Seventeen of the current 73 students of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana (UG) will receive their doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees in Plant Breeding at the University’s Congregation in July.
WACCI, one of the World Bank Africa Centres of Excellence, has since its inception in 2007 grown to become the leading centres producing the record highest number of PhD graduates in a single programme in Africa.
Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, the Founding Director, WACCI, said in 10 years, the school had demonstrated that working with strategic partners and taking giant strides, had produced quality PhD graduates, who were game changers and who were making history on the African Continent.
He noted that all of the 35 graduates had returned to their home countries and were leading breeding programmes in West and Central Africa.
Speaking at the 10th Anniversary Launch and Symposium of WACCI, Prof Danquah said: “As the Founding Director, I am more than elated that from our early beginnings, WACCI has today become a globally significant institution.”
The event on the theme “The March Towards Food and Nutrition Security in Sub-Saharan Africa,” was attended by renowned academics, agriculturists and industrialists from across the globe.
Among the high profile personalities, who graced the function were former Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur and his wife Matilda; Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Minister of Education; Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister of Finance; Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto Minister of Food and Agriculture; Prof Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice Chancellor, UG and Mrs Mercy Haizel-Ashia, Registrar, UG.
WACCI is a partnership between the UG and Cornell University, US that was established in June 2007 with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) at the UG to train Plant Breeders in Africa working on the improvement of African crops in local environments for farmers in Africa.
Its vision is to become the foremost Centre for post-graduate training and research in crop improvement in Africa.
Prof Danquah said as one of the World Bank-funded Africa Centres of Excellence, WACCI had been assessed as well positioned to join the top-tier institutes educating the next generation of plant breeding professionals globally.
“With this strategic plans we have made for further expansion, and the record of our success to date, WACCI is poised to have a tremendous impact on food security for Africa in the decade ahead and beyond,” he stated.
“Clearly, we could not have come this far without the support of several organisations and individuals.
“AGRA provided the initial funds for the establishment of the Centre and provided full scholarships for 53 PhD students, in addition to administrative support,” he added.
“At the UG, Prof Clifford Nii-Boi Tagoe, former Vice Chancellor (2006-2010), and his management team were instrumental in the establishment of WACCI.
“Our current Vice-Chancellor, Prof Owusu and his predecessor, Prof Ernest Aryeetey, have all continued to support WACCI’s growth and development, and we are grateful to them for supporting us.”
He said the 10th anniversary provides WACCI with a platform to look back at where they had come; stating that “it also gives us the opportunity to engage our partners and potential partners in conversations aimed at sustaining WACCI well beyond the AGRA-funded phase”.
“We are desirous to develop WACCI into a top-tier global plant breeding institution.
“Africa needs world class institutions to attract and develop gifted students into game changers and history makers for inclusive transformation of agriculture, not only for food and nutrition security but also to create jobs to address have the youth bulged.”
Prof Owusu hailed WACCI for spearheading Africa’s agriculture transformation.
“We have to transform agriculture in Africa, we need a step change in our agriculture and it is Africans who will lead the way today and tomorrow.
“Clearly we have in WACCI, a dynamic Centre that is leading the way and it’s pre-eminence in the delivery of quality plant breeding education in Africa cannot be overemphasised,” Prof Owusu stated.
Dr Agnes Kalibata, the President, AGRA Kenya, said AGRA was 100 per cent committed to work with WACCI.
“We are going to be feeding 2.5 billion people with the next five years, so we need institutions like WACCI,” she said.
Prof Ronnie Coffman, Director, International Programmes, CALS, Cornel University, said WACCI was a laudable project to invest in.