Professor Samuel Kwame Offei

Managing the Enemies of Plants to Enhance Food Security: Genetic Improvement as a Counter Offensive Strategy

Professor Samuel Kwame Offei


Prof. Samuel Kwame Offei, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs at the University of Ghana, has advocated increased investments in agricultural research and development by African governments, an awareness campaign to address skepticism surrounding new agricultural technologies as well as increased capacity development in agricultural education at the tertiary level as strategies to address the threats to food and nutritional security. 

He made these remarks at his Inaugural Lecture on the topic, “Managing the Enemies of Plants to Enhance Food Security: Genetic Improvement as a Counter Offensive Strategy” in which he shared his research work and scholarly articles which have contributed significantly to harnessing effective and sustainable ways of increasing food production and conservation in Africa.

The lecture focused on six critical areas relating to the field of Molecular Plant Virology. These comprise the historical perspectives of plant diseases and their effect on agricultural productivity and human population; genomic characteristics of pathogens affecting crops in Ghana; application of DNA technologies in characterizing plant materials; finding population structure of disease organisms in Ghana; efforts in improving crops for high nutritional qualities and resistance to diseases and attainment of food security through capacity building in the Sub-Region.

Prof. Offei,in his presentation, called to attention statistics put out by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which indicate that almost a billion people in the world do not have enough food to eat. The FAO report, he said,  also estimated 400 million malnourished people in Sub-Saharan Africa, with over 240 million currently suffering from what he termed “hidden hunger.” He indicated that the cause of an estimated 2 billion people worldwide suffering from hidden hunger was due to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, thus resulting in devastating effects such as mental impairment, poor health, low productivity and even death.

He noted that according to the 2015 Africa Agricultural Status Report, Africa’s annual food imports total over $60 billion, although the continent has more than half of the world’s unused fertile lands.  To change this trend, Prof. Offei said boosting agriculture and yields particularly in sub-Saharan Africa was important to ensure the production of more food by 2050 taking into account the growing population and diet shift.

He said the bane of Africa’s agriculture was largely due to the practice of subsistence farming, the use of low technologies, low investments in research by governments as well as abundant pest and diseases affecting farm produce (e.g. viruses, fungi, bacteria, phytoplasma, nematodes, Cassava Mosaic Disease, Cocoa Blackpod, Citrus Canker, and Cape St. Paul Wilt). Prof. Offei described models for understanding the mechanisms of viral infections, as well as how crops can be genetically modified through traditional breeding, mutagenesis, and transgenic procedures.

In his closing remarks, the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Ernest Aryeetey who chaired the lecture said the lecture has highlighted the use of modern science skills and resources to facilitate effective management of plant pathogens. . While thanking Prof. Samuel Kwame Offei for sharing his knowledge on the importance of genetic science to food security in the face of growing world population, Prof. Aryeetey noted that the lecture had demonstrated the important role food scientists play in the development of a country’s agriculture sector