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.

 Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice-Chancellor

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 in 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

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 of ten years of quality plant breeding education at work’’, 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 WACCI beyond the AGRA funded phase.

As one of the World Bank funded Centres of Excellence, Prof. Danquah said WACCI has been assessed and identified as a top-tier institute educating the next generation of plant breeding professionals globally. Prof. Danquah disclosed that in the last four years, WACCI has produced the highest number of PhD students, 108 students, including international students from across the sub-Saharan Africa region, who are leading innovative breeding programmes in the countries across West and central Africa. Prof. Danquah underscored the need for world class institutions to attract and develop gifted students into game changers and history makers 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 plans for further expansion and the record of their success to date, the Centre was poised to have 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, a 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.  Opoku Prempeh addressing the audience

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 on other tertiary institutions. Adding that WACCI’s achievements has inspired him to personally support the Plant Breeders Bill currently before parliament.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister for Food and Agriculture

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the Minister for Food and Agriculture also congratulated WACCI on its sterling achievements over the past decade. He said under the government’s new strategy for agricultural development dubbed “Planting for Food and Jobs”, the country needs quality human resources from WACCI to support its Seed Company and Enterprises to help produce quality seeds for subsequent use by farmers.  Noting that the use of good quality seeds is the starting point of a successful crop as well as an important risk management tool.

Hon. Ken Ofori-Atta delivering his address

The Minister of Finance, Honourable Ken Ofori-Atta, launched a 50million dollar endowment fund for the completion and furnishing of WACCI building and pledged one million dollars from the government of Ghana to kick start the fundraising. 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 in order to make it the greatest crop research Centre for plant breeding in Africa.

Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA

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 innovative PhD curriculum.

Dr. Kalibata noted that one important milestone of the Centre is WACCI’s status as a regional hub with the capacity to train Scientists who have and would continue to contribute to varieties of breeds of seeds that are changing the lives of people on the continent and re-affirmed AGRA’s utmost commitment to work with WACCI to improve plant breeding, as well as her personal effort in advocating support for WACCI.

There were congratulatory and good will messages from other organizations and individuals including Prof. Ronnie Coffman, Director, Internal Programmes, CALS, 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 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. Former Vice-President, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur and his wife attended the launch as well as a number of University officials which included i the Registrar, Mrs. Mercy Haizel-Ashia, Provosts, Deans and Directors as well as former Vice Chancellors, Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah and Prof. C.N.B. Tagoe. Prof. Bill Puplampu, Ag. Vice-Chancellor of Central University College was also in attendance, in addition to, and representatives from WACCI’s partners, donors WACCI alumni, Members of the Advisory Board and 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 crops in local environments for farmers in Africa. 

Group picture of participants