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  • Biotech centre in Ghana to spearhead root, tuber research

[ACCRA] Ghana's role in a pan-African agricultural productivity programme will soon take a step forward when it opens a new biotechnology facility.

The centre, whose construction is scheduled to finish in December, will focus on root and tuber research. It is part of the World Bank's West African Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP), which aims to develop and accelerate the uptake of improved agricultural technologies targeted to the individual needs of countries in the region.

In the first phase, expected to end in 2012, and supported by a US$15 million loan from the World Bank, it will focus research on cassava, cocoyam, sweet potato and yam.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says that these crops are grown by the poorest Ghanaians and are crucial to their food security.

Joe Manu-Aduening, a cassava expert with WAAPP-Ghana, said: The current rate [at which] we produce is not the best. We have to produce high-yielding varieties for farmers.

The long-term goal is to get roots and tuber crops to a level [where] Ghana can supply [its improved varieties] to the rest of the continent and transfer its technology to [West Africa].

Manu-Aduening said that WAAPP's plan is to create a common platform for all the countries involved in its programme so that a technology developed in one country can be shared with other countries to avoid replication.

For instance, Ivory Coast is going to be the centre of specialisation for plantain and banana; Mali for rice; Senegal for dry cereals; and Nigeria for aquaculture.

Marian Quain, a researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research's Crop Research Institute, said that the facility would work in various aspects of biotechnology to complement research activities.

Through this [Ghanaian] facility, we are bringing all [the technologies] under one roof in a big lab space for researchers and students, for researchers across the sub-region and even for those abroad who want to come and work on our crops.

Walter Alhassan, a consultant for the African Biotechnology and Biosafety Policy Platform at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, an umbrella organisation for stakeholders in agricultural research and development in Africa, said that the facility would be useful in introducing new, productive varieties that could address food insecurity.

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