Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Inauguration of the West Africa Center for Crop Improment

FARA participated on 27 February at the inauguration ceremony of a new doctoral program at the University of Ghana to train African plant breeders to tackle issues relating to maize, cassava, sorghum, millet, tomato, cowpea and other crops vital to Africans' diet.

Funded by a $4.9 million grant from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, the program aims to address the serious shortage of professional African plant breeders skilled in breeding indigenous plants. Cornell will receive an additional $1.7 million from AGRA to provide academic and technical support.

Ronnie Coffman, left, international professor of plant breeding and genetics and director of International Programs in Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Science, with two colleagues from the University of Ghana's Department of Agronomy.

In 2000, the African Centre for Crop Improvement (ACCI) at the University of Kwazulu-Natal in collaboration with Cornell University started a regional centre to train plant breeders for Africa. The ACCI has created a de facto network of 47 functioning plant breeders and their local co-supervisors in 13 countries, linked with a common training, experience and philosophy towards plant breeding in Africa. The excellent results from the ACCI demonstrate Africa’s ability to train the necessary human capacity in plant breeding.

A need exists to train plant breeders in West Africa & Central Africa, by developing a parallel programme at the University of Ghana, Legon (UGL) because
  • the region is also critically short of plant breeders, and most of the crops grown in the region are common to the region and relatively unimproved;
  • the logistics and cost of travelling between West Africa countries is relatively low
  • the region has a common culture, which is different from East and Southern Africa;
  • and unique solutions will be required because the limits and constraints of operating a similar Centre in Ghana are different from those faced in South Africa.

The WACCI plant breeding training programme will produce skilled, knowledgeable and properly resourced breeders to breed locally important crops to meet local needs and preferences.

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