2019 Annual Conference Report

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The African Plant Breeders Association (APBA) in collaboration with the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana (UG), Legon organized its launch and maiden international conference on the theme “Advances in Classical Breeding and Application of Modern Breeding Tools for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa” at UG from October 21-25, 2019. The conference was preceded by the following pre-conference workshops.

• Digitalization of Breeding Programmes and Data Management organised by AVISA, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) at the Mensvic Grand Hotel, October 21-22.
• Genomic Selection organised by the Integrated Genotyping Service and Support (IGSS) at WACCI, October 21.
• Cocoa Breeding organised by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Mars Incorporated, USA at Mensvic Grand Hotel, October 22.
• Root Tuber and Banana (RTB) Breeding Community of Practice Meeting organised by RTB, International Potato Centre (CIP), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), IITA and Excellence in Breeding (EiB) at Erata Hotel, October 22.
• CRISPR/Cas9 Genome-Editing organised by WACCI and the Plant Transformation Facility, Cornell University at WACCI, October 21-22.

The APBA was launched at the Cedi Auditorium, Department of Economics, University of Ghana on October 23, 2019. In total, 448 Scientists from 30 countries including over 180 female scientists participated in the maiden conference. The opening ceremony which was chaired by Prof. Victor Agyeman, Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ghana was graced by over 600 persons including several dignitaries such as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture (Annual Crops), Dr. Sagre Banbangi, the Australian High Commissioner, H.E. Andrew Barnes and a Representative of American Ambassador in Ghana, Kristopher Rowell, United States Agency Agency for International Development (USAID). The WACCI Director, Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah as host of the conference and a founding member of the APBA told the APBA story after a welcome address by Prof. Daniel Asiedu, Provost of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, University of Ghana.

Goodwill messages were received from the following organisations:
• The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kenya – Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President (message read by Dr. Rufaro Madakadze, Snr. Program Officer)
• MARS Incorporated, USA – Dr. Howard Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Scientist
• IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria – Dr. Michael Abberton, Head, Genetic Resources Centre
• International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Mexico – Dr. Boddupalli Prasanna, Director, CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program
• Africa Rice, Cote d’Ivoire – Dr. Babouccar Manneh, Irrigated Rice Breeder
• The Potato Centre (CIP), Peru – Dr. Maria Ardrade, Sweet Potato Breeder & World Food Prize co-laureate
• Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, Switzerland – Dr. Vivienne Anthony, Senior Scientific Advisor
• Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP), Mexico, CGIAR, Mexico – Dr. Jean-Marcel Ribaut, Director
• EiB, CGIAR, Mexico – Dr. Biswanath Das, NARs Coordinator & Program Lead
• National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB), USA – Dr. Donn Cummings, NAPB Borlaug Scholars Committee Chair
The official launch of the APBA was performed by the Deputy Minister for Agriculture (Annual Crops), Dr. Sagre Bambangi. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana delivered the closing remarks. A narrative of the opening ceremony can be found at this link: http://wacci.ug.edu.gh/content/wacci-launches-african-plant-breeders-association-and-organises-maiden-international.

For the maiden conference of the APBA, there were five keynote addresses delivered by Dr. Howard-Yana Shapiro on “The Speed of Change is Faster than our Response”, Dr. Boddupalli Prassana (CIMMYT, Kenya) on “Impacts of CGIAR Maize Breeding in Sub-Saharan Africa in the last two Decades”, Dr. Rufaro Madakadze on “Funding and Managing Plant Breeding Training Programs in Africa for Sustainable Development”, Prof. Rita Mumm (University of Illinois, USA) on “Models for USA – Africa Partnerships for Modern Plant Breeding Education” and Prof. Stephen Kresovich (Cremson and Cornell Universities, USA) on “Crop Improvement Innovation”. There were also ten Plenary talks and 70 parallel presentations as well as four workshops on “Demand Led Plant Breeding” organized by the CIAT-Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance, Tanzania and WACCI, “Enhanced Teaching Techniques for University Instructors” organised by USAID Soybean Innovation Lab, USA, “Modelling and Application for Genomic Selection” organised by Benson Hill, Biosystems, USA and “Excellence in Breeding (EiB) Platform organized by CIMMYT, Kenya.

Abstracts of all talks and full programme can be found in the Conference Brochure (use the link to access): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ojVMZUR7rjibZG8cYqg9flIWYi1CuKzy/view?usp=sharing
On the final day of the conference, October 25, 2019 there was a business meeting of the APBA which was attended by over 300 participants. The business meeting was chaired by Dr. Rufaro Madakadze. The constitution of the APBA was approved on a motion moved by Professor Malachy Akoroda of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. The motion was seconded by Dr. Alfred Dixon of the IITA. The Constitution was opened for amendments for over a month. Four suggestions for amendments were received and a revised constitution has been circulated to registered members. The interim executives were unanimously elected to serve as executives of the APBA until the next conference to be held at Makerere University from October 25-29, 2021.

The executives elected for a two-year term are:

  • Prof. Eric Yirenkyi Danquah, University of Ghana, Ghana President
  • Dr. Julia Sibiya, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa Vice-President
  • Dr. Enoch Achigan-Dako, Univetsity of Abomey-Calavi, Benin Secretary
  • Dr. Beatrice E. Ifie, University of Ghana, Ghana Treasurer
  • Mr. Dean Muungani, Zimbabwe Plant Breeders Association Member
  • Dr. Richard Edema, University of Makerere, Uganda Member
  • Prof. John Derera, Seed Co International, Zimbabwe Member
  • Dr. Clare Mukankusi, CIAT, Uganda Member
  • Dr. Agyemang Danquah, University of Ghana, Ghana Member

It was decided at the business meeting on a motion tabled by Prof. Malachy Akoroda of the University of Ibadan and seconded by Dr. Alfred Dixon of the IITA that a Secretariat of the APBA be established at WACCI to drive the activities of the APBA. This was unanimously approved by the meeting. The elected officers were sworn into office by Dr. Rufaro Madakadze following which Dr. Richard Edema made a short presentation on the venue for the 2021 Conference.

Professor Eric Yirenkyi Danquah thanked the executives, sponsors and participants for making the maiden Conference of the APBA a resounding success in a brief closing address which received a deafening applause.