The Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development Program (BHEARD), part of the United States government’s Feed the Future initiative and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), has partnered with the Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC) to showcase how scientific investment has the potential to transform Ghana’s agricultural sector through innovation.
In 2019, BHEARD, together with leaders from Ghana’s agricultural seed sector, began a project to improve the country’s grain and vegetable sector by selecting and working with qualified project teams, experts, and various scientists to develop and commercialize new and improved seed varieties.
Following an extensive application and review process that identified the best opportunities to develop new ready-for-market technologies, four projects were selected for investment and training:
• Increasing the productivity of maize using locally produced hybrid maize, an initiative led by Professor Eric Y. Danquah, Director for West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, and his colleague, Dr. Beatrice Ifie, Leader of the Maize Breeding Programme
• Building the technical and entrepreneurial capacity of young people in maize cultivation to produce and market hybrid maize seeds in Northern Ghana, an effort led by Dr. Gloria Boakyewaa Adu, Maize Breeder at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI)
• Increasing productivity of soybeans using seeds of improved varieties, an effort led by Dr. Doris K. Puozaa, Research Scientist and Head for Seed Science and Technology at CSIR-SARI), Nyankpala-Northern Region.
• Developing locally certified and improved hybrid tomato seeds and increasing production, an effort led by Dr. Agyemang Danquah, Project Lead at WACCI, University of Ghana.
There was also the development of locally certified improved hybrid tomato seeds and building of capacity for its production, led by Dr. Agyemang Danquah, Project lead at WACCI, University of Ghana.
According to Professor Eric Y. Danquah, leading the team working on upscaling the hybrid maize, maize yields in Ghana are very low, averaging two tonnes per hectare against a potential yield of six tonnes per hectare.
He attributes this partially to smallholder farmers using low improved varieties, low fertilizers, and poor agronomic management. Prof. Danquah also indicated that the Planting for Food and Jobs Program is encouraging the production of sufficient and high-quality seeds for the local market, but currently insufficient and hence importation.
Prof. Danquah also indicated that out of the number of maize hybrids released in Ghana, only a few have undergone full commercialization, and these are mostly varieties released by multi-national corporations.
As a result, the current hybrids that are commercialized in Ghana are produced mostly outside the shores of Ghana. It is against this background that they are working on their project
Dr. Gloria Boakye Waa Adu’s team, looking to build the technical and entrepreneurial capacity of youth in hybrid maize seed production, also observed that two of the major constraints affecting the successful expansion of hybrid maize seed production in Ghana are; inadequate availability of high-quality early generation seeds and a limited number of trained and experienced personnel with the requisite knowledge and skills in hybrid seed production.
Ghana’s next generation
It is also noted that the human resource and production capacities of the private seed sector in Ghana are weak and therefore most private seed companies rely on out-growers to produce non-hybrid seed for them to market.
However, since hybrid maize seed production requires specialized skills, the companies find it difficult to identify trained out-growers who can produce hybrid seed with little supervision.
Thus, the need for innovation and new opportunities to invest in Ghana’s next generation of talent.
Dr. Doris Puozaa’s team, working on the scalability of the hybrid soyabean, noted many reasons have been assigned to explain the low level of use of seed of improved plant varieties.
These include farmers’ lack of awareness on when and where to utilize the hybrid varieties and the high cost of seed. According to the team, some farmers complain about the poor quality of seed.
Dr. Doris Puozaa’s team, which is working on the scalability of soybeans, attributed the low adoption of improved plant varieties to farmers’ lack of awareness on when and where to utilize the hybrid varieties, as well as the high cost of seed.
With increasing interest in organically produced foods, coupled with the growing shift toward non-dairy milk and other soybean products, Dr. Puozaa said it is exciting to see the exploration of organic methods of seed quality improvement in soybean for Ghana.
Hybrid tomato seeds
“Tomato is one of the most important vegetables in Ghana in terms of dietary and commercial value. However, the tomato sector is yet to reach its full potential,” said Dr. Agyemang, who is working on developing locally certified improved hybrid tomato seeds.
Dr. Agyemang attributed low yields of fresh tomato in the Ghanaian market to a lack of adapted improved varieties. Farmers are currently growing either locally extracted seeds (leading to admixtures) of unimproved adapted cultivars or unadapted, imported varieties, according to Dr. Agyemang.
Most of the locally adapted varieties used by farmers have high water content, poor colour, many seeds, low brix, and poor shelf life. His team hopes to transform tomato production in Ghana, providing improved and more affordable hybrid tomato seeds.
Kosmos Innovation Center provides investor readiness training
The teams will be meeting with development partners, potential investors, and other key stakeholders in the agricultural sector to showcase their research and project work at an event on September 8, 2021 at the Kosmos Innovation Center Hub.
Kosmos Innovation Center played a key role in building the capacity of all the teams in the areas of business leadership, presentation skills, storytelling, and investor readiness.
The goal is to help the project teams secure additional funding that helps them turn their ideas into viable and scalable business ventures.
During one of the workshops held for the teams, the Director of the Kosmos Innovation Center in Ghana, Benjamin Gyan-Kesse said the project teams are working on a very important area: Ghana’s food security. He congratulated the teams for their work and called on stakeholders to partner with Kosmos Innovation Center to further invest in these teams and the agricultural sector in Ghana.