Accra is hosting the seventh and final West and Central Agricultural Research and Development Strategic and Consultative meeting (WECRAD) aimed at sharing information and reaching consensus on raising agricultural strategies to reduce poverty in the region.
The two-day workshop is being held within the framework of the implementation of new programmes resulting from its strategic plan review process, which started in June last year.
Professor Emmanuel Owusu-Bennoah, Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Ghana, said the Accra meeting would take into account the final suggestions and concerns of a large audience and participants and experts in the sub-region.
He described the workshop as unique as it would eventually redefine the operations of WECARD as a viable sub-regional organization for agricultural scientific cooperation in Africa.
"Secondly, it would lead to a revised strategic plan, which will serve as background towards the preparation of two major research-development programmes, namely the West African Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAPP) and the Central African Agricultural Productivity Programme (CAPP)."
Experts from academia, scientific research institutions, universities and policy makers are attending the workshop.
Prof Owusu-Bennoah, who is also Chairman of WECARD said it would also culminate in the development of an operational plan based on priorities defined within the new strategic plan.
He noted that since 70 percent of the estimated 315 million people in the sub-region lived on agricultural activities, the subject of whether agricultural research had been successful in supporting livelihoods of the bulk of the people who live and survive on it should be paramount and would be thoroughly examined.
"Our desire is to work in making agricultural research and development output about six per cent of the national GDP of our member countries. By this, we would be aiming at sustained food sufficiency in the sub-region."
Prof. Owusu-Bennoah said currently, Ghana's rates at more than five per cent plus, "but this must permeate the entire sub-region, then we can be said to be moving forward".
He argued that the impact of agricultural research could be measured by the extent to which output from research addressed the concerns of farmers, and consequently improved on their living standards and conditions.
He urged experts and scientists in the sub-region to adopt a radical change to research if they were to record the much-needed impact and make agriculture contribute much more than it ids doing now.
Prof Owusu-Bennoah described as ineffective and unsustainable the current process where technologies were developed, but were unable to be passed to farmers.
The farmer has to make an input into the whole process and be in a position to set the research agenda. This, I believe, will enhance the acceptability of the innovations from agricultural research and adoption.
He said member countries had agreed to support the WECARD from a special fund they had set up, "something which we believe would help us make significant inroads in research and development, while taking ownership of the institution."
Prof. Monty Jones, Executive Secretary of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), was upbeat about the impact of research and development and expressed the hope that the various strategies outlined in all the seven workshops would be of use to the Accra meeting.