The use of Biotechnology and other scientific innovations to improve the agricultural sector has become a necessity.
To this effect, Ghana’s Deputy Food and Agriculture Minister, Mr. Yaw Frimpong Addo has made a clarion call on Agricultural Scientists in Africa to collaborate and come out with more scientific innovations that would help improve and develop the agricultural sector of the continent.
Speaking at the just ended 3-day West Africa Centre for Crop Development (WACCI)’s International symposium on agricultural transformation, held in Accra by the University of Ghana Agric School, he made known that though scientists in the agricultural sector on the continent had over the years come out with various scientific approaches in developing the sector and also tackled related cases, more innovations were needed.
He continued that it was estimated that 50% of Africa’s population ( about 278 million) people suffered from malnutrition and about 58 million children under the age of 5 were stunted due to severe malnutrition and food insecurity, a situation he attributed to climate change, COVID-19 and conflict.
Expressing hope in experts present, he appealed to them to use their experience in the sector to help curb the situation before it got out of hand.
Touching on Ghana’s contributions to Agricultural Transformation, the Deputy Food and Agriculture Minister said the government of Ghana’s Planting for Food and Jobs ( PFJ) program introduced in 2017 had generated an estimated amount of 500 Million US Dollars worth of produce.
He said the main aim of the program was to improve yields on farms, expand access to the market, reduce post-harvest losses enhance extension service delivery through various digital technologies and was proud to announce that about 85% of the aim had been achieved and lauded farmers in Ghana and stakeholders in the sector for their support.
Mr. Yaw Frimpong Addo went on to add that the National Biosafety Authority in June 2022 approved Ghana’s first Genetically Modified Crop, known as the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea or Bt Cowpea.
He said the approval meant that the pod Borer could be released from its confined research fields where they had been under control for several years.
The Food and Agriculture Minister maintained that this and many others had put Ghana in a leading position in agricultural transformation in Africa.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Africa Director of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Leader of Biotechnology, Dr. Leena Tripathi has stated that Genetic Modified Organisms (GMO) is one of the technologies in the agricultural sector Africa could utilize to improve its agric sector.
In her keynote address at the conference, Dr. Leena hinted that the Genome crops have been introduced on the market with South Africa producing 80% of GMO maize crops.
She argued that though many people have negative perceptions about GMO foods, there hadn’t been any side effect issues reported to that effect, she however encouraged other African countries to adopt it to improve their agricultural sector.
The 3-day symposium which started on May 31 and ended on June 2, 2023, was on the theme: Increasing Access to New Tools, Technologies, and Methods in Africa’s Agriculture.
Participants and guests from across the African continent and beyond deliberated on what agricultural sector stakeholders needed to do differently to ensure expanded farmer access to crops produced, using New Breeding Techniques (NBTs).
Another area participants focused on was the future of Biotech Crops in Africa from the perspectives of scientists, government officials, and regulators.
Founding Director of WACCI, Prof. Eric Y. Danquah in his welcome address lauded the participants for responding to the call to attend the conference and urged them to come out with recommendations that would compel Africa Leaders to give agric scientists on the continent the needed resources for them to be able to do more research that would help improve the sector on the continent.