Ghana is hosting an international workshop on conservation of genetic resources that is aimed at helping African countries to improve their technology for conserving genetic resources in the face of climate change.
The four-day workshop, which falls under a Korea-Africa Food and Agriculture Cooperation Initiative, is aimed at providing training to build the capacities of African scientists to enable them collect plant genetic resources, characterised, preserve and safeguard them for future survival.
The Korean Government is sponsoring the technical cooperation with the technical know-how through support of the Research Development Administration Gene bank.
Among countries participating in the projects are Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Cameroon, Senegal, Morocco, Tanzania, Sudan, Gabon, Uganda and Gambia.
Scientists from the Plant Genetic Resources Research Institute (PGRRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) are participating in the programme.
Dr Lawrence Aboagye, Director of PGRRI said the training being given to the scientists would help in identifying and study in details whatever plants was available in the countries, to know which ones were drought-tolerant and do the necessary selection and “manipulation” or cross breeding of plants to suit the environment.
“This Korea collaboration is about giving the necessary training. With this, they will be well equipped to handle the characteristics of Plant genetic resources and make the information available to the scientists for further improvement.
He said as part of the training, the participants would tour the PRRGI facilities to familiarise themselves with the activities there so they could learn from Ghana’s experience as well.
Genetic resources (GRs) refer to genetic material of actual or potential value while genetic material is any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity.
Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture have been systematically collected and exchanged for some 500 years. Conservation focuses explicitly on maintaining the diversity of the full range of genetic variation within a particular species.
Climate change is said to be impacting so much on genetic resources, making some plant species to get extinct in most countries.
Climate Change is also having a serious effect on plant genetic resources because most of the plants are in the field, depending of the weather-the required amount of water, nutrients and the right environment.
These “right environment” determines the survival of plants that are critical for the existence of humanity.
Dr Aboagye said aside the training, Ghana would need to as much as possible, and within the shortest possible time, collect as many plants as possible over a wide area of the country, in order to get the genetic diversity needed and conserve them.
He said the lack of funds towards science and research was hampering Ghana’s efforts at going round to collect genetic resources of the various plants, including cassava, cowpea, flowering plants, cereals, as well as more vegetable plants for characterisation.
Professor Victor Kwame Agyeman, Director-General of CSIR, said the initiative was a very welcoming one, which would help Ghana and the other countries to improve their agricultural productions.
He said Ghana, had a major challenge with agricultural produce, and still imports tomatoes, cereals, some legumes and poultry, saying, “It is only in the roots and tubers that we actually are self-sufficient”.
He said Ghana needed to put in place vigorous programmes like the “Planting for Food and Jobs” to ensure that the country became self-sufficient in many of its agricultural production.
Mr Kim Sungsoo, the Korean Ambassador, said the initiative was Korea’s support for Africa in using technology to promote agriculture production.
He said the workshop, a knowledge sharing experience, would help draw countries attention to genetic resources which were critical in helping manage agricultural genetic resources and improve agriculture.