WACCI launches Vegetable Innovation Lab to Boost Tomato Production in Ghana

By | July 21, 2015

Participants at the workshop in a group photograph

The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) in collaboration with the Alliance for Agricultural RD for Food Security have organized a two-day workshop on the Tomato Value Chain in Ghana.

The Alliance for Agricultural RD for Food Securityis made up of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), the Australian International Food Security Research Centre (AIFSRC/ACIAR), Crawford Fund (CF) and the University of Queensland (UQ).

The workshop which brought together 35 renowned research scientists and stakeholders in the tomato industry from across the globe sought to create awareness about the proposed WACCI-VIL; explore the possibility of establishing a public-private consortium in West Africa that raises tomato productivity through an integrative research approach underpinned by science and technology to develop a strategy for accelerating a successful tomato industry in Ghana.

Prof. Ebenezer OduroOwusu, Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences

The Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences (CBAS), Prof. Ebenezer OduroOwusu, in his opening remarks recalled how in 1996 Burkina Faso realized they had to accept the challenge of producing tomatoes and so began studying the value chain. He commended WACCI for its visionary leadership in organizing the workshop.


Prof. Eric YirenkyiDanquah, Director of WACCI speaking at the workshop

The Director of WACCI, Prof. Eric YirenkyiDanquahmade a presentation on the WACCI concept. Hestressed on the fact that the lack of breeders is hampering the growth of the tomato industry in Ghana and in the sub-region. He said currently the Crops Research Institute, at Fumesua has only two vegetable breeders who are not well resourced in the use of new technologies needed to accelerate the development of superior tomato varieties for the benefit of Ghanaians. Henoted that for Ghana to make headway in tomato production there is the need for the government to take up seriously the issue of training breeders, and to give priority to agricultural production.

Prof. Danquah said WACCI, which is one of the World Bank’s African Centres of Excellence would receive eight million dollars from the Bank by August 2015 thus providing the springboard for transforming the Centre into a sustainable African Centre of Excellence for training plant breeders, seed scientists and technologists. Prof. Danquah mentioned that since the establishment of the Centre in 2007, it has enrolled 82 PhD students from 12 African countries. From the total number of enrolled students 52% are Anglophones, 48% Francophone, while 37% of the students are females.

In a statement, the Senior Scientific Advisor of Syngenta for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), a Swiss non-governmental organization,Dr.Vivienne Anthony, said there was the need for a demand-led plant variety design for emerging markets in Africa. She said SFSA would continue to support public breeders to raise productivity and quality of new varieties to meet the needs of smallholder farmers, value chains and consumers.

Dr. Peter van der Toorn, Global Head Breeding Vegetables, Syngenta Seeds, in his presentation emphasized the importance of the use of technology in plant breeding and crop production to achieve food security. He thanked the organizers for the invitation and talked on the various markets for tomato production in the world with classical examples of the markets in India and the Mediterranean regions.

The Project Leader of GhanaVeg, Mr. Joep van den Broek, speaking at the workshop indicated that GhanaVeg has set aside funds for initiatives in the vegetable industry of which tomato is a major crop. He stated that GhanaVeg aims to promote the commercial vegetable sector development in Ghana with support from the private sector to help transform Ghana’s ailing vegetable sector.


Mr. Kwabena Adu-Gyamfi, Manager of Agri Commercial Services Ltd.,Wenchi, in his presentation said his enterprise abandoned the use of open fields for tomato cultivation and has adopted the use of tunnels and green houses where yields increased to about 96 ton/ha. He stated that whiteflies that transmit viruses and the early and late blight diseases remain major constraints to tomato production. He therefore, advised the use of breeding and agronomy to mitigate these challenges to ensure higher farm productivity in Ghana.

Dr. Irene Egyir of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness made a presentation on a WACCI commissioned report titled, “Ghana tomato value chain preliminary study report: Gaps and key considerations to revamp the tomato industry” to the participants. She said that the combination of Ghana’s vast resources of agricultural land, plentiful water for irrigation, and available low-cost labour makes it ideal for commercial farming and that the country is only utilizing 11% of its water resources. She stressed that understanding the current situation of the industry should lead to effective strategizing for revitalizing it. She recommended that Ghana should establish the right policy frameworks to stimulate increased production to feed both processing and fresh markets whilst building upon storage facilities for better post-harvest handling. She probed whether there is adequate infrastructure to back the development of a vibrant tomato industry whilst noting that there were no cold chains in the current value chain of tomato. She cautioned that for the proposed tomato industry to be sustainable, farmers and stakeholders must ensure that farming is Nitrogen, Carbon, Water, Energy and input smart.

Dr. AgyemangDanquah, a lecturer from the Departmentthe Crop Science, University of Ghana and the Coordinator of Teaching Programmes and Curriculum Development at WACCI presented on the new vision of the Centre to establish a Vegetable Innovation Lab (VIL). Dr. Danquah stated that the WACCI-VIL through strategic partnerships, education outreach underpinned by the use of cutting-edge research to develop improved varieties with climate resilience will help work towards attaining food and nutritional security in the region. He explained that the VIL will stand on six thematic areas or pillars namely: Genetic Improvement, Vegetable Production and Quality, Processing, Value Chains Socio-Economic Research, Policy Research and Knowledge Management Systems.

An open discussion on the market research on the tomato industry in Ghana was held during the workshop at which participants unanimously agreed on the establishment of the Institutional Consortium. The Consortium will coordinate, implement the recommendations and lead all the activities identified for the transformation of the tomato industry in Ghana. The institutional membership of the Tomato Consortium, which is made up of representatives of all stakeholders identified, were nominated and approved by the workshop participants. Members for the WACCI led Steering Committee of the Tomato Consortium were also identified, nominated and approved as follows:Mr. Michael Osei (CSIR-CRI);Mr. Kwabena Adu-Gyamfi (Agri Commercial Services);Mr. Caleb Blassey (Nurevas);Dr. Irene Egyir (Agricultural Economist); Prof. George Nkansah (FOHCREC, Kade, UG);Miss Esther Agyekum (MOFA, CSD);Miss Edna Baffour Bonnie (MOFEP);Mr. William Kottey (Representing Seed Companies, Wienco Ghana Limited) and Dr. AgyemangDanquah (Crop Science Department/WACCI, UG).

The workshop ended with participants present committingto offer unflinching support to the success of the initiatives started by WACCI and its partners to help transform the
industry in Ghana.