As part of its efforts in promoting the consumption of pro-vitamin “A” orange maize varieties in Ghana, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Crops Research Institute with support from the HarvestPlus Challenge programme, has developed and introduced maize varieties capable of boosting the immune system of consumers onto the market.
During a workshop and field day held at Asuoyeboah in the Ashanti region of Ghana, the project leader, Dr. Manfred B. Ewool, a Senior Research Scientist and maize breeder at the CSIR-CRI, told participants that enhancing maize, which is a major staple in Ghana, with vitamin A, will go a long way to minimize vitamin “A” deficiencies (VADs) in the country.
According to Dr. Ewool, vitamin “A” deficiencies (VADs) expose humans to severe health implications such as growth retardation, a weakened immune system, night-blindness and pre-dispose children to several diseases. He also revealed that pregnant women and children were the most vulnerable group of persons who suffer from VADs.“In Ghana, 72% of children under age 5 are affected by VADs resulting in 17,200 deaths annually. The high prevalence of VADs in Ghana is partly attributed to low bio-available vitamin “A” in the predominant cereal, root and tuber crop based foods consumed by adults as well as infants”, he said. He further expressed appreciation to the HarvestPlus Challenge programme for their continuous support since the inception of the project. “We are very grateful to the HarvestPlus Challenge Program, a global alliance of research institutions coordinated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)-Nigeria for supporting our work in the development, testing and deployment of pro-vitamin “A” enriched maize varieties in Ghana”, he said.
The HarvestPlus project which began over a decade ago has resulted in the development and eventual release of six (6) orange maize varieties with high levels of pro-vitamin “A” by the CSIR-CRI in collaboration with its sister institute, the CSIR-Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI). Maize varieties such as CSIR-CRI Honampa, (OPV), CRI-Ahoɔdzin (OPV), CRI- Ahoɔfɛ (Hybrid), CRI-Dzifoo (Hybrid), CRI-Nkwagye (Hybrid) and CRI-Abebe (Hybrid) have been released under the project. These orange maize varieties are adapted to growing conditions in Ghana with pro-vitamin “A” levels of between 7-15 microgram per gram and mature in 110 days with yield potentials of between 5-6 tons/ha. All these varieties are suitable for human, poultry and livestock consumption and are also excellent for industrial preparations such as grits and kenkey.
The Institute is happy to learn that some schools within the Ashanti region have embraced the pro-
vitamin ‘A’ orange maize into their School Feeding Programme and continues to hope that Ghanaian dietary habits will change towards the consumption of pro-vitamin “A” orange maize varieties for enhanced nutrition and health. This will enable farmers cultivate on large scales to earn more income and improve their livelihoods.
Farmers and end users are encouraged to contact the CSIR-Crops Research Institute, at Fumesua and Kwadaso or offices of the Agriculture Departments and various agro-input dealers to access seeds for planting.
List of Contributors: Dr. Manfred Ewool, Mr. Bernard Sakyiamah, Mr. David Kow Amo and the maize team