The Crop Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is warning, Ghana’s narrow food base could threaten the country’s food security.
Principal Researcher, Dr. Emmanuel Otoo, says a co-ordinated effort is needed to avert future crisis.
“All the food types we knew in the past are becoming extinct. We need to expand our food base so at all times we can be assured of food security,” he emphasized.
Dr. Otoo who is also Head of Yam Improvement Project is excited by successful release of four new yam varieties by the institute.
Ghana is second leading exporter of yam in West Africa, behind Nigeria.
Five are consumed mainly in Ghana. Four of the species white yam, yellow yam, Dioscorea preahensilis also known locally as kokoasebayere as well Dioscorea dumentorum (Nkanfo) are indigenous to the sub-region, with only water yam known scientifically as Dioscorea alata coming from Asia.
Water yam, known among Akans in Ghana as ‘’afase’ or ‘afasie’’, is widely consumed in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.
It is, however, prone to anthracnose, a fungal disease which attacks many plants, including vegetables, fruits, and trees.
The disease cause dark, sunken scratches on leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits.
The CSIR-Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI) in collaboration with International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has for the past ten years worked on developing improved varieties of Water Yam, with support from West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP).
Four different types emerged; resistant against anthracnose and nematodes, high yielding and enhanced taste.
They are ‘afasebiri’, ‘afaseahodenfo’, ‘afaseadepa’, and ‘afasesoanyinto’
According to Dr. Otoo, the new varieties promise economic benefits.
“When you look at the cost benefit ratio, you realize that if you invest one Ghana cedi in the ‘matches’ variety, you’re going to reap almost 17 Ghana cedis. For the improved ones, the least you can get is 24 Ghana cedis and the maximum is 44 cedis,” he explained.
The varieties have since been accepted by the National Varietal Committee of the Ministry of food and Agriculture (MOFA) and are being multiplied for dissemination.