Despite Ghana’s significant progress over the past twenty years in reducing poverty and hunger, food security remains threatened by rapid population growth, declining soil fertility, and climate change. The availability of high-yield, disease-resistant, and drought-resistant crop varieties is essential to mitigate these challenges. Ghana, however, does not have the necessary regulatory framework to protect the development of new plant varieties. This hinders the competitiveness of Ghana’s exports (including rice and tomatoes), which has fallen behind regional neighbors, resulting in continued dependence on imports for much of the country’s food supply.
Ghana is a key focus country of the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA), a five-year partnership led by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and supported by USAID. As part of PIATA’s efforts to catalyze and sustain an inclusive agricultural transformation, USAID and AGRA worked closely with Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture to advance legislation to promote the development and distribution of improved plant varieties. These efforts led Ghana’s parliament to pass the Plant Variety Protection Bill in late 2020.
This Bill protects the intellectual property rights of plant breeders. It also aligns with the 1961 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (to which Ghana is a signatory) and the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade and Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. By establishing a legal framework to promote research and development of new plants, Ghana has taken an important step towards expanding the availability of high-yield and resilient seed varieties and supporting an enabling environment for increased public and private investment.
Continued dialogue between policymakers, plant breeders, smallholder farmers, and civil society is critical to ensure that all stakeholders understand the importance of, and are able to benefit from, improved plant varieties. Through regular engagement with smallholder farmers, plant breeders may account for important concerns around soil fertility, climate change, and biodiversity. USAID and PIATA will continue to facilitate partnerships between the government, civil society, private sector, and other donors to keep all stakeholders involved throughout implementation of the new policy.
Capacity for impactful policy research expands across Africa and Asia
Last year, the Policy Research, Capacity, and Influence (PRCI) Innovation Lab (IL) launched to build the capacity of local research institutes and policy research networks in Africa and Asia to conduct research that can inform policy and programmatic decision-making at national, regional, and continental levels. By building the research capacity of these partners, tying that research to policy priorities, and funding their institutional strengthening, PRCI helps grow their reputations as sources of solid, evidence-based policy thinking and further grows the influence local institutes can exert.
Despite having to navigate an enormously challenging first year in the midst of COVID-19, PRCI IL met all of its first year objectives! Three policy research institutes in Africa were selected for capacity development, three integrated research and training programs were launched in Africa and Asia, and five competitive research teams were selected for mentoring. PRCI IL designed and implemented an online Core Center technical training program as well as a Special Topics training technical program that will segue to a research program in Year 2. The IL also supported the African Regional National Agricultural Policy Research Institute (ReNAPRI) in carrying out a highly interactive five-year strategic planning exercise. Finally, PRCI IL implemented a multi-country COVID-19 survey to examine policy impacts. Find the full annual report here.