One of the seventeen students who graduated with a PhD in plant breeding from the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), Legon, Dr Kolawole Adesike Oladoyir, has said she would soon develop a scientific methodology in fighting the invasion of fall armyworms in Ghana and other West African countries.

She said the armyworm invasion has been a major phenomenon facing countries all over the world, a situation that is increasing the cost of maize on the local market due to the resultant low yields.

To that end, Dr Oladoyir said there was the need for her to utilize the skills and knowledge that she has acquired from WACCI to develop new and more efficient ways of tackling the menace.

Speaking to ClassFMonline.com on the sidelines of the graduation ceremony at Legon on Friday July 21, Dr Adesike Oladoyir said, “The truth is that this problem (Fall Armyworm invasion) is in Nigeria too, it is even affecting sorghum too, aside from maize in Nigeria.

“The price of maize keeps skyrocketing because of this problem because the farmers don’t have the yield they are supposed to be having. Research has been going on and now that I am done with my PhD, I can look into it so that we can all solve the problem together.

Touching on why she studied the breeding of maize varieties, Dr Adesike Oladoyir who currently teaches at the Ladoke Akinlola University of Technology, Ogbonoso Oyo State, Nigeria said, “This is a staple in the sub region grown and consumed in almost every state, so we need to keep increasing yields so as to meet the demand.

Another graduate who studied about breeding varieties of sweet potato and currently working with the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, South-East Nigeria, Dr Solomon Afuape, said, “When I came to WACCI in Ghana, I was able to learn how to manipulate more and get the kind of improved crop which will be more acceptable to the farmers. Today, I can say with the knowledge that has been gained in WACCI during my study and the materials I was able to gather during my research programme that I have been able to apply what I have learned at WACCI to develop new materials that I know that the farmers will not be able to turn their eyes away from it.

WACCI was established with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution In Africa (AGRA) in 2007 to train more plant breeders in West and Central Africa in order to meet the growing demand of food.

Dr Rufaro Madakadze, Programmes Officer at AGRA, noted that the centre, since its inception and with funding from AGRA, has graduated 53 PhD students who have studied on the breeding of varieties for different crops.

These breeders, she said, were doing exceptionally well in their countries with the knowledge they gained from the centre.

She told ClassFMonline.com in an interview on the day of the graduation that, “WACCI is 10 years old now and this is the highest number of people we have graduated from the centre. Today, they graduated 17 people from seven countries in West Africa. This is unprecedented on the continent because we haven’t heard of such a concerted effort in training plant breeders as we have seen WACCI do.

“The students have been working on a wide range of crops – maize, millet, cassava and all the priority crops for the sub region. With these 17, it brings to 53 the total number of students that WACCI has graduated, AGRA funded them.”

She added, “Some of the students we have graduated are doing great. Some of the first maize varieties released in Mali are drought-tolerant and it is something that has completely transformed their countries. We at AGRA will still be working with WACCI in a, may be, reduced capacity. In the last 10 years we have fully funded the training of 53 of the 108 students that WACCI has.”

Prof Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Director of WACCI also said: “We are expecting that the students will add on to the critical mass we are working at attaining in our research institutions because without the critical mass, you cannot take agriculture forward.

We need a critical mass of human capacity in the various research stations because, for example, for some crops, what you find is that you don’t have properly trained individuals who can develop new varieties of crops for increased productivity.

“So our expectation is that all of our 17 plant breeders will make a huge contribution to the development of their various countries in the area of developing new varieties to address the food and nutrition insecurity in their countries. The urgency in this cannot be overemphasized …we need drought-resistance maize hybrid crops. Recently WACCI released 3 hybrid maze varieties following a painstaking research and multi-locational trials.”

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