REPORT OF THE VISIT OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR – DR. A. R. POPOOLA TO KUMASI, GHANA WITH RESPECT TO DFID-FUNDED DeLPHE 5 PROJECT

The Principal Investigator, DelPHE 5 project, Dr. A. R. Popoola recently visited research locations in Ghana.  The journey was facilitated by a travel grant from West African Research Council, WARC, Senegal and UNAAB’s ETF-funded International Conference Grant. 

PURPOSE OF TRAVEL

  1. Visit research collaborator, Mrs. Pat Kaledzi, in KNUST, Ghana.
  2. Visit tomato fields with history of tomato wilt and talk to farmers on the wilt problem.
  3. Run preliminary analysis on 60 questionnaires containing farmers’ response to problems of tomato wilt.  The farmers were from two regions in Ghana – Upper East and Ashanti-Akim.
  4. Extract the genomic DNA from strains of bacterial and fungal wilt pathogens collected from the two regions.  The  genomic  DNA shall  be  brought to Biotechnology  Centre, UNAAB, Nigeria for molecular characterization of the pathogens.
  5. Attend and present a paper at the 14th AGM and Scientific Conference of Ghana Institute of Horticulturists

THE JOURNEY
The PI arrived Kotoka Airport, Accra, Ghana at 16:50 Ghana time on Sunday 11 September, 2011.  He was met at the airport by Mr. Adjei Mensah on the instruction of research collaborator, Ms. Pat Kaledzi.   Journey from Accra to Kumasi in the north took close to 6 hours by road.  On arrival Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi by 12 midnight of Sunday 11 September 2011, the PI was received by another research collaborator, Dr. Harrison Dapaah.  PI was lodged at the Engineering Guest House, KNUST, Kumasi.   It was a decent and efficient Guest House.

MEETING THE PRINCIPAL OFFICERS OF KNUST, KUMASI
On Monday 12 September 2011, PI was introduced to Principal Officers of the University.  He met with the Provost, College of Agricultural and Natural Resources and the Head of Department, Horticulture, the home department of project’s research collaborator.

PLANNING THE ITINERARIES
PI and Ms. Kaledzi took time off to plan the itineraries.  She got in touch with the various units that have connections with the planned activities.  It was agreed that:-

  1. Visitation to Pathology lab where the pathogens were kept should commence the following day, Tuesday.
  2. Courtesy call on the Dean of Faculty of Agriculture on Tuesday.
  3. Wednesday 14th to Friday 16th be left for the Scientific Meeting of Ghana Institute of Horticulturists, moreso as Ms. Kaledzi was actively involved in the organisation of the conference and the PI too had a paper to present at the conference.
  4. Tour of the campus and Kumasi town on Saturday 17th September, 2011.
  5. Extraction of genomic DNA from the 41 lines/varieties of tomato would commence on Monday 19th September, 2011.  Extraction of genomic DNA from isolated pathogens should also run alongside those of tomato plants.
  6. Meeting of team members on Wednesday 21st September, 2011
  7. Visitation to tomato farmers in Agogo area of Asante Region on Thursday 22nd September, 2011.
  8. Assessment of the visitation on Friday 23rd September, 2011
  9. Departure from Kumasi for Accra on Saturday 24th September, 2011 by 5:00 am.

ISOLATED PATHOGENS AT THE PLANT PATHOLOGY LABORATORY

The PI observed that only one each of fungal and bacterial pathogens were isolated.  He considered this too few, in view of the fact that samples were brought from 20 locations representing two regions of the country.  He said he expected more strains of bacterial wilt pathogen, going by Nigerian experience.  He urged the pathologist to rerun the isolation, paying attention to stratification based on regions and locations where the samples were sourced.

COURTESY CALL ON THE DEAN OF FACULTY OF AGRICULTURE, KNUST, KUMASI, GHANA.
The PI and Ms. Kaledzi were able to see the Dean.  He listened attentively to the purpose of visitation and the briefing on DelPHE 5 project.  The meeting with the Dean helped clarify some misunderstanding concerning the project.  A key issue arising from that meeting was the observation of the Dean that KNUST could not be said to be fully involved in the project. 
He based his submission on the inclusion of Dr. Harrison Dapaah, who was a staff of another institution, in the team membership.  He said the error was that of the KNUST staff – Dr. J.K.V. Afun who ceded his position to Dr. Dapaah.  He saw the occasion of my visit as a chance of correcting the error.  We all agreed to redress the situation, and a staff of KNUST –
Dr. C. Kwoseh was put forth as a replacement to Dr. Dapaah.  Dr. Kwoseh was a beneficiary of the project’s Training Workshop that took place in UNAAB in July 2011.

