Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, Founding Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), has been announced 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 that recognises outstanding individuals or institutions that are leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa.
Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah has been celebrated for his outstanding expertise, leadership and grantsmanship skills that 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. Danquah is a Ghanaian plant geneticist, professor, founding director of the WACCI and former director of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana.
Prof. Danquah founded the 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 attracted more than US$30million of research and development funding, and trained more than 120 PhD and 49 MPhil students in Seed Science and Technology from 19 African countries. This led to more than 60 improved seed varieties, including superior maize hybrid varieties, which will help boost yield for farmers and contribute toward 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.
This year’s winner selection 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 pre-eminent judging panel of leaders in African agriculture, comprising Africa Food Prize Committee President Olusegun Obasanjo (outgoing Chair), Dr. Vera Songwe, Dr. Eleni Z. Gabre- Madhin, Dr. Kamau-Rutenberg, Mr. Birama Sidibé, Prof. 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”.
Prof. 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”.
The Africa Food Prize 2022 was sponsored by Corteva, Kenya Commercial Bank, UPL and AGRA.
The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), a World Bank Africa Centre of Excellence (ACE), was established in 2007 through a partnership between the University of Ghana (UG) and Cornell University, with funding from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to train plant breeders at the PhD level at the University of Ghana.
In 2015, under the ACE project, WACCI introduced an innovative MPhil programme in Seed Science and Technology to address the challenges facing the seed sector in Africa. Currently, the centre has enrolled 160 PhD and 80 MPhil students from 20 African countries. WACCI has, over the years, transitioned from a single donor to a multi-donor funded institution with over US$40million of committed funds.
The Africa Food Prize
The Africa Food Prize is the pre-eminent award, recognising an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa—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 puts 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.
The Prize Committee considers the following criteria for the prize:
- Contribution to reducing poverty and hunger and/or improving food and nutrition security in measurable terms.
- Contribution to providing a vital source of income and/or employment in measurable terms.
- Potential for transformative change through scalability, replication and sustainability.
- Increased awareness and cooperation among African audiences and organisations.