Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, the Director of the West African Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), has been named winner of the 2022 Africa Food Prize at the AGRF2022 Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The $100,000-prize-award recognises outstanding individuals or institutions that are leading the efforts to change farming in Africa from a struggle to sustainable businesses. It also to celebrate Africans who are taking control of Africa’s agriculture agenda.
The award also places a spotlight on bold initiatives and technical innovations that can be replicated across the continent to create a new era of food security and economic opportunity for all Africans.
Prof. Danquah is thus being celebrated for his outstanding expertise, leadership and grantsmanship skills that led to the establishment and development of WACCI as a world class centre for training plant breeders in Africa for Africa, an official statement issued to the Ghana News Agency, in Accra said.
The plant geneticist was the founding director of WACCI and a former director of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana.
The selection of this year’s winner is considered a reflection of the importance of promoting Science and Technology as tools to develop solutions for sustainable food systems.
Former Nigerian President and outgoing Chairman of the AFPC, Olusegun Obasanjo, who announced Prof Danquah as winner said it was a great privilege to be able to honour and shine the spotlight on the truly remarkable achievements of Prof Danquah.
President Obasanjo, in congratulating Prof Danquah said: “His leadership in genetic innovation inspires the future of food security and nutrition in Africa, and has made a tangible difference to how a new generation is working to improve African Food systems.
“He has been and continues to be a true inspiration for many young minds.”
“On behalf of the African Food Prize Committee, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations and appreciation for his continuing endeavours.”
The Prize Committee took into consideration following criteria to announce the winner:
• Contribution to reducing poverty and hunger and/or improving food and nutrition security in measurable terms;
• Contribution to providing a vital source of income and/or employment in measurable terms;
• Potential for transformative change through scalability, replication, and sustainability; and
• Increased awareness and cooperation among African audiences and organizations.
The judging panel of leaders in African Agriculture, comprises: Former President Obasanjo, Dr Vera Songwe, Dr Eleni Z. Gabre- Madhin, Dr Kamau-Rutenberg, Mr Birama Sidibé, Prof Sheryl Hendriks, and Dr Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli.
WACCI was founded in 2007 with the aim of training a new generation of plant breeders to develop improved varieties of staple crops in West and Central Africa.
Prof Danquah, in appreciating the honour, called for collaboration with global partners to change the narrative on agriculture.
He said: “The time for more first-class science by Africans in Africa for Africa is now.”
He said without genetic innovation driven by good Science, Africa’s vision for resilient food systems will tarry.
“I am honoured by the award, and the commendation of the role of research and Science in Africa’s approach to agriculture,” he said.
A statement issued by WACCI to celebrate Prof Danquah said through his leadership the Centre had attracted more than $30 million worth of research and development funding and had trained more than 169 doctoral and Master’s in Philosophy students in Seed Science and Technology from 19 African countries.
This, according to the Centre had led to the development of more than 60 improved seed varieties, including superior maize hybrid varieties, which would help boost yields for farmers and contribute towards food and nutrition security.
“Today, the institution boasts of a new molecular biology/tissue culture laboratory, a bioinformatics platform, and cutting-edge university farms, including a US$300,000 ultra-modern screen house for controlled experiments,” the statement said.
The West African Centre for Crop Improvement is a World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence (ACE), that was established through a partnership between the University of Ghana (UG) and Cornell University with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to train plant breeders at the PhD level at the UG.
In 2015, under the ACE project, WACCI introduced an innovative MPhil programme in Seed Science and Technology to address the challenges facing the seed sector in Africa.
Currently, the Centre has enrolled 160 PhD and 80 MPhil students from 20 African countries. It has over the years transitioned from a single donor to a multi-donor funded institution with over $40 Million of committed funds.
The 2022 Africa Food Prize was sponsored by Corteva, Kenya Commercial Bank, UPL and AGRA.