By Dr. Thomas Odong
Strong linkages between African Universities created by RUFORUM to facilitate cross learning and building capacity for Africa within Africa, bore fruit when I was invited to deliver a course module on “Bioinformatics, Advanced Biometry and Genetic Analysis” to the 8th Cohort of PhD students in Plant Breeding at the West African Center for Crop Improvement (WACCI), University of Ghana, Legon. I strongly believe this the beginning of a much closer cooperation and human resource sharing between RUFORUM initiated Regional PhD Program in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology hosted at Makerere University and WACCI. I thank WACCI for giving me this opportunity and RUFORUM for making this sharing possible
During my visit to WACCI, I interacted with young men and women full of zeal and ready to learn and take Africa to the next level. “It is upon us the current breed of Academics and Scientists to keep this fire burning and exploit this raw potential to the maximum”.
The students were from Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Togo and Uganda working on crops which are important for food, nutrition and income security in Africa. The students expressed their gratitude for the academic visitation and were extremely happy to note that they can still be trained in Africa by high caliber academics from Africa. I also delivered a Seminar entitled “The Changing Landscape of Agricultural Research: How much do we need Biometricians?”
Following the presentation, I had the opportunity to engage with staff members at WACCI, an experience that was useful not only to me for sharing with the Regional Plant Breeding, Biotechnology and Seed System Programs at Makerere University but also to WACCI staff and students. The RUFORUM PhD in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology program and its feed-in Masters Programme in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems have since 2008 trained close to 100 students from 12 African countries.
The visit reminded me of the importance of capacity building for food and nutrition security in Africa. Having visited the Africa Center for Crop Improvement (ACCI) at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, it demonstrates how much Africa can achieve by harnessing its human resources both at home and in the diaspora. Surely for crop breeding, “the (potential) harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few”.
Regional Initiatives such as ACCI, WACCI and the Regional PhD in Plant Breeding, Biotechnology and Seed Systems programs at Makerere University, among others, have helped to foster a pan African spirit and collaboration between scientists within Africa. They have played a large role in training many of the currently available Plant Breeders in Africa. Such initiatives, should be supported by African governments and other development partners.
About the Author
Dr. Thomas Odong: His areas of expertise include Biometry (Applied Statistics), Research Methods, Statistical Genetics and Bioinformatics. Thomas has over 10 years of extensive experiences in Biometry/Statistical consulting and lecturing. He has been providing technical backstopping in areas of study design and data analysis to several local and international researchers. At the moment, Dr. Odong is a lecturer at the School of Agricultural Sciences, Makerere University where he teaches Applied Statistics, and Population and Quantitative Genetics. Through RUFORUM facilitation, Dr. Odong also visited and taught at University of Namibia (2014) and University of Zimbabwe (2007). Dr. Odong completed his PhD in Statistical Genetics from Wageningen University in the Netherlands in 2012. One of the five papers from his PhD thesis won “The 2014 Outstanding Paper in Plant Genetic Resources award” of the American Crop Science Society (https://www.wageningenur.nl/en/newsarticle/CSSA-award-2014-for-PhD-Thomas-Odong.htm).