End of Year Message from the Director of WACCI, University of Ghana

Dear Partners, Stakeholders, Colleagues and Friends

I bring you compliments of the season from the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) University of Ghana. I am writing to thank all of you for the invaluable support towards the work of the Centre this year and to share with you some of our achievements and challenges in the passing year.

The year 2022 has been eventful in many ways, and we owe all our successes to our incredible network of partners across the world. We started the year transitioning from virtual to in-person classes, as we returned to post-COVID normalcy. We were able to graduate our 10th Cohort of PhDs students, a class of 10 that had persevered through the challenges of COVID-19 to complete their experiments and submit their theses in good time. Continuing in our culture of excellence, WACCI was ranked first in project implementation and performance in the Disbursement Linked Indicators of the World Bank-funded Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) Impact Project involving over 50 institutions of higher learning from 9 countries in West and Central Africa.

A high point in the year was when I received the prestigious 2022 Africa Food Prize Award for WACCI’s outstanding contribution to Africa’s food security efforts. This award has not only acknowledged our efforts but also affirmed our immense impact as we explore partnership opportunities in the coming year.

The year hasn’t been without challenges, as the Centre, like the rest of the world is still recovering from the effects of the three Cs (Covid-19, Climate Change and Conflicts especially the Russian-Ukraine war). These global shocks have challenged us in ways that have called for innovation in all our operations. I am thankful to our network of partners who have risen to the occasion and made commitments to take on the challenge together in the new year. For the first time in a long while, we are faced with uncertainty as we come to the end of the World Bank funded ACE Project. This behoves us to identify new strategic partners to explore win-win opportunities that allow us to together meet the expectations of our governments, funders, development partners so we take to an even higher level, our work on developing the next generation of game changers and history makers for the future of the African continent.

The work on eradicating hunger, attaining food security, and improving nutrition on the continent of Africa is far from done. With the troubling developments in our world today, Africa stands the risk of being left far behind if urgent action is not taken to address the challenges which stymie progress in our agriculture. There will be increased need of smart breeders who can use technologies, tools, and methods to efficiently and effectively and in real-time, develop resilient, nutritious, and productive varieties of the staple crops of Africa including the many underutilised and neglected crops which have a role to play in our struggles for local self-sufficiency in the crops that feed us. Judging from the outputs and outcomes of our work, a critical mass of world-class human capital in genetic innovation developed in Africa for Africa will be instrumental in the food systems transformation that we so urgently need on the continent. This is why efforts at sustaining institutions like WACCI should be top of the agenda in global conversations on meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, a goal which can positively impact several of the SDGs.

We look forward to the continued goodwill and support of all stakeholders to sustain our efforts in the coming year. Selected highlights of the passing year are presented below.

Working together has been a pleasure and I am honoured to have had all of you as partners. I wish you all the best of the festive season and look forward to another year of working together!

Happy and Blessed New Year

Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, PhDProfessor of Genetics & Founding Director, WACCI2018 Laureate, GCHERA World Agriculture Prize2022 Laureate, Africa Food Prize

Key Highlights, 2022

WACCI PhD Cohort 10 Students Graduate from University of Ghana

Our 10th cohort of PhD Plant Breeding candidates graduated on July 29, 2022. The graduation ceremony saw ten candidates, comprising three females and seven males, from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, and Tanzania being conferred doctorate degrees in plant breeding.

Urgent Call for Strategic Investments in the Seed Systems of Six Staple Crops in Ghana for Agricultural and Industrial Transformation

WACCI organized a two-day (April 22 & 23) consultative meeting on “Developing a compelling case for investments in the seed systems of six staple crops for agricultural and industrial transformation”. The crops are rice, maize, soybean, cowpea, tomato and cassava.

The meeting, supported in part by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), Switzerland, brought together 21 high-level participants from the agricultural sector, including plant breeders, social-scientists, policy planners, and actors in the public and private sectors. The discussions centered on the challenges and opportunities inherent in the value chains of the six crops in order to identify investment opportunities for seed system development that will accelerate the transformation of the agri-food systems,“from the laboratory to the fork”.

