Eric Yirenkyi Danquah is a Professor of Plant Genetics at the Department of Crop Science, College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences. He is also the founding Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement, an institution established in the University of Ghana as a consequence of his shared vision and leadership.
Eric Danquah had his primary education at Akosombo Experimental School from 1964 to 1972. He sat the Common Entrance Examination and gained admission in 1972 into the Presbyterian Boys Secondary School (PRESEC), Legon, where he completed his GCE “O” and “A” Level in 1977 and 1979 respectively. He entered the University of Ghana in September 1979, obtaining his BSc. Agriculture degree (Crop Science) in 1984. At the University of Ghana, he was the Organising Secretary of the PRESEC Old Boys’ Association, Legon Branch and the University of Ghana Agricultural Science Students’ Association in the 1981/82 academic years. He was also the Sports Secretary of Legon Hall in the same academic year and the University of Ghana Handball goalkeeper from 1980 to 1982.
Following his first degree, he spent six months as an intern on a large mechanised dairy and cereals farm at 8761 Neunkirchen, Germany. He returned to Ghana in November 1984 for his National Service with the Ghana Education Service. In October 1986, he entered Cambridge University, UK on a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Shared Scholarship to study for an MPhil degree in Plant Breeding at the Department of Applied Biology. In November 1987, he returned to Ghana and had a two-year stint in the Department of Crop Science, University of Ghana before returning to the University of Cambridge in October 1989 as a Commonwealth Scholar for his PhD research, which he completed in June 1993. His thesis titled ‘Natural selection and the evolution of adaptedness in composite cross V of barley’ was carried out in the laboratory of Dr. John Barrett in the Department of Genetics. Following his PhD, he served as a Post-doctoral Fellow at Plant Breeding International, Cambridge where he worked on “Maize-Wheat” intercrosses and the North American Barley Genome mapping project.
In February 1994, he was appointed Lecturer in the Department of Crop Science, University of Ghana. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2001, Associate Professor in 2004 and Full Professor in 2007. He has served the University in several capacities. He was Senior Tutor of Legon Hall from 2002 to 2005, Head of Department of Crop Science from 2005 to 2006 and Dean of International Programmes from 2006 to 2009. He is currently a member of the Business and Executive Committee and the Assessor for Sciences on the Appointments Board of the University. He has sat on the Finance and Estimates Committees and served on a number of other committees in the University. He was instrumental in securing funding for the Water Augmentation Programme of the University in the mid-2000s when as Senior Tutor of Legon Hall he made a request to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
Professor Danquah’s professional focus is on genetic diversity in crop plants and their associated pests, with an emphasis on molecular genetics and biotechnology. He has taught a number of courses including Introductory Genetics, Principles of Biotechnology, Genetics and Plant Breeding, Molecular Genetics and Population Genetics in the College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences and co-supervised over 20 post-graduate students, including four PhDs.
He was a Visiting Scientist at the Long Ashton Research Institute of the Biological and Biotechnology Science Research Council (BBSRC), UK from 2000 to 2001 where he developed Simple Sequence Repeats (also known as Microsatellites) for Echinochloa species. His research resulted in premier publications in Molecular Ecology Notes and the Weed Research Journal of Europe. He was also a Visiting Scientist at Cornell University in May 2005 and May 2006, and Michigan State University from July to September 2006. At Michigan, he developed a curriculum for Biosafety in the area of Biotechnology for use in the training of students and scientists in West Africa. He has participated in over 70 international meetings the world over. In April 2010, he was the Saul O’ Sidore Lecturer at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA.
Professor Danquah has consulted for the Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He was a member of the IFAD International Review Team that evaluated the 10 million dollar Root and Tuber Improvement Programme in Ghana in 2003. He was a member of the FAO Task Force that developed the strategy for the Global Partnership Initiative on Plant Breeding capacity in September 2007 and April 2008 in Rome, Italy. From August 2008 to February 2009, he served on the six-member international panel (External Programme Management Review team) on the International Crops Research Centre for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), headquartered in India. The report published by the Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research triggered a worldwide reorganisation of the work of ICRISAT and led to increased investments in Biotechnology Research at ICRISAT-West and Central Africa. He was a member of the International Peer Review Committee of the Volkswagen Foundation’s Africa Initiative on “Resources, their dynamics and sustainability - Capacity Development, Comparative and Integrative Approaches” in 2009 and 2010. He is a Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical and Cambridge Commonwealth Societies as well as a member of the Centre of Specialisation Management Committee of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme, Ghana, the Technical Advisory Committee of the National Biosafety Committee of Ghana and the Board of the African Centre for Crop Improvement, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Professor Danquah has been the principal recipient of a number of national and international research grants that have supported the training of several postgraduate students in the area of Biotechnology, including two PhD students currently training in the area of functional genomics at the University of Paris XI, Orsay, France. Currently, 98 PhD students have enrolled (35 have completed) on his WACCI-led project which has attracted over 20 million dollars into the University for the training of plant breeders. He has 50 refereed journal articles, 4 books, a book chapter and over 40 other publications to his credit.