By Joyce Danso, GNA

The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for the first time in history has released five varieties of cowpea through the exploitation of molecular technology simultaneously.

The varieties are; Zaayura Padi, Soo-Sima, Diffeele, Wang Kae and Kirkhouse Benga one.

Dr Stephen K. Nutsugah, Director of Savana Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of CSIR who described the release of the five varieties as ground breaking event, said the varieties had three to four times higher yield than the other cowpeas.

Dr Nutsugah who made this known at the West African Cowpea Consortium (WACC) Annual meeting and Training Session in Accra for 41 participants said CSIR-SARI intends to release the latest varieties this year before the commencement of Ghana’s crop season.

The programme organised by CSIR-SARI and Kirkhouse Trust, a US based firm aimed at strengthening human and institutional capacity for cowpea research as well as providing selected infrastructure and equipment to enhance research capacity in cowpea improvement programme.

In Ghana, it is estimated that farmer yield of cowpea is 0.4 tonnes per hector however the new varieties are expected to increase farmer yield to 1.2 tonnes per hector.

Dr Nutsugah recounted that research into the new five varieties began in 2008 after scientists identified new sources of cowpea aphid resistant genotypes.

The Director of SARI noted that the new varieties were pest and disease resistant and would last longer.

He commended Kirkhouse Trust for bringing together research scientists and other professionals to create and disseminate international public goods that improve production and productivity that are pro-poor, gender equitable and environmentally sustainable.

Professor Michael Timko of University of Virginia noted that over 75 per cent of cowpea production, which took place in sub-Sahara Africa provided primary source of protein, income for smallholder farmers and contributed to subsistence crop farming.

However, he noted that the monetary loss in cowpea estimated between 100 million to one billion dollars annually was worrying.

Professor Timko said that was the reason why WACC and Kirkhouse Trust were building partnership to support cowpea improvement in West Africa through the use of molecular assisted breading and selection.

Dr V.K. Agyeman, Director General, CSIR commended Kirkhouse Trust for their increased and sustained support for research in Ghana

According to Dr Agyeman “CSIR-SARI alone has been a major beneficiary of a number of interventions since 2008 with an anticipated funding amounting to $656,333 dollars.”

Dr Agyeman said one of the major challenges of variety development was the expensive process and the long-time development process depending on the crop life cycle and breading strategy adopted.

In addition, the Director General noted that special skills were required to undertake the exercise.

He lauded government’s commitment towards developing agriculture and development of E-agriculture platform to address farmers needed.

Dr Agyeman said CSIR and Ministry of Food and Agriculture would work to ensure that cowpea was inculcated into government’s campaign on Planting for jobs.

He said transformation of livelihoods and reduction of poverty in West African Sub-region could be achieved if resultant low agricultural productivity was reserved.

Once upon a time, in the first decade of this millennium, a certain chief executive officer (CEO) of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital  decided to evict encroachers who had occupied and entrenched themselves on the hospital’s land.

To show this CEO where power lay, the encroachers, including coffin makers, many of whom were politically well muscled, marched to the Castle in red armbands to ask government to get rid of him.

By the time they returned, the Korle Bu CEO was himself in red armbands, waiting to address them. The rest is history. Today, thanks to this man, Korle Bu has got its 30 acres back and walled its entire land. The encroachers and coffin makers have since relocated.

That CEO is Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, designated by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to head the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. On his plate, when he finally sits down, will be tonnes of documentation, some dating from the early years of Ghana’s independence when Kwame Nkrumah established a Science Village and carved out large tracts of land for what is now the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

These documents will be marked URGENT because on the urgent attention given to them will depend the future of science and technology and by extension, agricultural development (food self-sufficiency) in Ghana. At the Airport area in Accra where CSIR is headquartered, at Frafraha and at Pokuase (both also in Accra), and in Kumasi, CSIR lands are in danger. Encroachers are carving up portions for themselves and using armed land guards and political connection to protect their interest. 

The last time someone from one of the  institutes of the CSIR attempted to use the law to protect CSIR lands, a macho man appeared in his office one fine afternoon, grabbed him by the neck, almost lifted him off his feet (the way African police do to criminals) and told him that that was his last warning.

A few weeks before this encounter, a number of machomen had waylaid him at the main gate of the institute of which this man is a director. They looked out for him in every vehicle that went out. Using a route unknown to the machomen, the director escaped.

Yours Truly advised him: Why not bring in the police?

“Where have we not gone, my brother?” the director quizzed in reply. “We’ve seen powers-that-be in very high places... we’ve been with the police command, the armed forces, sat with our sector minister, sought the intervention of Flagstaff House. The court has given us judgement in our favour, but the judgement cannot be enforced.”

Why? Because there is always a telephone call “from above” that freezes all action. 

An over-zealous officer from one of the law enforcement agencies sent armed guards to protect the CSIR land. He found himself on transfer to another region.