The high-level panel made a persuasive case for developing successful seed systems for the six commodities to attract the necessary investments for agricultural value chain development. Without a doubt, science, technology, and innovation are the gaps that have hindered growth in Africa. The motivation for this initiative is a food secure and healthy Ghana, as well as "a Ghana Beyond Aid." A report has been developed for wider stakeholder consultation and has already attracted a commitment of an US$ 2 million from the Ghana Food Systems Resilience Project for some of the proposed work.

The transformation of agri-food systems is a national imperative that will benefit not only food and nutrition security, but also socioeconomic development through massive forex savings for smart development investments and provision of raw materials for agro-based industries, as well as creation of jobs for the youth.

WACCI Leads Stakeholders to Develop Business Case for Investments In Tomato Value Chain

With support from the Alliance for Agricultural Research and Development for Food Security, Australia a 3-day workshop was held to assess the tomato value chain in Ghana. The workshop sought to consult with value chain actors to estimate the market size of the tomato industry in Ghana and propose the establishment of an apex body that will consolidate the tomato value chain to focus on production and value addition. The expected benefits of establishing the apex body includes the retaining of over $1 billion of forex in the country, employment in the formal and informal sectors and the support of other agri-value chains that are connected to the tomato value chain. It was fulfilling that the year ended with a welcome message from the Hon. Minister of Food and Agriculture, Ghana to WACCI for a partnership to establish an Integrated Tomato Value Chain Company Limited in Ghana. We look forward to opening conversations to drive the tomato value chain in Ghana.

African Union Project Closure

Our African Union-sponsored European Union project implementation which commenced in January 2018, ended in February 2022. One hundred and sixteen Farmer Field Schools (FFS) were conducted across 40 sites where demonstration trials were established to showcase innovations (including improved seeds and technologies) and good agronomic practices to farmers. About 3,938 (2,950 males and 998 females) farmers were trained under the FFS programme with the participation of 244 Agricultural Extension Agents (AEAs). Crop Value Chain workshops attracted 1,179 value chain actors in the Cowpea, Maize, Tomato and Rice industries across Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso as participants. All research activities on Maize, Rice and Cowpea under the project were conducted and deliverables were achieved: for example the development of several new research programmes such as the Maize improvement for resistance to the Fall Army Worm through gamma rays mediated mutagenesis, development of improved varieties of rice, tomato varieties with resistance of Tuta absoluta (tomato “ebola” insect pest), the development of Maize Streak Virus resistant varieties, the development of 4,000 Ethyl Methane Sulphonate chemically induced Cowpea mutants for yield, biotic and abiotic stress tolerance traits discovery and gene mapping platform. Furthermore, seven new Cowpea products (cowpea in brine, cowpea flour, cowpea pancake flour, cowpea wakye, cowpea jollof, cowpea stew and cowpea shitor) developed in collaboration with the Consumer Science Department, University of Ghana are expected to attract private sector participation for full commercialization in order to drive the formation of a structured industry for cowpea industry development and financing. This project led by WACCI was ranked second, among 47 top European Union-sponsored projects with regard to innovations developed, impact and scalability of the project, by EU-commissioned external panel evaluators in a published report.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa- Early Generation Seed Consortium (AGRA-EGS) Project

As part of efforts to commercialize hybrid varieties released by leading breeding institutions in Ghana and to strengthen public-private partnerships along the seed value chain, WACCI led a consortium of three breeding institutions and two private seed companies to scale up production of early generation seed of four staple crops. The AGRA-EGS project phase 1 was successfully executed leading to the production of 779.76 kg of breeder seed of hybrid maize produced 3,308 kg of breeder seed of soybean; 4,567 kg of breeder seed of cowpea; 4,140 kg of breeder seed of groundnut; 33 MT of maize hybrid foundation seed; 140 MT of soybean foundation seed; 11.5 MT of cowpea foundation seed; 18 MT of foundation seed of groundnut; 4 seed research production fields set up; 30 seed growers trained; 3 MOUs signed and 38 demonstration plots established. Additionally, WACCI has registered as a Certified Breeder Seed producer. This has strengthened its capacity for Early Generation Seed production. Following a positive evaluation of the phase 1 of the project, the Ghana Inclusive Agricultural Productivity Programme has invited WACCI to lead a phase II project to meet expected targets for delivery to a Certified Seed Consortium led by the National Seed Trade Association of Ghana (NASTAG) to produce seed for farmers.


Our students/alumni published 22 research articles in high impact journals including Horticulture, Genes, Sustainability, Plant Breeding, Frontiers in Plant Science and Agronomy in the year 2022.

