Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Founder Director of the West African   Centre for Crop Improvement at the University of Ghana
Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Founder Director of the West African Centre for Crop Improvement at the University of Ghana

Prioritise investment in agricultural research - Prof. Danquah urges govt

The government has been urged to prioritise investment in agricultural research and innovation to increase food production in the country.

Such a measure will also help reduce the importation of food commodities and make the country self-reliant.

The Founder Director of the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra, said his outfit had developed high-yielding hybrid tomato varieties and white maize.

“During the maize planting season, ridiculously this country has to import hybrid seeds, sometimes from as far as South Africa, for farmers to plant.

“Also, we import over $150m worth of fresh tomatoes from Burkina Faso annually, whereas tomato seeds for planting are imported from France, Israel, among other countries,” he said.

Promote innovation

Prof. Danquah also said it was critical for the government to concentrate on promoting local innovation and stop the importation of hybrid seeds.

He said the money used for such importations could be channelled into public-private partnerships (PPPs) to scale up hybrid seed production in the country.

“We have these hybrid seeds which are fantastic, but because of the policy environment, our markets have been flooded with subsidised seeds.

“Our local entrepreneurs, therefore, are discouraged from getting the local hybrid seeds because they will not be making much profit, compared to imported subsidised seeds which are cheaper,” he said.

He further said the “lack of prioritisation of local innovation and the reliance on importation are not going to help the country”.

“What we need is for leadership to understand that this country cannot move forward if we do not develop our own agriculture,” the director added.

COVID-19

On the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof. Danquah said it was important that nations, including Ghana, learnt lessons from its outbreak.

“We must remember that during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were delays in the importation of products for farmers, and some countries, such as Vietnam, also stopped exporting rice.

“This means we need to be self-reliant; we need to develop our system, so that we do not rely on other countries to get seeds for farmers to plant,” he said.

Human capital

Prof. Danquah also said there was the need to grow human capital in agriculture, adding that the WACCI had trained some plant breeders for the country and Africa.

“We started our programme in 2007 and have today trained over 24 plant breeders for Ghana and 115 for over 15 countries in Africa.

“On an annual basis, our smart students leave the country to train outside, the reason being that our graduate schools are under-developed, except the few programmes that are available, such as WACCI.

“If the government makes available fellowships for smart students to enrol in world-class programmes in Africa, we will see development in our graduate schools,” he said.

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