fbpx

Ghanaian expert wins $100,000 Africa Food Prize

BY: Rosalind K. Amoh
Another Ghanaian expert wins $100,000 Africa Food Prize
Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah

A Ghanaian plant geneticist, Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, has won the 2022 Africa Food Prize at the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) AGRF2022 Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Africa Food Prize is the AGRF’s highest award that recognises outstanding individuals or institutions that are leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa.

Prof. Danquah, a founding director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) is being celebrated for his outstanding expertise, leadership and grantsmanship skills that led to the establishment and development of the centre as a world-class facility for training plant breeders in Africa for Africa.

He was chosen ahead of other nominees by a distinguished judging panel of leaders in African agriculture, comprising Africa Food Prize Committee President former Nigeria President, Olusegun Obasanjo, Dr Vera Songwe, Dr Eleni Z. Gabre- Madhin, Dr KamauRutenberg, Mr Birama Sidibé and Prof. Sheryl Hendriks, and Dr Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli.

Africa Green Revolution Forum

The AGRF is the world’s premier forum for African agriculture, bringing together stakeholders in the agricultural landscape to take practical actions and share lessons that will move African agriculture forward. Rwanda is hosting the 12th annual summit of the forum in Kigali from September 5 -9, under the theme: “Grow, Nourish, Reward – Bold Actions for Resilient Food Systems.”

Award, announcement

Announcing the winner at the Forum, the Committee Chairman, former President Obasanjo said Prof. Danquah’s achievement was truly remarkable, given the way he had inspired and helped transformed the WACCI.

“It is a great privilege to be able to honour and shine a spotlight on the truly remarkable achievements of Prof. Danquah.

“His leadership in genetic innovation inspires the future of food security and nutrition in Africa and has made a tangible difference to how a new generation is working to improve African food systems. He has been and continues to be, a true inspiration for many young minds.

“On behalf of the African Food PrizeCommittee, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations and appreciation for his continuing endeavours,” Mr Obansanjo said.

Giving a brief background to Prof. Danquah’s works, the committee said through his leadership, WACCI attracted more than$30M US dollars of research and development funding and trained more than 120 PhD and 49MPhil students in Seed Science and Technology from 19 African countries.

This has led to more than 60 improved seed varieties, including superior maize hybrid varieties, which will help boost yield for farmers and contribute towards food and nutrition security.

Currently, the institution boasts a new molecular biology/tissue culture laboratory, a bio informaticsn nplatform, and cutting-edge university farms including a US$300,000 ultra-modern screen house for controlled experiments.

This year’s winner selection is a reflection of the importance of promoting science and technology as tools to develop solutions for sustainable food systems.

Reacting to the news of being named the winner, Prof. Danquah said he was honoured by the award, and the commendation of the role of research and science in Africa’s approach to agriculture.

“The award recognises the crucial work we do to train crop researchers at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement.

“The time is now for more first-class science by Africans in Africa for Africa, in collaboration with global partners to change the narrative on our agriculture.

“Without genetic innovation driven by good science, our vision for resilient food systems will tarry,” Prof. Danquah maintained.

Prof. Danquah, also a former director of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana, founded the WACCI in 2007 at the University of Ghana, with the “aim of training a new generation of plant breeders to develop improved varieties of staple crops in West and Central Africa.”

He is a Professor of Plant Genetics at the Department of Crop Science of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, University of Ghana.

In 2013, he was awarded the University of Ghana’s Distinguished Award for Meritorious Service.

His works have seen him receive a number of international honours as well and these include, being made a member of the IAEA’s Standing Advisory Group on NuclearApplications.

In 2018, he was also awarded the Global Confederation of Higher EducationAssociations for Agricultural and Life Sciences(GCHERA) World Agriculture Prize for his significant contribution to the mission of the University of Ghana through education, research and knowledge transfer for the benefit of society, the youngest and fi rst African to win the prize which was established in 2013.