GAEC Launches Cassava Week Celebration

The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has launched the maiden edition of the Cassava Week Celebration to promote the value of cassava cultivation and utilization in Ghana.

The week celebration, which is on the theme: “Cassava – Ghana’s Golden Root for Economic Transformation’’ is aimed at raising awareness amongst Ghanaians regarding the rich diversity and benefits of the cassava crop. It is scheduled to take place from the 13th  – 16th of June 2023 at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Accra and the Innovation Village Foundation at Anormawobi in the Central Region.

Cross-section of GAEC staff and guests at the launch of the Commission's Cassava Week Celebration
Cross-section of GAEC staff and guests at the launch of the Commission’s Cassava Week Celebration

In a speech read by the Director of the Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute, Prof. Shiloh Osae, on behalf of the Director General of GAEC, Prof. Samuel Dampare, he emphasised that this programme was part of GAEC’s efforts to support the government of Ghana for the utilization of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to improve cassava varieties for national development. “Whiles research works are endless, the rate of adoption and utilization of the technologies developed needs to be improved in Ghana”, he added.

In his keynote address, the Managing Director of Ayensu Starch Company Limited, Mr. Evans Kwame Ayim, noted that more than 70 % of farmers in Ghana are involved in the production of cassava, making it a significant root crop in the country’s agricultural system.

He stated that cassava is a major source of carbohydrates for most people in Ghana, as well as a regular source of income for most rural dwellers.

According to Mr. Ayim, although cassava is mostly thought of as a food crop, encouraging local processing and consumption of cassava-based products will generate income for households and create jobs for the Ghanaian economy.

Cross-section of GAEC staff and guests at the launch of the Commission's Cassava Week Celebration
Cross-section of GAEC staff and guests at the launch of the Commission’s Cassava Week Celebration

“The potential of cassava as an industrial crop cannot be overemphasized. Ghana’s economy stands to benefit greatly if steps are taken to industrialize cassava. Cassava can be processed into starch, ethanol, high maltose syrup, etc”, he revealed.

He also added that Globally the starch industry is worth over $97billion US Dollars which the country can take advantage of..

Mr. Ayim expressed appreciation for BNARI’s research initiatives which have yielded significant results in the development of high yielding cassava varieties for farmers.

“BNARI in collaboration with University of Cape Coast, has released to farmers, five high yielding cassava varieties namely Nyonku agbeli, Kponu agbeli, Fufuhene bankye, Ampesihema bankye and Tetteh bankye. However, these varieties have not been adopted widely by farmers due to inadequate publicity and unavailability of planting materials. Hence, the expected socioeconomic impact on farmers have not been realized” he said.

He urged BNARI to form partnerships with industry players that will make their cassava varieties available and accessible to farmers, allowing them to produce enough raw materials for Ghana’s few cassava processing factories as well as the local market.

On his part, the Director of BNARI, Dr. Michael Osae stated that Cassava has the potential to transform Ghana’s economy because it can be used in sectors like the pharmaceutical, beverage, and textile industries.

He stated that the Institute chose to emphasize cassava in honour of its 30th anniversary to highlight BNARI technologies and innovations in the cassava value chain.

“BNARI has developed technologies such as Mutation Breeding for breeding new varieties of cassava and other crops, soil moisture and nutrient management, crop and pest disease management which are technologies that can be applied to improve cassava production. We have also worked on fortifying gari with micronutrients and soybeans to develop a soybean-gari blend known as “proGari” he added.

The Keynote speaker later launched the Cassava Week Celebration followed by an exhibition event to showcase the various BNARI products and technologies.

CPRC/CCD

GAEC to Support Increase Production of Important Medicinal Plants

The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) is collaborating with the Centre for Plant Medicine Research (CPMR) to facilitate the large-scale production and cultivation of a medicinal plant for rheumatoid arthritis.

Capparis erythrocarpos Isert is an important medicinal plant used to produce “Sirrapac”, a herbal product for the management of the disease.

The partnership calls for GAEC’s Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) to develop protocols for multiplying some recalcitrant medicinal plants using tissue culture technology.

