Australian government provides 1.3 million dollars to improve agriculture in Africa

Accra, March 6, GNA-The Australian government, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), has provided 1.3 million dollars to improve agricultural growth and economic development in Africa.

The move is to support six projects to be implemented in Ghana, Cameroon, Mali and Burkina Faso from the Australian Agency of International Development (AusAID) under the Food Security and Rural Development Initiative aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Dr Ernest Assah, Executive Director of West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (WECARD) made this known on Monday when he opened a three-day Annual Review and Planning workshop for Seed System Improvement in Accra under the theme: 'Strengthening Seed System in West and Central Africa'.

The meeting was organized by WECARD in collaboration with Australia and Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cameroon.

The three-year project focuses on ways and means of establishing efficient, sustainable seed systems for the major staple crops using sorghum, millet, maize, cowpea and groundnut that provide farmers a reliable supply and a range of choices of quality seed, well adapted to local conditions.

The project will use a multi-institutional, multi-scale and inter-disciplinary approach in close partnership with farmers, government and no- governmental organisations, scientists and other stakeholders applying innovation systems to understand and address the major constraints to sustainable seed and input systems in West and Central Africa

Mr Assah said the projects included unlocking the opportunities to enhance sustained seed systems of staple crops to improve food security and agricultural production in West and Central Africa and an integrated cereal livestock tree system for sustainable land use and improve livelihoods of small-holder farmers.

The objective s of the project is to provide modelling tools for making informed decisions in input use options in improving crop productivity.

Some of the projects were sustainable intensification of integrated crop-livestock and crop –small ruminant systems, sustainable of risk management and reduction of vulnerability of integrated agro-forestry-pastoral systems and assessment of emerging livestock's and ticks and tick-borne disease threat and integrated control strategies in West and Central Africa.

Mr Assah said March 2012 marked one year of implementing one of the projects thus unlocking the opportunities to enhanced sustained seed system aimed reviewing its implementation and improve its performance during the year 2012.

He said the seed system improvement project covers the National Agricultural Research Systems from the four African countries as well as the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, the West African Seed Alliance, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa.

Mrs Rose Emma Mamaa Entsua-Mensah, Deputy Director-General of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who took participants through the structure of the Council said it had 13 institutes which have research mandates for all important food and fibre crops in Ghana which include cereals like maize, rice, sorghum and millet.

Mrs Entsua-Mensah said seed industry in the country comprised mainly the formal seed sector with the informal sector not well developed adding that the seed industry is too formal with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture doing 80 per cent of activities in terms of registration of seed growers and cleaning and grading of seeds.

She stressed that the Grains and Legumes Development Board (GLDB) has limited capacity to absorb all breeder seeds produced by the research institutes and that it cannot be able to sell all breeder seeds produced making it difficult to continue production in years ahead.

She noted that the private sector made up of farmers of the Seed Producers Association of Ghana is responsible for production, marketing and distribution of certified seeds to farmers and other seed users within the country.

Mrs Entsua-Mensah noted that the impact of the projects rested on the effective involvement and linkages among all stakeholders along the value chain and the sustainability of the processes that will be put in place.

She was of the hope that with harmonisation of the seed protocols with the sub-region and the participation of the four countries, the project would come up with policy statement to improve agricultural research and technology.

Dr Ibrahim D.K. Atokple of the Genetics and Plants Breeding of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute of CSIR said the West and Central African Sub-region have a population of over 380 million with the economies driven by agriculture.

Dr Atokple said the low annual average agricultural productivity growth rate over the past 40 years outstripped by the high population growth rate contributed to widespread poverty and food insecurity.

Presenting a report on the progress of the improved seed in Ghana, Dr Atokple said there was low publicity and demonstrations of the availability of improved seeds in the farming communities and deplorable conditions of many feeder roads in the country were a disincentive to seed grower to open up market links in the rural areas.

Dr Atokple recommended that the seed industry should be made more competitive by involving both public and private enterprises, improve the capacity of the GLDB and the Agro-input dealers should have agents in the various farming communities.

Mr Tony Webster Research Agronomist for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia said it had put in place a monitoring team to ensure that the money for the projects would be used for its intended purposes.

Mr Webster said he hoped that the projects would achieve its objective in improving agricultural in the sub-region.

GNA

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