GCHERA World Agriculture Prize Laureates 2018
- Oct 30, 2018

Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah

Director, West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI)

College of Basic and Applied Sciences

University of Ghana

PMB 30, Legon, Accra


Eric Danquah is Professor of Plant Genetics in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences at the University of Ghana and Director of the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI). He gained a BSc degree in Agriculture (Crop Science) from the University of Ghana (1984), an MPhil in Plant Breeding from University of Cambridge, UK (1987) and a PhD in Genetics also from the University of Cambridge, UK (1993). He turned down an offer of a post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University believing he had the knowledge and skills needed to impact directly on Africa’s development. In February 1994, he was appointed Lecturer in the Department of Crop Science, University of Ghana. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2001, Associate Professor in 2004 and Full Professor in 2007. He was a Visiting Scientist at the BBSRC-Long Ashton Research Institute, UK from 2000 to 2001. Currently, apart from being the Director of the WACCI he also serves as the Director of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana. He is a recipient of a Distinguished award for meritorious service, University of Ghana, 2013.

Eric Danquah has accomplished notable achievements in higher education and global development, he: (1)established WACCI in the University of Ghana in 2007 as a consequence of his shared vision and leadership to train a new generation of plant breeders to develop improved varieties of the staple crops of West and Central Africa, (2)led a maize breeding program which has released three high yielding maize varieties in Ghana, (3)created the Seed Science and Technology International MSc degree program, (4) significantly contributed to the establishment of the Biotechnology Centre at the University of Ghana.

The WACCI approach is to equip plant breeders with the knowledge and skills to develop superior varieties of indigenous crops using both conventional and modern technologies. With WACCI, Eric Danquah has worked tirelessly to significantly improve the quality of PhD training in plant breeding offered to students from universities in West, East Central and Southern Africa.

The impact of WACCI as an international centre for the development of world-class PhD plant breeders under Eric Danquah’s leadership has been impressive. So far, WACCI has enrolled over 114 PhD plant breeding students from 19 African countries and graduated 66, while the balance move through the program. Three high-yielding maize hybrids released by WACCI under his leadership as Principal Investigator are being scaled up for commercialization and will significantly increase maize productivity in Ghana. The major impact of the program is in the numbers of new varieties of crops developed by these students in their home countries through their plant breeding projects. Last year, one of the foundation students released five rice varieties in Ghana. Also many varieties developed are for “orphaned” crops — those indigenous to Africa but rarely the target of intensive breeding efforts because they are of little commercial importance. Essentially, these efforts increase food security for Africa. One of Eric Danquah’s major objectives was that WACCI should attract women to plant breeding programs. Today, more than 35 percent of the PhD students enrolled in WACCI are women.

Using the WACCI platform, Eric Danquah competed for and won an African Centres of Excellence award from the World Bank, which provided (among other things) $8M over a four-year period to help enhance infrastructure and to create the Seed Science and Technology International Master’s (MPhil) degree program. The goal of this MPhil is to address the issue of limited human capacity in seed science and technology by educating professionals with the requisite skills and expertise to ensure the supply of quality seed of improved varieties so urgently needed in African farmers’ fields.

Eric Danquah’s role in strengthening the University of Ghana’s Biotechnology Centre is an accomplishment to note. A few years ago, there was little but a name associated with the Biotechnology Centre. Eric Danquah has helped build the Biotechnology Centre into a partner worthy to collaborate with and equip several undergraduate students with skills for advanced study. Under his leadership at WACCI, an infrastructure-improvement program worth over $2.4 million has been completed and inaugurated, among other things, a well-equipped tissue culture laboratory, a seed science laboratory, a bioinformatics platform, and an upgrade for the university farms. These developments led by Eric Danquah make the University of Ghana one of the best endowed, focused and supported higher educational institutions for agriculture and the life sciences in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Eric Danquah has acted as a consultant for the Science Council of the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the USAID and participated in over 120 international meetings in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In 2008, he served on a six-member international panel (External Programme Management Review Team) of the International Crops Research Centre for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, India. He was a member of the Steering and Advisory Committee of the CGIAR Dryland Cereals research project led by ICRISAT, 2014 -2017. He is a member of the Academic Board of the Planet Earth Institute, UK and a member of Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the Bill and Melinda Gates-funded Africa Yam Project at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria. He is also a member of the Advisory and Management Board of the African Centre for Crop Improvement, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Professor Rattan Lal

Director, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center

President, International Union of Soil Sciences

Adjunct Professor, University of Iceland

The Ohio State University

Columbus, OH 43210, USA

Rattan Lal is a Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, at the Ohio State University (OSU), and an Adjunct Professor of University of Iceland. He completed his education with a BSc from Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana (1963), MSc from Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi (1965), and PhD from OSU, Columbus (1968). He served as Senior Research Fellow with the University of Sydney, Australia (1968-69), Soil Physicist at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria (1969-87), and is currently Professor of Soil Science at OSU (1987-to date). His current research focus is on climate-resilient agriculture, soil carbon sequestration, sustainable intensification, enhancing use efficiency of agroecosystems, and sustainable management of soil resources of the tropics.

