The IDEA League in collaboration with University of Ghana, University of Johannesburg, Addis Ababa University, Eduardo Mondlane University and Stellenbosch University has organized an Autumn School Program on the theme, “Water, Energy, Food and Environment Nexus.”
The program, which commenced on October 21, 2021, ended on November 12, 2021. Faculties from the collaborating Universities were invited to present on various topics comprising; Transboundary River Basin Management in a Changing World: Challenges and Opportunities, Drivers of Change in Transboundary River Basins, International Water Law and Treaties, Drinking-water Management and Treatment Options, Health Risk Assessment, among others.
Dr. Beatrice Ifie, Plant Breeder at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement, (WACCI), University of Ghana, delivered a presentation on “Plant Breeding for Climate Smart Crops Development.” She highlighted key challenges in Agriculture including rapidly growing population, production challenges, pressure on the ecosystem, and the effects of climate change on agriculture.
Dr. Beatrice Ifie delivering training to students online
She listed some projects that focused on the development and dissemination of climate smart crops for a sustainable food system. These projects include Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) Project, Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project, TELA Maize Project; Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA); and the EU-funded TomRes project.
She stated that plant breeders employ several methods such as conventional, biotechnology, ‘omis’ such as genomics, phenomics, metabolomics and gene editing to accelerate the development of climate smart crops that are demand/market driven, productive, nutritious and resistant to major stresses including pests and diseases. She indicated plant breeders are challenged to develop crop varieties that will produce more with less resources such as land, water, fertilizer etc, reducing environmental impact and at the same time meeting the needs of the rapidly growing population amidst climate change. Dr. Ifie concluded by emphasizing the role of Plant Breeding in climate smart agriculture and urged all to be proactive in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change crisis.
Dr. John Eleblu, the Coordinator for Research Programmes at WACCI, spoke on “Building Resilient and Robust Food Systems for a Hungry, Growing and Changing World.” Dr. Eleblu indicated that some challenges associated with the agricultural sector in Africa were high demands of food exceeding production, poor yields, rain-fed agriculture which was threatened by climate change among other issues. He noted that the availability of food systems alone, was not enough to ensure food security in Africa. He stressed the need for a sustainable food system for Africa, which can be achieved by regulating food waste management, nutrient recycling and implementing policies enrolled out by the government, including policies about the use of technology in agriculture.
Dr. John Eleblu delivering training to students online
According to Dr. Eleblu, an Ideal food system must be Diverse, Transparent, Sustainable and Equitable. He stated that multi-stakeholder engagement was needed to address the key issues in building resilient and robust food systems in Africa.
Dr. Edward Asiedu, Lecturer at the department of Finance, University of Ghana, was invited to present on “Entrepreneurship for Addressing Water, Energy and Food Scarcity.” He suggested efficient utilization of labour, capital, and other resources in order to be successful as entrepreneurs. Dr. Asiedu also encouraged entrepreneurs to aim to produce high-quality products at a minimum cost to be successful in the global market.
Dr. Edward Asiedu delivering training to students online
In line with this, WACCI has been able to establish an enterprise hub—Kofi Annan Enterprise Hub for Agricultural Innovation (KAEHAI) to equip young people with the soft skills needed to be successful entrepreneurs in the Agricultural sector.
The IDEA League, which is a strategic alliance between five leading European universities: RWTH Aachen University, Chalmers University of Technology, Delft University of Technology, ETH Zurich and Politecnico di Milano; in collaboration with African university partners, continues to impact positively on the new generation of Science and Technology graduates.