AGRA committed to working with WACCI - Dr Kalibata
Accra, June 8, GNA - Dr Agnes Kalibata, the President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), has re-affirmed its utmost commitment to work with the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) to improve plant breeding.
She commended WACCI for establishing a 35-million dollar endowment fund to furnish, equip and sustain its multi-purpose building for world-class teaching and research.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency at the sidelines of the launch of WACCI's 10th anniversary celebration in Accra, Dr Kalibata pledged her commitment to mobilise resources to support the fund.
The programme on the theme: 'The March towards Food and Nutrition Security in Sub-Saharan Africa,' highlighted the achievements of WACCI over the decade, including the development of hybrid maize varieties and the development of innovative PhD curriculum.
She said WACCI was established in 2007 as a partnership between the University of Ghana and Cornell University with initial grant of $11 million from AGRA to train plant breeders, at the PhD level, with expertise to improve the indigenous crops that feed the people of the sub-region.
The AGRA-funded programme expected to end in December has also attracted more than $ 4 million from multiple donors.
'Through AGRA we are working with 15 universities at the Mphil level and five centre of excellence at the PhD level and generated 750 graduates that are scientists in their own capacity working to enhance and grow Africa' s Agriculture,' she added.
Since inception, the Centre has enrolled 108 PhD students in plant breeders from 12 African countries and graduated 35 students in four cohorts, with the fifth cohort of 17 ready for graduation in July, bringing the total number to 52 quality breeders trained to serve sub- Saharan African countries.
Dr Kalibata noted that one important milestone of the centre was the establishment of an African institution that had 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'.
'WACCI has given itself a status, which allows all the countries around us to invest in the centre to serve as a hub for the ECOWAS region and that there is no reason to have multiplicity of institutions within the continent,' she said.
She expressed satisfaction about the impact of the programme, saying the graduates among others have produced breeds of potatoes that were changing lives of people in the continent as well as the development of drought tolerant maize.
Dr Kalibata said AGRA was working with the Ministry of Agriculture and other Ministries across the continent to look at how these crop varieties become meaningful to smallholder farmers so that the Scientists would have value for their products.
Dr Rufaro M. Madakadze, Programme Officer for Education and Training for AGRA said WACCI was selected as one of 19 Africa Centres of Excellence by the Association of African Universities to receive eight million dollars from the World Bank as project support grant.
'AGRA, just as many other stakeholders, believed that education and training forms a critical component of interventions to build the capacity of key stakeholders not only to increase yields but also to address pertinent cropping problems that confront smallholder farmers'.
We are happy that our initial investment in WACCI has produced several PhDs who release new in-built resilient crop varieties to support our agricultural transformation efforts for the benefit of Africa's smallholder farmers,' she added.
By Kodjo Adams, GNA