Ghana will host the very first conference of the African Plant Breeders Association (APBA) from October 23-25, 2019 at the University of Ghana, Legon.
The broad objective of the conference is to share knowledge, build partnerships, generate and publicize solutions to modernize breeding programmes for the transformation of agriculture in Africa.
The conference will also be used to officially launch the Association with the objective of driving the food and nutrition security agenda on the continent.
The Minister of State at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Dr Nurah Gyiele, will launch the Association at the opening ceremony.
The conference will bring together over 300 scientists, researchers, national agriculture policymakers, students and professionals from both public and private sectors in the fields of plant breeding and seed science.
It will discuss current research outputs and outcomes in plant breeding and seed systems. It will also provide opportunities for extensive collaborations targeted at achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 – end hunger, achieve food security, improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.
The Conference which is being hosted by the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) will take place at the Auditorium of the Department of Economics, University of Ghana, and will discuss a wide variety of issues impeding food security in Africa.
These include accelerating genetic gain in crops, variety development and deployment, gender-responsive breeding, breeding to help fight post-harvest pests and diseases, tree crop improvement, among many others.
The Organizing Committee of the conference led by Director of WACCI, Prof. Eric Y. Danquah, who is also the Interim President of the APBA noted that plant breeding offers a huge opportunity to provide sustainable paths to increasing domestic supply of food and dietary diversity in Africa.
They bemoaned the fact that Africa still lags behind other continents as regards knowledge and access to modern approaches and techniques inbreeding.
“There is a general lack of awareness on the importance of plant breeders with regard to their capacity to drive innovations and technology adoption in the agricultural sector in Africa.”
“There is no platform for plant breeders and seed scientists across commodities to discuss their findings and define a roadmap for their fields on a regular basis. The need for an APBA is, therefore, very urgent”, the Committee added.
The organisers warned that current efforts to deal with the challenges of food and nutrition on the continent including the use of irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers, farm machinery, and large-scale monoculture farms are unsustainable at the current scale, hence the need to prioritise plant breeding.
The gap they said may limit advocacy on the importance of plant breeding and seed systems in addressing important challenges along the agricultural value chains hence the decision to launch the association.
According to the organisers, the need to prioritise plant breeding was also mainly due to the fact that many of the components of modern agriculture are heavily dependent on water, fossil fuels (for irrigation, fertilizer production, machinery, transportation) and phosphate rock (for phosphorus fertilizer), most of which are finite resources and are becoming increasingly scarce.
“If Africa is to achieve SDG 2, it has to adopt a different strategy. The growth and expansion of the plant breeding profession provide an opportunity to deal with some of these big challenges faced by African countries to increase domestic food supply”, the statement concluded.