West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) Celebrates 10th Anniversary
The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences has celebrated its 10th anniversary on the theme: ‘‘The March towards Food and Nutrition Security in Sub-Saharan Africa’’ at the ISSER Conference Hall, University of Ghana.
Welcoming participants to the anniversary celebration, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu noted that the theme for the anniversary celebration reflected WACCI’s commitment over the last decade to ensuring food security in the sub-Saharan Africa region. He called on governments in Africa to make the necessary investments to scale up research and development in agriculture for the inclusive transformation of livelihoods and economies on the continent. He was optimistic that WACCI would continue to soar, leading the way in the delivery of quality plant breeding education in Africa.
Professor Eric Danquah, Director of WACCI, recounted the Centre’s early beginnings from June 2007 when it was established. Presenting on the topic: ‘Reaping the benefits; Ten years of quality plant breeding education at WACCI’’, he said the anniversary celebrations provided the platform for WACCI to assess the past as well as engage its partners and potential partners in conversations aimed at sustaining the Centre beyond the AGRA funded phase.
As one of the World Bank – Africa Centres of Excellence, Prof. Danquah said WACCI has been assessed and identified as a top-tier globally for the education of the next generation of plant breeders and seed scientists. Prof. Danquah disclosed that in the last four years, WACCI has consistently produced the highest number of PhD graduates in the University of Ghana, including students from across the sub-Saharan Africa region, who are leading innovative breeding programmes across West and Central Africa. Prof. Danquah underscored the need for world class institutions to attract and develop gifted students into game changers for the inclusive transformation of agriculture in Africa, not only for food and nutrition security but also to create jobs. He said with WACCI’s Strategic Plan for further expansion and the record of their success to date, the Centre was poised to make a tremendous impact on food security for Africa in the decade ahead and beyond.
Prof. Danquah was appreciative of the support of several organizations and individuals who have supported WACCI over the past decade including the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA), which provided the initial funds for the establishment of WACCI and provided full scholarships for the first cohort of PhD students, Cornell University, the founding partner, former Vice-Chancellors; Prof. Nii Boi Tagoe (during whose tenure of office WACCI was established) and Prof. Ernest Aryeetey as well the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ebenezer Oduro Owusu.
Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education, lauded WACCI for its tremendous achievements over the past decade. He said the government was committed to investing in all levels of education and creating many more centres of excellence in other tertiary institutions. He added that WACCI’s achievements had inspired him to personally support the Plant Breeders Bill currently before parliament.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister for Food and Agriculture also congratulated WACCI for its sterling achievements over the past decade. He said under the government’s new strategy for agricultural transformation dubbed “Planting for Food and Jobs”, the country would rely on the quality human resource from WACCI to support its seed companies and enterprises to help produce quality seeds for farmers use. He noted that the use of good quality seeds is the starting point for a successful crop as well as an important risk management tool.
The Minister of Finance, Honourable Ken Ofori-Atta, launched a 50million dollar Endowment Fund towards the sustainability of the Centre and pledged one million dollars from the Government of Ghana as seed amount. He appealed to all and sundry to support the WACCI Endowment Fund as part of efforts to ensure food security in Africa. According to Mr. Ken Ofori- Atta, Ghana currently spends about 1.2 billion dollars in food imports alone, a situation he describes as unacceptable and challenged WACCI to pursue excellence to reverse this situation.
The Guest of Honour, Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, commended WACCI for establishing the Endowment Fund to furnish, equip and sustain its multi-purpose building for world-class teaching and research. She said that the theme for the anniversary highlighted the achievements of WACCI over the decade, including the development of hybrid maize varieties and the development of an innovative PhD curriculum.
Dr. Kalibata noted that one distinguishing feature of the Centre is its status as a regional hub which has trained scientists who have and will continue to contribute to the release of new and improved varieties of crops which are changing the lives of the people on the continent. She affirmed AGRA’s utmost commitment to work with WACCI to improve plant breeding, and pledged her personal effort in resource mobilization for WACCI.
There were congratulatory and good will messages from other organizations and individuals including Prof. Ronnie Coffman, Director, International Programmes, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University; Dr. Moses Adebayo, SeedCo Ltd., Nigeria and representative of WACCI Alumni, Dr. Eugene Terry, Senior Advisor, New Markets Lab, USA and Chairman of the WACCI Advisory Board, Prof. Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, UK, Ms. Eva Rothenpeiler-Dione, DAAD and Mr. Alhassan Andani, Managing Director, Stanbic Bank, Ghana. Also present were former Vice-President, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and his wife as well as a number of University officials including the Registrar, Mrs. Mercy Haizel-Ashia, Provosts, Deans and Directors. Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah and Prof. C.N.B. Tagoe, former Vice-Chancellor and Prof. Bill Puplampu, Ag. Vice-Chancellor of Central University College were also in attendance, in addition to representatives from partners, donors, WACCI alumni, Members of the Advisory Board, Management Committee and Ambassadors of Goodwill.
The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) is a partnership between the University of Ghana (UG) and Cornell University, USA that was established in June 2007 with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) at the University of Ghana to train Plant Breeders in Africa working on the improvement of African staple crops for farmers in Africa.