The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, as part of its efforts to address food insecurity in West Africa, has held a two-day capacity building workshop for plant breeders. The workshop, dubbed: “Demand Led Variety Design (DLVD),” which is run bi-annually at the Centre, was attended by 25 WACCI-trained plant breeders from the West African sub-region.
The participants were from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal. The objective was to equip the plant breeders with the knowledge and skills for engaging stakeholders in plant variety design to increase adoption rates of improved varieties in Africa.
Topics taught included Principles of DVLD, Visioning and foresight for setting breeding goals, Understanding clients, New variety design and product profiling, Variety development strategy and stage plan, Monitoring, evaluation and learning, and Making use of investments in new variety development.
Professor Pangirayi Tongoona, the Deputy Director of WACCI, in-charge of Breeding Programmes and the Lead Workshop Instructor, expressed gratitude to the sponsors for their assistance and the University of Queensland for managing the funds. The sponsors include Alliance for Agricultural R&D for Food Security, which comprises the Australian International Food Security Research Centre (AIFSRC), the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, and the Crawford Fund.
Prof. Pangirayi Tongoona instructing the participants at the DVLD workshop
Prof. Tongoona said in an interview with the Ghana News Agency that the workshop sought to increase the adoption of improved varieties that came from breeders in Africa due to the low adoption rates and, thus, the reason for the generally low agricultural yields in the sub-region. He said the workshop, which was the third in the series, aimed to create awareness of the concept of Demand Led Plant Breeding to breeders, thus breeders have to consult with stakeholders in the whole value chain of the crop before designing their varieties to make it acceptable.
Dr Solomon Afuape, the Head of Sweet Potato Breeding Programme, National Root Crops Research Institute, Nigeria, and a participant, explained the need for new plant breeders to participate in such workshops to be abreast of modern plant breeding procedures.“With this procedure, the varieties released by the plant breeder are acceptable to the farmer and the market because they match up to the tastes and preferences. In all, the whole process works towards achieving food security for the entire population,” he said.
Prof. Eric Danquah, the Director of WACCI, commended the participants for returning to their home countries after graduation to play their roles in the fight against food and nutrition insecurity and creating time to retool at WACCI.
Speaking on developments at the Centre, he said a multipurpose building was being constructed, which should be completed by July 2018, to provide a platform for delivering world-class instruction and also attract strategic partners.
Prof. Danquah said that the Centre was developing a Community of Practice of plant breeders who would network to deliver solutions to the problems that challenged farmers and hoped that the knowledge and skills acquired by participants would be useful in their work.
He charged the graduates to work hard to publish their PhD research work in peer-reviewed journals to give visibility to the Centre and assured them of WACCI’s support well into the future.
Prof. Eric Danquah, Director, WACCI, addressing the participants at the workshop
WACCI (www.wacci.edu.gh) was established in 2007 as a partnership between University of Ghana and Cornell University, USA with initial funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), to train plant breeders at the PhD level for the West African sub-region.
It has enrolled 108 PhD students and trained 52 PhD graduates who have initiated plant breeding programmes in their home institutions, which has led to the release of improved varieties in many countries in West and Central Africa.
Participants of the workshop in a group photograph