Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, a professor of plant genetics at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) in Legon, Accra, has been announced as the winner of the 2022 Africa Food Prize at the AGRF2022 Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Africa Food Prize is the pre-eminent annual award recognising individuals or institutions which are leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa.
Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah has been celebrated for his outstanding expertise, leadership and grantsmanship skills, which led to the establishment and development of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) as a world-class centre for training plant breeders in Africa for Africa.
He is a Ghanaian plant geneticist and professor, the founding director of WACCI and the former director of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana.
Professor Danquah founded WACCI in 2007 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”.
Through his leadership, WACCI has attracted more than US$30 million in research and development funding and trained more than 120 PhD and 49 MPhil students from 19 African countries in seed science and technology. This has 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.
Today, the institution boasts 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 selection of this year’s winner of the Africa Food Prize is a reflection of the importance of promoting science and technology as tools to develop solutions for sustainable food systems.
The winner was chosen by a distinguished judging panel of leaders in African agriculture, comprising the Africa Food Prize Committee president, Olusegun Obasanjo (the outgoing chair), Dr Vera Songwe, Dr Eleni Z Gabre-Madhin, Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Birama Sidibé and Professor Sheryl Hendriks and Dr Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli.
Olusegun Obasanjo said: “It is a great privilege to be able to honour and shine a spotlight on the truly remarkable achievements of Dr Danquah. 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.”
Professor Danquah said, “This award recognises the crucial work we do to train crop researchers at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement. I am honoured by the award and the commendation of the role of research and science in Africa’s approach to agriculture.
“The time is now for more first-class science by Africans in Africa for Africa, in collaboration with global partners, to change the narrative on our agriculture. Without genetic innovation driven by good science, our vision for resilient food systems will tarry.”
Potential to thrive
The Africa Food Prize is the pre-eminent award recognising individual or institutions that are leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa – moving agriculture from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.
The US$100,000 prize celebrates Africans who are taking control of Africa’s agriculture agenda.
It shines 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.
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