Dr. Yilma Kebede, Senior Program Officer for Agricultural Development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, USA has paid a visit to the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) to familiarise himself with developments. He was accompanied by Drs. Aboubacar Toure, Issoufou Kapran and Kehinde Makinde of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
In a welcome address, the Director of WACCI, Professor Eric Danquah recounted the WACCI story and commended the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations for the initial funding that gave birth to AGRA. WACCI, according to the Director was one of the first recipients of an AGRA-Program for Africa Seed Systems (PASS) grant to train PhDs in plant breeding. He said that the Centre’s vision is to become pre-eminent for the training of plant breeders in West and Central Africa if not the whole of Africa. He added that the arrival of the fourth cohort in January 2011 will bring the total number of enrolled students to 36 from seven countries.
The Director advised the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to scale up support in the march towards an African Green Revolution. He, however, cautioned that Foundations alone cannot solve Africa’s problems and should not establish too many small projects on the continent but rather strive toward establishing model programmes which could be copied by African governments. Professor S.K. Offei, Associate Director and Dean of the School of Agriculture added that the University of Ghana had given WACCI concessions in tuition fees and had also donated the premises as its contribution to the establishment of the Centre.
In response, Dr. Kebede intimated that most projects funded by private donor organisations have life spans. There was, therefore, the need for governments to contribute and ensure sustainability of such projects. He added that Africa can be food secure and independent, if governments would be committed to supporting and sustaining agricultural research programmes.
Dr. Kebede advised students to be innovative and independent so as to bring about the desired change needed on the continent. He further urged management of WACCI to ensure the success of the project to encourage governments in Africa to devote resources to such projects.
In his concluding remarks, Professor Danquah thanked Dr. Kebede and assured him that WACCI will fulfill its mission of training a critical mass of scientists to develop varieties needed to spark an African Green Revolution.
Also present at the meeting were the Programme Coordinator, Dr. Naalamle Amissah and other senior members at WACCI.