The future of agriculture in Ghana

Food. It’s the most basic of human needs and two doctors from Ghana, who earned their PhDs while studying in Australia, are working to address the critical issue of food productivity.

Dr Kwamina Banson and Dr Andrew Appiah are revolutionising how technology can address hunger and food nutrition in their home country. In doing so, they’re supporting the world’s goal to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture (United Nations, Sustainable Development Goal 2).

Through their work at the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), the doctors are applying science on several fronts, including to improve plant variability, combat pests and diseases, increase production and safeguard food safety and authenticity.

The work is challenging since many who live in Ghana depend on traditional or linear approaches to farming.

Dr Banson, with his Doctor of Philosophy (Business) from the University of Adelaide, is tackling this through his advanced understanding of a ‘systems-thinking approach’. Applying a holistic perspective, Dr Banson, Head of Technology Transfer at BNARI, is identifying factors and processes that shape and constrain traditional farming systems. He is also developing solutions to enhance productivity and make farming sustainable.

“My interventions attempt to increase genetic variability of plants that are resistant to vector or disease, thereby increasing their value,” Dr Banson says.

On a separate but connected project, Dr Appiah, Plant Virologist at BNARI, is identifying the root causes of decreased food production. The skills on plant disease diagnostics he gained while earning his Doctor of Philosophy (Agricultural Science, major in plant virology) from the University of Tasmania, have been critical to this work.

“I use technology to effectively screen peanuts for resistance and have introduced four resistant varieties to farmers,” says Dr Appiah, who is also screening dozens of variants of cassava and pepper to identify resistant strains.

With Africa’s population projected to hit 1.7 billion people by 2030 (United Nations), investing in innovative technologies and practices, such as those practised by Dr Banson and Dr Appiah, are going a long way in boosting food production and strengthening Ghana’s ability to achieve food security.

The doctors have received considerable support for their catalytic initiatives. The GAEC, for example, has provided them with 200 acres of land as demonstration fields. The land is being used by 200 farmers to grow new high-yielding strains of cocoa and cassava. Another 300 farmers are hiring or using their land as demonstration farms to grow seeds supplied by Dr Banson and Dr Appiah.

Initiatives like these will take the world a long way to achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.

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