The Director-General of GAEC, Prof Samuel B. Dampare expressed confidence that this project will address an important limitation in the production of such herbal plant medicine, which is the scarcity of the plant raw material due to urbanization and deforestation of natural habitats.

In an interview with staff of the Communication and Public Relations Centre (CPRC), the Director of BNARI, Dr. Michael Osae stated that tissue culture technology can be used to produce high quality and disease-free planting materials of crops and medicinal plants.

He said that BNARI and CPMR have been in discussions on how to leverage biotechnologies such as tissue culture for rapid and large-scale multiplication of important medicinal plants that are on the verge of extinction but critical to CPMR’s work.

Following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), BNARI will initially develop tissue culture protocols for the large-scale production of Capparis erythrocarpos planting materials to aid establishment of plantation by CPMR” he said.

According to Dr. Wilfred Elegba, a Senior Research Scientist at the Biotechnology Centre of BNARI, the Capparis plant has useful medicinal properties that can treat rheumatoid arthritis.

He mentioned that the Centre for Plant Medicine Research has a herbal medicine product, “Sirrapac”. However, the CPMR is unable to meet the demand for “Sirrapac” due to insufficient quantities of the plant raw material for production.

 

“With BNARI’s nearly 30 years of experience in the development of plant tissue culture protocols for mass production of clean planting materials for food crops such as plantain, pineapple, sweet potato, sugarcane and medicinal plants such as Aframomum melegueta (alligator pepper) and Phyllantus niruri (Awommaa guwakyi), we look forward to assisting the Centre in expanding their production” he added.

On his part, the Executive Director of the Centre for Plant Medicine Research, Prof. Alex Asase expressed his profound gratitude to GAEC for its efforts in making the collaboration a reality.

He stated that through this collaboration, CPMR and GAEC will work to ensure the sustainability and availability of medicinal plants that are essential to the Centre’s work.

CPRC/CCD

GAEC urges government to prioritize space science ahead of GEO Week 2022

Mr Kofi Asare
Mr Kofi Asare
Manager, Remote Sensing and Climate Centre (RSCC)

The Ghana Space Science and Technology Institute (GSSTI) of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) has urged the government to prioritize space science because it holds the key to the country’s development.

Speaking ahead of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Week 2022, which will start from October 31, 2022, to November 4, 2022, at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC), the Manager of the Remote Sensing and Climate Centre (RSCC) at the GSSTI, Mr. Kofi Asare, said the use of space technology is critical in addressing the environmental challenges facing the country through innovative agriculture monitoring for improved food security, crop yield estimation and prediction, weather forecasting, monitoring of water resources, monitoring mining activities and monitoring coastal resources, among others.

“Indeed, we are all consumers of space products. In our daily lives, we use it for electronic banking, GPS navigation, wi-fi and satellite television, and cloud-based data storage, among others, “he added.

According to Mr Asare, this is the first time GEO Week will be convened in Accra, Ghana. He further noted that the world’s attention would be focused on Africa this November because, besides Ghana hosting GEO Week 2022, Egypt is also hosting COP 27. The gathering at GEO Week 2022, he said, would showcase how international cooperation is accelerating the use of earth observation as proof of local impact, both in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

He noted that the GSSTI would be partaking in this year’s event to showcase its technology and innovations in earth observation data, saying that the institute has a lot to offer and contribute to the country’s development once the necessary support is given to it.

“On the second day of the event, GSSTI will be participating in two side events where the Director of GSSTI, Prof. Shiloh K. D., will speak on the topic, Evidence-based decisions and impact through National GEOs, and take part in a panel discussion leading to the formation of National GEO for Ghana. Later in the afternoon, Mr Asare will speak on the theme “Innovative agriculture monitoring for increased food security” with a focus on crop monitoring using Earth Observation data over Northern Ghana,” he noted.

The GEO Week 2022 is on the theme: “Global Action for Local Impact”, and its aim at highlighting how the use of earth observations can help support action on climate change, biodiversity loss, the ocean, nature-based solutions, and tackling the food security crisis.