The West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), has called for targeted investments in local genetic innovation and the development of a robust seed system.
WACCI said an investments of about US$ 50 million dollars in the organisation will lead to the sustainable development of innovations for self-sufficiency in food production, job creation, poverty reduction and improved livelihoods, as well as socio-economic development.
Prof Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Director of WACCI at a media engagement said with the right investments and support the development of resilient, nutritious, productive, and market-driven varieties of staple crops could be scaled up to meet import demands in the West and Central African sub-region and beyond.
"What we call for today is investments in the seed systems of the key staple crops of the country for food and nutrition security and socio-economic development," he said.
It will also help cut down significantly on the imports of seed and food which is in the region of US$ 2.7 billion.
Prof Danquah said with adequate funding, the centre would undertake novel and world leading impact-driven research that would result in quality and relevant knowledge on rice, maize, sorghum, tomato, soybean, cowpea, cassava and Frafra potato to develop high value climate smart varieties, while engaging in capacity building through targeted training, experimental learning and building skills across career stages.
WACCI would engage the youth, farmers, value chain actors, policy makers and other stakeholders in the use of agricultural innovations for food and nutrition security, socio-economic development and also equip the youths with the knowledge and skills needed for the development of start-ups.
Prof. Danquah said over the years, the Ghana Living Standards Survey Report indicates that Ghana’s agricultural sector sustains the country’s economic growth and has been the primary source of livelihood, particularly for the rural poor and other vulnerable households.
The agricultural sector which contributes about 20% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs nearly half of the labour force is characterised by low yields of the staple crops.
Prof Danquah said, due to the yield gaps, Ghana remains a net importer of both raw and processed foods to meet the demand of a growing population characterised by high urbanization rate and increased income.
Between 2019 and 2020, a 3.5 to 4 percent increase in area cultivated for cassava, maize, and rice resulted in only 0.7%, 2%, and 1.8% yield increase respectively.
"It is, therefore, apparent that the expansion in land cultivated is not an efficient way of increasing productivity but rather investments in the development of high yielding locally adapted varieties," he said.
Prof Danquah said it was against this backdrop that WACCI is proposing for targeted investments in local genetic innovation and the development of a robust seed system for the selected crops.
He said Ghana’s seed systems require rigorous mechanisms regarding seed variety development, release and performance, seed quality inspection as well as certification and access to breeder seed.
Farmers’ access to timely information, seed prices and subsidies, and consumer protection would go a long way in improving the country’s food yields and sustainability, he added.
Prof. Danquah said targeted investments combined with healthy soil, nutrients, water and good agronomic practices, would help with Ghana’s agricultural transformation agenda and also enhance food and nutrition security.