Professor Eric Danquah, Founding Director, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, has won the 2018 Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agriculture and Life Sciences (GCHERA) World Agriculture Prize Laureate.
GCHERA World Agriculture Prize recognises Prof Danquah’s exceptional and significant life time achievements in the field of agricultural and life sciences.
A statement issued by the GCHERA and copied to the Ghana News Agency said Prof Danquah, who is plant geneticist and inspirational leader, and Prof Rattan Lal, a renowned soil scientist in the United States were the two laureates for the 2018 GCHERA World Agriculture Prize.
It said each of the laureate received the GCHERA World Agriculture Prize 2018 at the award ceremony on 28 October, at Nanjing Agricultural University in China.
It said each prize of $ 100,000 was generously sponsored by the Education Development Foundation of Nanjing Agricultural University and Da Bei Nong Group.
The statement said Prof John Kennelly, President of GCHERA, in presenting the award, said: “Eric Danquah established the WACCI, led a maize breeding programme which has released three high yielding maize varieties in Ghana, created the Seed Science and Technology International MPhil degree program, and significantly contributed to the establishment of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana”.
He said the establishment of WACCI by Prof Danquah provided an environment where young people were inspired to pursue careers in plant breeding. Over 100 students from 19 African countries have had the life transforming opportunity to receive a world class education in plant breeding.
Prof Kennelly said Prof Danquah’s encouragement and support of women to study in this area had been especially noteworthy as today over one third of the students enrolled in the programme are women.
“Many of the graduates have gone on to develop improved varieties of commercial and indigenous crops in their home countries,” Prof Kennelly said.
“These highly trained professionals will continue to produce improved varieties of the staple crops of Africa for decades, thus extending the legacy of WACCI in improving the lives of small farmers as well as contributing to global food and nutritional security,” he added.
Prof Ronnie Coffman, Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics, and the Director of International Programmes, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, US said: “Prof Danquah has been the driving force behind the WACCI, training the next generation of African plant breeders in Africa for Africa.”
“This is a breakthrough effort to establish and sustain the science needed for the improvement of lives and livelihoods in rural Africa.”
Prof Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, Vice Chancellor, University of Ghana said: “Prof Danquah is highly industrious, internationally-minded person who exhibits high sense of responsibility with outstanding leadership skills”.
He said: “In view of his capacity to transfer theoretical knowledge to practical application, he has been a key originator, contributor and innovator of many of the agricultural concepts and ideas that have led to the development of many seed varieties and training of plant breeders from all over Africa”.
Prof Owusu said Prof Danquah has contributed immensely to the agricultural revolution of Africa, and instrumental in the alleviation of poverty in Ghana and beyond.
Professor Samuel Kwame Offei, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Ghana said: “Prof Danquah is a scientist with an uncommon passion to enhance food security on the African continent”.
“He has led initiatives to develop vital scientific solutions to resource and biotic constraints in agricultural production, and made significant achievements in the development of high performing crops.”
He said though Prof Danquah’s leadership, a critical mass of plant geneticists had been equipped with the skills to integrate genomic innovations in crop improvement programmes, thereby, influencing the career trajectory of many young scientists in the sub-Sahara region.
An elated Prof Danquah in accepting the award in Nanjing announced that he will donate the award money to support a foundation to attract talented and needy students to study agriculture at the University of Ghana.