Yours Truly has chanced upon documentation that lists powerful and influential personalities in the land who have been beneficiaries of the encroachment. At the council’s Animal Research Institute, encroachers have taken over more than 85 per cent of the land, to the point where the institute can, as I write, not find six acres of land to grow pasture for improved sheep breed!

“We can’t get it!” lamented its director. “It’s a hopeless case.”

Powerful forces are at work acting on their own behalf, and in the interest of their relations, political and business associates. It is hurting science and technology in Ghana.

Nothing can reverse this trend of greed and selfishness until Ghanaians are lucky to have a leader in the mould and make of Paul Kegame of Rwanda where it takes six hours (I repeat SIX HOURS) to register land, where the applicant and the Lands official never meet. Everything is online.

I listened to the speech of the incoming minister of Agriculture at the New Year School. Did he notice the loud and prolonged applause that greeted his announcement that the Akufo-Addo Government was bringing back ‘Operation Feed Yourself’? I can assure him that that ambitious plan will only be a joke  unless the issue of land – not only for scientific purpose, but also for farming et al – is settled.

When Ghana was Ghana and we had a leader who knew the essence of science and technology, the Malaysian President sent his scientists to study our model. Out of this model, Malaysia has turned oil palm into “red gold”. Our leaders are still talking and taking away ex-gratia.

Some time during his term, President Kufuor came back from an official visit to that country and right from the Kotoka International Airport, began the campaign to get Ghanaian scientists to go and study the “Malaysian magic”.

Knowing what I know now, I can assure President Akufo-Addo that it takes no magic at all. What worked for Malaysia was scientific research. A greater component of that scientific effort was soil research, which the Malaysians picked from Ghana’s Soil Research Institute in Kumasi. 

If President Akufo-Addo is looking for zeal among Ghanaians to go back to the land, he will find plenty of it. However, feeding the people and the factories in any country goes beyond zeal. Farming is science; science is research.

Fortunately, the land encroachment issue may not be new to Prof. Frimpong Boateng who, I am told, has, for some years now, been attending the annual meetings of CSIR scientists.

Can CSIR look up to him for salvation?

 

Source: Graphic

Did you know that the second Friday of October is World Egg Day? Unknown to many so-called enlightened Ghanaians, the Animal Research Institute (ARI) of Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been celebrating the day at some selected schools in the country.

The goal: to encourage the consumption of eggs.

All our lives, we have read and been taught that the intake of eggs can lead to heart attack by increasing the cholesterol level in the human body.

However, yours truly has laid hands on a report prepared for the American Council on Science and Health. This report, submitted in 2002, concludes that “dietary cholesterol has only a small effect on blood cholesterol and that the consumption of eggs — up to an intake of one egg per day — has no detectable effect on heart disease risk in healthy people.”

The Director of the Animal Research Institute, Dr E.K. Adu, is a passionate advocate of “One Egg A Day”. He says it makes sense, especially for people in poorer countries since, “in addition to their nutritional value, eggs are inexpensive, convenient, easy to prepare and easy to chew”.

And now, thank God for scientific research, it is also possible to modify some aspects of the nutritional composition of eggs by feeding the hens special diets. As I write this column, scientists at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) are working on what has become known as ‘Designer Eggs” - eggs fortified with increased amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E.

I have chosen to start this write-up on CSIR-ARI on this note because the One Egg a Day campaign could mean a lot of money for our poultry farmers. Can you imagine the soaring demand for eggs through the School Feeding Programme! Can you imagine the effect of all of this on President Akufo-Addo’s agricultural campaign! My only problem is the campaign tag. Too mouthful, methinks. I propose “One Man, One Farm”.

Since its establishment in the First Republic, the ARI has contributed to national development through the following, among other inventions:

Wheat bran in animal feed. Until the discovery of wheat bran as animal feed, the flour mills in Ghana were burning their wheat bran as waste, while we imported feed.

ARI breed of chicken – In order to reduce the country's dependence on imported breeding stock, the institute has introduced a new breed of chicken that combines the characteristics of fast growth with adaptation to the harsh environmental conditions. Known for short as 'Aribro' (i.e. ARI broilers) it is a new kind of breed for the production of day-old chicks for broilers.

The Aribro birds achieve a growth rate of 1.8 kilos at eight weeks. They are lean and have a survival rate of 97 per cent . It dresses quite well.

Producing 10,000 day-old chicks a week for onward distribution to all 10 regions in the country and for export, the ARI aims to produce some 20 million broilers a year. In his 2015 State of the Nation address, the then President said that target would save the economy about $150million.

ARI breed of sheep – Sheep produced at ARI has a birth rate of 26 per cent and have a 34 per  cent lower mortality rate than the Sahelian breed.

