The newly-appointed Executive Director of Sasakawa Africa Foundation (SAF), Ms. Fumiko Iseki, had paid a courtesy call on the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Prof. George K. T. Oduro as part of her working visit to familiarise herself with the operations of the Sasakawa B.Sc. Agricultural Extension Programme at University of Cape Coast.
The two officials were accompanied by The Nippon Foundation Advisor, Mr. Yoshiro Toriumi, and the Deputy Regional Director of SAF, Dr. Deola Naibakelao.
Introducing the two officials to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, the Head of Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension, Prof. Festus Annor-Frempong, said the visit was to help them get first-hand information on the development of the B.Sc. Agricultural Extension Programme sponsored through the Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) which has now merged with Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) into the Sasakawa African Fund. He explained that the programme was launched in 1992 but implementation started in 1993 through partnership with University of Cape Coast, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Sasakawa African Association, Winrock International Institute for Agriculture.
Giving a background to the SAFE programme, Prof. Annor-Frempong said there was severe hunger in Africa in the 1980s and indicated that through the initiatives of Ryochi Sasakawa, Norman Borlaug, and former President of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter and some African leaders SG2000 was founded.
He said Sasakawa Global 2000 and Ghana Government through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture provided technology to farmers to improve their productivity to ensure food security. He indicated that the front line staff of Ministry of Food and Agriculture possessed high technical knowledge (crop, animal production etc) but lacked effective communication skills and knowledge to facilitate change and adoption of improved technologies.
Prof. Annor-Frempong noted that UCC was the first institution in Africa, to host the SAFE Programme to train these front line staff of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. He said the incorporation of Supervised Enterprise Projects (SEPs) aimed at immersing students in valuable farmer-focused, experience-based learning activities that mirror the total milieu surrounding subsistence and semi-commercial farming systems in Africa has also contributed to the success of the programme. He further indicated that the SAFE programme at UCC has trained 547 graduates who were working in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, private extension organisations and development partners such as USAID, and AGRA. The establishment of the Sasakawa Guest Centre generates income to support the SAFE programme at UCC.
On her part, Ms. Iseki said she was excited to be at UCC, which she described as “the Mecca of the SAFE Programme”. “Though I was appointed a year ago, I have heard and read several reports of the impact of the UCC SAFE Programme in the Ghanaian economy and how other African countries have learnt from your success story” she noted.
Ms. Iseki said her outfit was building synergy to infuse best field practices into educational curriculum of its programmes in the Universities. She said a lot of efforts and resources would be channeled into capacity programmes to enhance food productivity to ensure food security. “I believe each person has a full potential and what is needed is the environment, opportunity and confidence so SAFE will do its best to ensure that they build the capacity of both students and farmers to achieve these” she added.
Responding, Prof. Oduro reiterated UCC’s commitment towards the SAFE programme which according to him had created several self-sustaining projects on campus and also impacted positively in the agricultural sector of the Ghanaian economy. He said through the SAFE programme, UCC had been recognised as one of the best Agriculture Universities in Africa.
Prof. Oduro said the Planting for Food and Jobs policy introduced by Government of Ghana was one of the key interventions to address food sufficiency and also create employment. He however, noted that, in order to realise the full potential of such laudable projects, stakeholders in the Agriculture must engage academia to bring on board their research findings.
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor called on the two officials to support research at UCC to help solve the problem of post-harvest losses which was negatively affecting the investment of farmers. “If we are able to have a post-harvest management system, Africa will not become a dumping place for unwholesome food items,” he noted. He called for funding to establish a “Centre of Excellence in Agriculture” in the University.
Present at the meeting were the Dean, School of Agriculture, Prof. Elvis Asare-Bediako, Director of Academic Affairs, Mr. Jeff T. Onyame; Ag. Director of Public Affairs, Major Kofi Baah-Bentum (Rtd) and College Registrar, College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, Mrs. Mildred Asmah.