for their achievement, but urged them not to rest on their laurels.
In her closing remarks as the Chairperson of the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor, UG, Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo stated that “the WACCI story is indeed a good one.”
She said the WACCI story was a demonstration of the quality of scientists and scholars in Ghana, but urged Africa to emulate Britain, which hugely funds its researchers.
Prof. Appiah Amfo believes it is time for Africa to fund its agriculture institutions, like WACCI, and depart from solely relying on external funding.
She urged the government to quicken the steps to operationalize the national research funds, adding that research was key to driving development in the country.