3.   AGM AND SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE OF GHANA INSTITUTE OF HORTICULTURISTS
This took place  on 14 –  16 September, 2011.   The  presence  of  PI, being  the only  non-Ghanaian present, made the organisers dub the conference an International Conference.   The PI  also presented a  paper   –  MOLECULAR  AND PHENOTYPIC  SCREENING  OF TOMATO GENOTYPES  FOR RESISTANCE TO   FUSARIUM WILT. Authors –  A. R. Popoola*, M. R.  Ercolano, P. D. Kaledzi,  F. Ferriello, S. A. Ganiyu, H. K. Dapaah, D. K. Ojo, D. A. Adegbite, Y. Falana and O. B. Adedibu.  It was a report of work done in Italy.
The paper was also prepared for publication in Ghana Journal of Horticulture.

Ms. Kaledzi took time to introduce  the PI  to the  Vice  Chancellor  of  KNUST.   It was an opportunity to restate the aims and objectives of DelPHE 5.  The discussion revealed that the VC was quite aware of the existence of the project, an indication of background work done by research collaborator – Ms. Kaledzi.

4.   TOUR OF KNUST CAMPUS AND KUMASI TOWN
This took place on Saturday 17th September, 2011.  It was an opportunity for PI to appreciate the serenity and vegetation of the University and the beauty of Kumasi town.  It was also an opportunity to pick up some souvenirs.

5.   EXTRACTION OF GENOMIC DNA OF TOMATO PLANTS AND WILT PATHOGENS

This took two days with an average input of 6 hours a day.  DNA extraction kits brought from Nigeria facilitated the work.  DNA of forty-one tomato lines/varieties and two pathogens were extracted.  Cooperation of the Dean of Faculty of Agriculture, KNUST, and the lab attendant of Biotech Lab was appreciated.  They virtually left their lab for us to use. 
The DNA extracts are now in our lab in UNAAB awaiting molecular screening for resistance to wilt pathogens.

6.   MEETING OF TEAM MEMBERS

Team members – Dr. A. R. Popoola, Ms. P. D. Kaledzi and new entry Dr. C. Kwoseh- met on Wednesday 21st September, 2011.  This meeting day was a public holiday in Ghana, commemorating the birth day of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaian statesman and founding father.  A secretary was recruited for record taking.

7.   VISITATION TO TOMATO FARMERS
The tomato farmers were the ones earlier contacted during the field trips at the commencement of the project.  We chose to visit one location at Agogo, some 2 hours drive to Kumasi town.  The villages at this time were not so safe to visit, as there was a sporadic raid and killing of farmers by nomadic herdsmen.  Law enforcement agents were visibly stationed in those places.

The PI and Ms. Kaledzi, assisted by the Driver engaged for this visitation, took off from Kumasi by 3:00 am.  It had to be so early if we hoped to meet the farmers before they spread out to their various farm locations.  We also gathered that the farmers were harvesting tomatoes and there were no much tomato and wilt infections to observe at that time.

We met the farmers and they were really happy to receive us.  They saw the project as a deviation of those who had been coming to them without any follow-up.

The high points of the meeting with the farmers :-

  1. The insistence of farmers on a particular variety for any reintrogression work the project is planning.  They gave us the preferred variety, and they made it abundantly clear that any wilt-resistance not integrated into that particular variety would not be welcome.
  2. Distribution of cutlasses to farmers.  This was a gesture from Ms. Kaledzi and the farmers were very appreciative.
  3. We promised to sponsor a representative of the farmers and their Extension Agent to Nigeria to attend the Second Training Workshop which would introduce the improved wilt-resistant lines to the farmers.  We have, thus, committed DelPHE; but we believed we could do it.

8.   ASSESSMENT OF THE VISITATION
In all, the team members adjudged the visitation a success.  The only negative was our inability to conclude the report writing of the field survey conducted in Ghana.  We observed this could have been achieved, but for the bereavement of a key figure in the field survey – Dr. Harrison Dapaah.  He lost his father during this visitation and was busy with burial arrangement.

9.   DEPARTURE FROM KUMASI
PI finally departed Kumasi on Saturday September 24th 2011.

Principal Investigator, Dr. A. R. Popoola with his research partner Ms. Patience Kaledzi at the gate of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

Extraction of genomic DNA from tomato leaves going on in the Biotechnology Laboratory of KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana
At Agogo in Asante Region, Ghana; a truck getting ready to go into the farms for tomato harvest.

Talking to tomato farmers in Asante Region, Ghana through Extension Agent (standing).

Dr. Popoola and Ms. Kaledzi amist tomato farmers in Agogo, Asante Region, Ghana

Farmers appreciating new cutlasses distributed to them by the project
Principal Investigator, Dr. Popoola with research partner, Ms. Kaledzi collecting young tomato leaves for genomic DNA extraction at the tomato experimental plot located within KNUST, Kumasi, Ghana.

Dr. Popoola (Extreme right) during paper presentation at the Ghana Institute of Horticulturists’ Scientific Meeting held at Crop Research Institute, Fomesua, Ghana.  14 – 16 September, 2011.

 

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