Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture: Ghanaian plant geneticist appointed to serve on the Independent Advisory Committee

The Founding Director of West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, has been appointed to serve on the Independent Advisory Committee of the Centre for African Leaders in Agriculture (CALA).

A statement issued by the University of Ghana, said Prof Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, the Acting Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana, in a note congratulated Prof Danquah on his appointment.

She expressed confidence that the Independent Advisory Committee of the Centre would benefit immensely from his extensive leadership and professional experience in agricultural systems.

“Congratulations to Professor Danquah on this high-level appointment. The University is proud of your continuous successes,” the statement said.

CALA is an initiative of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) designed to support established and emerging leaders in government, private sector and civil society spearheading high-priority country-level agricultural strategies across eight initial countries (Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Malawi).

The initiative is a 16-month advanced leadership programme starting in August 2021.

The role of the Committee is to provide high-level guidance on the quality, inclusivity, relevance and rigour of CALA’s curriculum to build it into a centre of excellence intended to support sector leaders to deliver on their priorities.

The statement said Professor Danquah was joining the Independent Advisory Committee of the Centre as an Agricultural Systems Expert representing universities in Africa.

Other members of the Committee include: Dr Apollos Nwafor (Vice President, Policy and State Capability-AGRA, Kenya), Mr Jonathan Said (Lead, Inclusive Growth and Private Sector Development Practice-Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, USA), and Professor Richard Mkandawire (Chair – National Planning Commission, Malawi).

The rest are Dr Jemima Njuki (Africa Regional Head – International Food Policy Research Institute, Kenya), Madam Bongiwe Njobe (Founder and Executive Director – ZANAC, South Africa) and Professor Anthony Whitbread (Research Programme Director for Innovation Systems for the Drylands – ICRISAT, India).

About Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah

Prof Danquah is a Ghanaian plant geneticist, professor, founding director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) and former director of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana.

Danquah attended Akosombo Experimental School (1964-1972), and the Presbyterian Boys Secondary School (PRESEC) in Legon (1972-1979). He graduated with a BSc in Agriculture (Crop Science) from the University of Ghana in 1984.

He then worked as an intern at a dairy and cereals farm in Germany, before returning to Ghana to complete his national service with the Ghana Education Service.

He completed an MPhil in Plant Breeding at the Department of Applied Biology at the University of Cambridge on a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Shared Scholarship.

In November 1987, he returned to Ghana and worked for two years in the Department of Crop Science at the University of Ghana, before returning to the University of Cambridge in October 1989 as a Commonwealth Scholar for his PhD research in the laboratory of John Barrett in the Department of Genetics, which he completed in June 1993.

Following his PhD, Danquah worked as a research scientist at Plant Breeding International in Cambridge, where he researched maize-wheat intercrosses and contributed to the international barley genome mapping project.

In February 1994, he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Crop Science at the University of Ghana. He was promoted to senior lecturer in 2001, associate professor in 2004 and full professor in 2007.

He held the positions of Head of the Department of Crop Science from 2005 to 2006, and Dean of International Programmes from 2006 to 2009.

Prof. Danquah’s research centres on genetic diversity in crop plants and their associated pests, with an emphasis on molecular genetics and biotechnology for crop improvement.

He also focuses on farmer’s knowledge and plant breeding, technologies for food security in Africa, and training the next generation of research scientists.

From 2000-2001, he developed Simple Sequence Repeats (Microsatellites) for Echinochloa species as a Visiting Scientist at the Long Ashton Research Station (UK).

He was also a Visiting Scientist at Cornell University in May 2005 and May 2006, and partnered with them to set up the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement in 2007.

His teaching has included Introductory Genetics, Principles of Biotechnology, Genetics and Plant Breeding, Molecular Genetics and Population Genetics in the College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences.

He has co-supervised more than 20 post-graduate and PhD students. In 2006, at Michigan State University, he developed a curriculum for Biosafety in Biotechnology, for training of students and scientists in West Africa.

In 2007, Danquah became the Founding Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana, with the “aim of training a new generation of plant breeders to develop improved varieties of staple crops in West and Central Africa”.

In its first ten years, WACCI attracted more than $30M US dollars of R&D funding, and trained more than 120 PhD and 49 MPhil students in Seed Science and Technology from 19 African countries.

This led to more than 60 improved seed varieties, including superior maize hybrid varieties, which will help boost yield for farmers and contribute towards food and nutrition security.

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