The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) received a two-member team from the African Union – European Union (AU-EU) on February 13, 2019 led by Dr. Monica Ebele Idinoba for monitoring and evaluation on work that has been done in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria with the grant awarded to the Centre. Prof. E. Y. Danquah, the Director of the Centre welcomed the team and briefed them on the progress of the project and the need for the AU-EU to help train African scientists to solve problems in Africa. He also stressed on the need for African Leaders to rise up and help leading Centres of Higher Education like WACCI for the transformation of the continent.
AU-EU team addressing WACCI Prof. Danquah addressing the AU-EU team
Under this US$ 1 million grant, WACCI is collaborating with its alumni in Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria to work with government and industry partners on Crop and Soil Health Improvement for sustainable Agricultural Intensification Towards Economic Transformation in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The 3-year project aims to address issues related to the food and nutrition security objectives of the African Union under its Competitive Research Grants Scheme supported by the European Union.
Dr. Monica Ebele Idinoba in her introductory speech explained that the purpose for monitoring and evaluation is to ensure that institutions are working towards achieving their goals and to also ensure that their finance is meeting the budget.
Dr. John S.Y. Eleblu, an Investigator on the AU-EU project who also doubles as the Coordinator, Research Programs for Francophone Africa, WACCI delivered a presentation on the progress work on the major work packages under the project: Research for Development, Value Chain Workshops on target crops, Farmer Field Schools and overall administration of the project. The crops include Maize, Cowpea, Rice and Tomato. He intimated that Dr. Dorcas Ibitoye, an alumnus of WACCI who is developing Tomato varieties with resistance a pest Tuta absoluta, popularly known as the tomato ebola has been successful in organizing a Value Chain Workshop in Nigeria on Tomato. At the end of the two-day workshop, a communique was unanimously agreed upon before being sent to the media for publication and to policy makers for policy inclusion in Nigeria (for more information …. https://www.independent.ng/stakeholders-urge-fg-to-support-tomato-value-chain-in-south-west/ ). The direct impact was the interest aroused in the Central Bank of Nigeria that is committed to revamping an abandoned irrigation facility at Iseyin for all year-round tomato production. Dr. Valentine Traore, a WACCI alumni on the project is breeding improved rice varieties and working with farmers in participatory varietal selection to develop farmer preferred varieties that will be adopted for the intensification of rice production in Burkina Faso using a technology that he has introduced to farmers called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). Already, farmers have seen the benefits of the SRI which requires less seeds but has huge yield advantages. For instance, with 8 to 10 kg of seed farmers were able to transplant one hectare of rice instead of using 15 to 20 kg of seeds. In addition, significant increase in tillering potential of rice with SRI led to a productivity increase of more than 75% with the additional use of organic manure. In Ghana, Dr. Maxwell Asante, who was last years best scientist in Ghana and a WACCI alumnus is leading the rice breeding programme and has set up demonstrations plots as part of the farmer field schools activities under the AU-EU project at Afife-Weta, Volta region where he is training farmers on good agronomic practices for soil and crop health management in rice production. Dr. Eleblu who is also a lead scientist on legume improvement at WACCI, intimated that he is working with partners in the sub region and in Sweden, and France to develop forward and reverse genetics platforms for the scientific community working on Cowpea in Africa under this AU-EU project.
Dr. John Eleblu (right to Prof.Danquah) presenting on progress of work
Dr. Beatrice Ifie (a WACCI alumnus and now WACCI Faculty), Team Lead, Maize Breeding Programmes and Prof. Pangirayi Tongoona, Associate Director, Breeding Programs delivered presentations on the progress of their work on Maize in Ghana where they are working with four postgraduate students on resistance to Maize Streak Virus and development of maize varieties that are resistant to the Fall army worms using mutation breeding. The two postgraduate students working on maize MSV resistance presented their research projects stating clear objectives and expectations of the project.
Prof. Tongoona (left) and Dr. Beatrice (right) briefing the AU-EU team on Maize
Two postgraduate students presenting their work to the AU-EU team
The concluding remarks of the AU visiting panel was that they were impressed by work done so far and were happy that funds were released to WACCI for this project. They pledged continued support and cautioned the project team at WACCI to meet all the deadlines for successful project implementation.
AU-EU team with WACCI team