Staff Development

Cornell University was an inception partner of WACCI and has over the years supported the training of our early to mid-career scientists capacity in Ithaca and at WACCI. This year, two of our administrators received training in project management and ICT at Cornell University, USA. Our scientists also participated in high-level meetings across the globe to contribute to knowledge and network. Key among these were the participation in a Genome Editing Conference at the University of Ghent, Belgium, World Bank/IMF State of Africa Event in Washington DC, High-Level Panel at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, USA the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Cell Biologists in Washington DC, USA and a major CGIAR-NARES Consultatitive meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

WACCI Alumni in the news

One of our lead maize breeders, Dr. Beatrice Elohor Ifie, was hired by the Institute of Biology, Environmental and Rural Sciences, University of Aberystwyth following seven years of stellar work at WACCI. Beatrice was trained at WACCI for her PhD and was part of the 2014 graduating class. Her success at landing the IBERS job is testament to the world class work at WACCI. Other notable Alumni who were appointed to Directorship positions or changed jobs in the course of the year were:

  • Dr. Maxwell Asante (Graduating class of 2013) was appointed Deputy Director of the Crops Research Institute, Ghana

  • Dr. Drabo Inoussa (Graduating class of 2018), Pearl millet breeder at INERA, Burkina Faso was appointed Pearl Millet Breeder for West and Central Africa, CIMMYT, Senegal

  • Dr. Bassirou Sani Gaoh (Graduating class of 2021) was appointed Director, European Union Chair of Digital Agriculture in Niger.

  • Dr. Edgar Traore (Graduating class of 2014) was appointed Director of the Biosafety National Laboratory



WACCI received a grant of US$ 70,000 to enroll nine Master of Philosophy students in its Seed Science and Technology programme for the 2022/2023 academic year. WACCI has received over US$ 2.8 million from the DAAD since 2015 for the recruitment of in-country and in-region students.

KGL Foundation, Ghana

WACCI received a grant of US$ 557,750 from the KGL Foundation to develop and operationalize an incubator programme at its Kofi Annan Enterprise Hub for Agricultural Innovation for the training of young agribusiness entrepreneurs

International Atomic Energy Agency, Austria

WACCI Scientist, Dr. John Eleblu (Senior Lecturer at the Biotechnology Centre) won a competitive project grant of Fifty Thousand Euros (€ 50,000) from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to participate in the Coordinated Research Projects (CRPs) titled “Radiation-induced crop diversity and genetic associations for accelerating variety development”. Dr. Eleblu will serve as the Chief Scientific Investigator for the 5-year project on “Mapping of Genetic Associations of Number of Pods Per Plant and Number of Seeds Per Pod in Cowpea”.


Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, the Founding Director of WACCI was named the 2022 Africa Food Prize Laureate for his outstanding expertise, leadership and grantsmanship skills that led to the establishment and development of the WACCI as a world class centre for training plant breeders in Africa for Africa. Prof. Danquah received this award at the AGRF Food Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. He is the first Ghanaian to receive this prestigious award since the award’s establishment in 2005.

2023 Forward Look

WACCI Alumni Homecoming

In our15 years since existence, we have graduated 105 PhD and 30 MPhil students. Several of our graduates are making history in plant breeding programmes in 15 countries in Africa. They have released over 220 improved varieties of staple crops which are at various stages of commercialization in students’ home countries. They have also published over 250 articles in high impact journals and attracted over US$ 57 million for development and breeding projects. Next year in commemoration of our 16th anniversary, we shall assemble all our graduates and partners in early June to celebrate our illustrious alumni for their immense contributions to food and nutrition security on the continent. It will be an opportunity to bring together our partners across the world to share ideas and form stronger bonds for the future our institution. We look forward to a memorable and impactful celebration with the support of our friends and partners.

APBA Conference 2023

The African Plant Breeders Association will hold its biennial conference in October 2023 in Morocco. WACCI being the hosts of the Secretariat will play an important role in this convening. The Conference will bring together stakeholders from all over the world to build the needed capacity to advocate for the investments needed to build capacity for the development of resilient, nutritious and productive crops in real-time for resource poor farmers. As Foundation President of this important organization, I look forward to the Conference and to handing over the Presidency of the Association after a very fruitful four-year tenure.