ARI piggery: no scent – Wondering why pigs are associated with bad odour, the ARI has, through years of research, discovered that pigs do not have to smell as terribly as we know them. Indeed, with the right husbandry, pigs do not even need to be washed at all. In the process of research, the ARI has also discovered a way of saving 20 per cent - 30 per cent on pig-feed.

Grasscutter production – Through research, ARI has introduced grasscutter rearing in cages. Now, instead of grass, there is scientifically formulated grasscutter feed. They can be de-wormed and protected against other diseases. The result has been amazing. At the market, one (small) female grasscutter fetches the same price as one (huge) female cow.

Insect for feed – Traditionally, Ghanaian livestock farmers import a lot of fishmeal to feed their livestock. The ARI is currently piloting a project that makes it possible to produce fly larvae as livestock feed. The experiment involves the use of rotten fruits as feed for flies, including the black soldier flies. The institute is developing a Fly Larvae Park.

Unibrain C-Clear - Jointly with the Agriculture Departments of the various universities, ARI has come up with the University Business and Research in Agricultural Innovation (UNIBRAIN). One of its models is the C-CLEAR, a livestock agri-business incubator in Ghana that provides investment support to graduate interns to establish business enterprises in various livestock value chains. The project links the incubatees with start-up capital, infrastructure and veterinary support, teaching them how to brand and market the product and keep books.

One of the project’s incubatees, Grace Okai, won the Best Pig Farmer award at the last Farmers Day celebration.

You cannot tour ARI’s farms (off the Adentan-Frafraha road) without wondering why any government would undertake a national Guinea fowl project without reference to this Institute of the CSIR. The ARI has all the answers – from breeding to marketing.

The President of the Ghana Federation of Traditional Medicine Practitioners Associations (GHAFTRAM), Mr Kojo Eduful, has appealed to the government to establish a new ministry responsible for traditional medicine.

He said since about 80 per cent of Ghanaians relied on the use of traditional or herbal medicines, it was imperative to create a new ministry to undertake more research concerning its use.

Mr Eduful said this in an interview with the Daily Graphic on the sidelines of a book launch in Accra last Monday.

The book, entitled “Fundamentals of Herbal Medicine” is over 700 pages written by Dr Kofi Busia.

Export herbal medicine

He said in spite of the tremendous contribution of herbal medicine to the country’s health delivery, little attention had been given to promote the operations of herbalists.

Mr Eduful said both the orthodox and herbal medicines required equal attention since they played a key role in health care delivery.

“We have a small office, but we provide about 70 per cent of medicines used in Ghana. We need a new ministry to look into our operations and a minister to advocate our activities,” he said.

According to Mr Eduful, if the government paid critical attention to traditional medicine practitioners, they could produce more herbal medicines that could be exported, and also end the importation of sub-standard medicines, adding that herbal medicines could earn Ghana more foreign exchange than cocoa if given the needed support.

Challenges

The President of Ghana Association of Medical Herbalists (GAMH), Mr Samuel Osei Kwarteng, expressed worry over the numerous challenges bedevilling the operations of herbal medicine practitioners.

He indicated that all the regional and district hospitals in the country, including, LEKMA and Tema Polyclinic, had a department of herbal medicine, but nothing concrete had been done to promote their work.

Additionally, Mr Kwateng said the current National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) did not cover herbal medicine, making it expensive for Ghanaians to afford.

“Another problem is the high charges imposed on our operations by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA),” he added, saying “we hope that the new government would look into this.”

The government says it will boost the operations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to make it a force behind the country’s development agenda.

The government will partner the CSIR to examine, explore and create science and technology  catalysts for public and private sector development.

Interacting with the management and staff of the council, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, said the government acknowledged that there could be no meaningful and sustainable development without science, technology and innovation.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng visited the council as part of his working tour of agencies under his ministry to familiarise himself with their operations and challenges and begin a discourse on how to improve their operations.

He said considering the role of science, technology and innovation in national development, the CSIR would be a major stakeholder in the national development agenda.

Partnership

The CSIR was expected to play a key role in the implementation of the One District, One Factory and the One Village, One Dam promise by the government.

“The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has instructed that the old ways of doing things, where majority of the country’s produce were exported in their raw forms, has to be changed,” he said.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng explained that the instruction was to promote and enhance the industrialisation agenda of the government.

The minister acknowledged and commended the enormous contributions of the centre to both the private and public sectors, but was worried that the public did not know so much about what it had been doing over the years.

“A business development desk will, therefore, be created at the ministry to promote the commercialisation of the council’s researches and better link them to industry to enhance your operations,” he said.

Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said the government was ready to give the Council all the necessary support to boost its operations, which is expected to result in the improvement of science and technology innovations for national development. 

CSIR

For his part, the Director- General of the CSIR, Dr Victor Kwame Agyeman, said the council was committed to partnering the government to implement policies on scientific research and development.

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