Research Institute to conduct trials on drought-resistant maize
The Manga Station of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), near Bawku in the Upper East Region, would undertake trials on drought-resistant maize variety to be made available to farmers for cultivation.
After successful cropping of the variety in selected areas of Ghana, it could hold a key to the country’s quest for food security.
Dr. Roger Kanton, a research scientist in charge of SARI, who announced this in an interview with the GNA at Manga, said that the variety could withstand harsh weather conditions, particularly in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions.
He said “the maize has a relatively shorter maturity period, making it ideal for equally short spells of rain the three regions experience yearly.”
Dr. Kanton said the research was originally carried out by the International Maize and Wheat Research Institute in Peru in conjunction with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in Nigeria, under the “Green Revolution for Africa” project, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of the United States.
He said the variety was made available to some selected African countries including Ghana, Benin, Mali, and Nigeria.
Dr. Kanton said that in Ghana, SARI and the Crops Research Institute have decided to carry out trials to determine the suitability of the variety, particularly for the northern sector of Ghana where the rainy season was often short-lived.
He said “Apart from that the agro-processing industry in the country would be activated to provide employment and maximize the export of processed agricultural produce to earn the nation more income”.
Dr. Kanton said if care was not taken research institutions in the country would collapse since upcoming research scientists might divert into more fulfilling sectors.
He cited that although SARI was the only body mandated to conduct research into agricultural peculiarities of Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Brong Ahafo Regions, it was at the verge of collapse and was only surviving on donor support.
Dr. Kanton urged Members of Parliament (MPs) and other politicians from the three Northern Regions to lobby government for substantial budgetary allocation to revive SARI.
He said “The only time the Manga station of SARI saw a fence was in the 1940s when it was first established as a research centre by the colonial government. Over the years the barbed wire fence had disappeared leaving the premises and its trial gardens at the mercy of livestock and robbers.”
Dr. Kanton mentioned insufficient water supply, the lack of means of transport and inadequate number of scientists at the station as other problems facing SARI.
He said out of five scientists stationed at Manga initially, he was the only one left at the moment.
Dr. Kanton said to address the problem, he had persuaded some science students of the country’s universities to come for practical attachment at SARI with the hope that they would stay on after completion of their studies.
He said that no nation aspiring to develop should undermine the significance of scientific research and expressed worry that research had suffered neglect under successive governments in Ghana.
Dr. Kanton stressed that the vision to move Ghana into the middle-income bracket would be accelerated if government supported agricultural research institutions whose efforts could assist the country to attain food sufficiency.