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Thu, 30 Mar 2023 Science

Capacity of CSIR-PGRRI Staff in Advanced Genebank Operations Enhanced

By Abraham Yeboah, Joseph Bandanaa & Daniel Ashie Kotey
Capacity of CSIR-PGRRI Staff in Advanced Genebank Operations Enhanced
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“Capacity of CSIR-PGRRI Staff in Advanced Genebank Operations Enhanced " is to highlight a recent training workshop held to build the capacity of some staff members of the CSIR-PGRRI (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research - Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute) in Genebank operations. The main points covered in the newsletter include an introduction to the CSIR-PGRRI and its mandate, an explanation of what Genebanks are and their importance, a summary of the training workshop, key takeaways from the training, interviews with key staff members who participated in the workshop, and a conclusion making a clarion call of financial support for the CSIR-PGRRI Genebank’s operations to secure the future of agricultural research and development in Ghana. The newsletter also includes additional resources for readers who want to learn more about the CSIR-PGRRI or Genebanks in general.

Genebanks store plant genetic resources (material of plant origin containing functional units of heredity with actual or potential value) in the form of seeds, plantlets, or live plants on the field, which are well documented and preserved for current and future use. These genetic resources are important because they represent the diversity of plant life on Earth and can be used to improve crop productivity, develop new varieties of crops, and ensure food security. Genebanks also serve as a backup in case of natural disasters or other events that may threaten the existence of certain plant species. The work done at Genebanks is crucial to the sustainability of agriculture and the development of new technologies that can help feed a growing global population. In Ghana, the national Genebank, the CSIR-PGRRI is located at Bunso in the Eastern Region. The mandate of the CSIR-PGRRI is to collect, characterize, evaluate, document, conserve, distribute and utilize plant genetic resources for the benefit of Ghana and the world.

Given the important role national Genebanks play in sustainable agricultural development and food and nutrition security, the Global Crop Diversity Trust (the Crop Trust) based in Bonn Germany formulated the Seeds for Resilience (SfR) Project with funding from the KfW Development Bank. The objective of the SfR Project is to upgrade the equipment, improve the internal processes and staff technical capacity of five national Genebanks in Africa to ensure that they achieve international operational standards and by so doing, enhance the long term conservation and availability of their germplasm collection for addressing current and future national agricultural adaptation and industrial utilization needs.

As part of the Seeds for Resilience (SfR) project, nine employees from the CSIR-PGRRI, the national Genebank of Ghana recently underwent training on Genebank quality management systems (QMS), communications, germplasm data management, germplasm user engagement, and project financial policies. This training was provided during a weeklong Genebank Operations Advanced Learning (GOAL) workshop organised by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) in collaboration with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Morocco from March 6th to March 10th, 2023. The workshop was attended by key Genebank staff from five national Genebanks across Africa, including Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, and Ethiopia.

The workshop was designed to equip participants with knowledge of Genebank quality management systems (QMS), communication, data management, user engagement, and project financial policies. Experts from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Niger, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Morocco, and staff from the Crop Trust facilitated the training which had a strong focus on the improvement of Genebank standard operating procedures (SOPs). For instance, regeneration and conservation SOPs developed by the participating Genebanks were reviewed to ensure that they reflect current accepted international standards. In addition, practical sessions were held on how to receive new germplasm, test for viability, and document them using barcode technology. All Genebank teams had the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with these procedures.

Participants at the workshop also had the opportunity to acquire skills related to communication and outreach about Genebanking and related activities. This included capturing short videos and pictures, writing effective scripts and communication packs (brochures, flyers etc.), and preparing for media appearances and visits to the Genebank. Additionally, presentations were made on germplasm user group activities carried out by the various national Genebanks. These presentations highlighted the challenges faced by farmers who are members of the germplasm user groups. For the Ghana Genebank, these included post-harvest issues with pests, lodging of some Bambara groundnut genotypes, and stiff competition from weeds. Discussions at the end of the presentations suggested pathways for successfully engaging with germplasm users to expand the use of the crop collections at Genebanks. The workshop also covered the use of the GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network)-Global Community Edition (GGCE) and the process of uploading passport data to the Genesys platform for effective communication of available germplasm. The legal aspects of germplasm acquisition, management, and transfer were also discussed. In addition to the technical aspects of Genebank management, the workshop also focused on effective communication with the target audiences, including policy makers, researchers, farmers, students, and the public at large.

Workshop participants had the opportunity to visit ICARDA's research fields in Marchouch and also toured ICARDA’s Genebank in Rabat to acquaint themselves with the operations of an international standard Genebank and apply the lessons back home.

PICTURES: L-R Entrance to premises of ICARDA-Marchouch (left), wheat pre-breeding trial (middle) and evaluation fields (right)PICTURES: L-R Entrance to premises of ICARDA-Marchouch (left), wheat pre-breeding trial (middle) and evaluation fields (right)

Following the tour, the Head of the CSIR-PGRRI seed Genebank, Dr. Rashied Tetteh appealed to the Crop Trust to expeditiously facilitate the release of equipment that would transform the activities of the Ghana Genebank to the status observed at ICARDA.

“We hope that the Crop Trust will expeditiously facilitate the release of equipment that would transform the activities of the Ghana Genebank”

At the end of the five-day workshop, the Director of the CSIR-PGRRI and leader of the Ghana delegation, Dr. Daniel Ashie Kotey noted that the project offers four clear-cut benefits for the Ghana Genebank, namely: staff capacity building, infrastructural development, upgrade in operational procedures and linkages with like-minded experts and professionals on whom the Ghana Genebank could call at any time to discuss issues of mutual benefit”.

The CSIR-PGRRI Genebank is among a few multi-crop Genebanks in the world. The resources conserved at the Genebank are unique and available for research, training, commercial product development and breeding to develop higher-yielding, nutritious, and resilient crop varieties for farmers. It is therefore a strategic national asset that requires the support of both governmental and non-governmental organisations through adequate funding. Coupling this with continuous capacity building and motivation of Genebank staff will help mainstream indigenous plant genetic resources in agricultural research and development in Ghana.

For those interested in learning more about CSIR-PGRRI and their initiatives, please visit:

Website: https://pgrri.csir.org.gh/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064495854425-

YouTube Channel: https://youtube.com/channel/UC6aRPw-3C-JlqUXQgrGITLA

Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/CsirPlant?s=09

This report is written by Abraham Yeboah (https://pgrri.csir.org.gh/staff.php) and Dr. Joseph Bandanaa (https://pgrri.csir.org.gh/staff.php)

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