New Plant Breeders Release over 60 Improved Seed Varieties Boosting Africa’s Food Security

New Plant Breeders Release over 60 Improved Seed Varieties Boosting Africa’s Food Security

Accra, July 20, 2018 – Graduates from the AGRA-supported West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) have released over 60 improved seed varieties that are expected to boost food and nutrition insecurity in many communities throughout the sub region as well as lift millions out of poverty in the decade ahead.

The promotion and adoption of these crop varieties, that include maize, sweet potato, rice, cassava, groundnut, cowpea and taro by farmers will increase productivity and improve livelihoods in Africa.

In Ghana for instance, a hybrid maize breeding programme established in 2009 with funding from AGRA has led to the development and release of superior maize hybrids, with yields of up to 9 to 11 tonnes per hectare. These hybrids are being commercialised in partnership with a local seed company and are expected to be in farmers’ farms from next year and will significantly increase maize productivity in the West African region.

These announcements have been made on the occasion of graduation ceremony from the University of Ghana of 14 PhD students from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Uganda who researched on cassava, cowpea, groundnut, maize, pearl millet rice and sorghum with an aim to address farmers’ production constraints in their home countries. Of the 14 graduates, eight female and six male, six were funded by AGRA.

Joe DeVries, Vice President, Programme Development and Innovation, AGRA said: “It has been a privilege to support these students and we wait with baited breath to see what fantastic game-changing ideas will emerge from these bright and forward-looking people. We are proud to work with WACCI and the excellence it promotes in agricultural transformation.”

WACCI was established as a partnership between the University of Ghana and Cornell University in 2007 with initial funding from AGRA to train plant breeders in Africa to transform of agriculture in the West and Central African sub-regions for food and nutrition security. Now one of the World Bank’s Africa Centres of Excellence, the institution has grown to become the pre-eminent centre for plant breeding education in Africa and has more than doubled initial investments of US$ 11.2 million to over US$ 28 million.

The Centre has since inception, enrolled 114 PhD students in Plant Breeding and 36 students in MPhil Seed Science and Technology. A total of 66 PhD and nine MPhil students will have graduated from the WACCI programme by the July 2018 congregation. Of the 66 PhDs, 52 were funded by AGRA and many are actively leading plant breeding programmes aimed at increasing the productivity of the staple crops at the National Agricultural Research Institutes in their countries.

“The Centre continues to produce the much-needed human resources who are at the forefront of agricultural transformation and plant breeding activities across sub-Saharan Africa,” said Prof. Eric Danquah, Founding Director of WACCI. “These graduates have been equipped with entrepreneurial skills to enable them to set-up and manage seed businesses which will ultimately transform the seed industry in the sub-Saharan region,” added Prof. Danquah

The first graduating cohort of nine MPhil Seed Science and Technology students were enrolled under the World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence’s project in August 2015. This two-year innovative programme was developed in recognition of the dire need of the ailing seed industry in West and Central Africa.

As part of efforts to expand WACCI’s stature as a leading agricultural innovations and entrepreneurship institution that generates game-changing products needed for the inclusive transformation of African agriculture, a multi-purpose building will be completed in August 2018. This will provide world class research, teaching and learning facilities needed to attract strategic partners from around the world to make WACCI a preeminent global institution for world class agricultural research and training.

“I call upon African governments and development partners to prioritise institutions like WACCI for sustained core funding if they are desirous to transform agriculture in Africa, for agribusinesses cannot flourish in the region if development initiatives are not underpinned by science and technology,” explains Dr. DeVries.

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