Rattan Lal’s innovative approach, involving M.Sc and Ph.D students and postdoctoral scholars from around the world (357 in total), has focused on the power of soil in addressing global issues of the 21stCentury through a soil-centric approach for: (1) mitigating climate change, (2) advancing food and nutritional security, (3) improving quality of water and air, and (4) improving eco-efficiency. He has inspired generations of soil scientists and agronomists to improve the wellbeing of society through restoration of soil health. He has identified key soil physical properties in relation to soil health, agronomic productivity and eco-efficiency. Rattan Lal assessed rates of soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration in relation to land use, soil properties and site-specific best management practices to create a positive soil carbon budget. He related the SOC stock to agronomic productivity, eco-efficiency of inputs and total production. Rattan Lal assessed the technical and actual potential of SOC sequestration for mitigation of climate change, advancing food and nutritional security, and improving water quality and renewability. The “4 per Thousand” (0.4% annual growth rate in soil carbon stocks) initiative of the Paris Climate Summit is an example of the global impact of his research. He has enhanced the global awareness about the importance of soil health and its restoration to serve humanity and nature conservancy.

Rattan Lal founded in 2000 and developed the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center (C-MASC) at OSU as a unique inter-disciplinary organization based on the concept of enhancing soil organic matter content to improve soil health while mitigating climate change and strengthening other ecosystem services. It is now a globally recognised centre.

Rattan Lal has established contacts with policy makers to translate this scientific knowledge into concrete action plans. Principal examples of these include: (1) member, the Scientific Advisory Board of the Department of Defence, USA, on soil and environment issues. 2011-2018, (2) member, the Scientific Advisory Board, FACCE-EU, 2011-2016, (3) founding chair, Advisory Committee, UNU-FLORES, Dresden, Germany, 2014-2019, (4) member, Executive Committee, “4 per Thousand” initiative of COP21, 2016-, (5) founding member, Advisory Board, Adapting African Agriculture (AAA) initiative of COP22, 2017-, (6) Cooperation with the CGIAR system as the Scientific Liaison Officer of the USAID for natural resources: 1989-92, (7) Senior Science Advisor to the Executive Director, the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies, Potsdam, Germany, 2010- 2016; and (8) Member, Federal Advisory Committee on climate assessment NOAA Climate Change Assessment Report (2014).

Rattan Lal is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA, 1985), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA, 1986), Third World Academy of Sciences (1992), American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (1996), Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS, 1997), Indian Natl. Academy of Agricultural Sciences (1998), and Rothamsted, U.K. (2013). He received the Hugh Hammond Bennett Award of the SWCS, 2005; Borlaug Award (2005), and Liebig Award (2006) of the International Union of Soil Sciences, M.S. Swaminathan Award (India) of 2009, COMLAND Award (Germany, 2009), Sustained Achievement Award, Renewable Natural Resources Foundation (2017), Medal of Honour ,UIMP, Santerdor, Spain (2018)and Distinguished Service Medal, IUSS (2018). He received honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Punjab Agricultural University (2001), the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Aas (2005), Alecu Russo Balti State University, Moldova (2010), Technical University of Dresden Germany (2015), University of Lleida, Spain (2017), and Gustavus Adolphus College,St.Peter,MN,USA(2018). He is included in the Thomson Reuters 2014-2017 list of most cited researchers and in the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds (2002-2013). Rattan Lal was a lead author of IPCC (1998-2000), and was awarded Nobel Peace Prize Certificate by IPCC in 2007, and Global Dryland Champion of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Bonn, Germany in 2013.

Thus, Rattan Lal has promoted the use of improved agricultural practices and the best soil management systems as important solutions to addressing climate change, advancing food security, and improving the overall environment. His research has focused on “producing more from less”. Rattan Lal emphasizes using the best soil by the best scientific methods so that productivity is enhanced and the land resources saved are set aside for nature conservancy. Further, soil and agriculture must be integral to advancing the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals of the U.N. (Agenda 2030). Soil and its management should be included in the curricula at all levels, and awareness about its importance promoted among the general public and the policy makers.

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