Research Statement

My research has focused on the selection, evaluation, and propagation of economically important plants that are either difficult to propagate or at risk of extinction (several tree, medicinal and indigenous crop species fall within this category), as well as the development of improved technologies to ensure their successful establishment. 
In 2011, through a research grant, obtained from the Volkswagen Foundation's Africa initiative programme, I led a team of local and international partners to successfully establish the genetic diversity status, develop cultivation protocols and disseminate materials for the domestication of Cryptolepis sanguinolenta, an over-exploited medicinal plant species used in the treatment of malaria. 

Through a Cambridge Africa Partnership for Research Excellence (CAPREx) Fellowship in 2016, I had the opportunity to develop in vitro methodologies for C. sanguinolenta at the National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB) in Cambridge, UK, under the mentorship of Dr. Lesley Boyd and the experienced Crop Transformation team of experts at NIAB. At the end of the fellowship, my research identified callus induction and shoot regeneration media for the successful production of C. sanguinolenta in vitro. In addition, seed germination protocols, critical to the sustainable supply of seedlings for commercial cultivation of C. sanguinolenta, were developed.  The in vitro seed germination protocols developed, reduces dependence on the seasonal availability of seeds, thus ensuring a sustainable supply of planting material. The overall goal of this research is to empower smallholder farmers who also double as plant collectors, to benefit from establishing C. sanguinolenta as a cash crop, hence improving their economic status.

My research has also identified neglected and underutilized crop species with potential to address persistent challenges of food and nutrition security in Ghana, including those imposed by climate change and bad environmental management practices. In 2014, I led a baseline survey in five of the six agro-ecological zones in Ghana and identified and profiled indigenous crop species adapted to the different environmental conditions that hold potential to address food security issues. From a grant awarded by the Open Society Foundation (OSF) through the African Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (ACCAI) of the University of Ghana (UG), my graduate student and I conducted morphological and molecular characterization of 57 Solenostemon rotundifolius (Frafra potato) accessions from the Upper East, Upper West and the Northern Regions of Ghana, with the aim of identifying and selecting accessions with potential for commercial production. Realizing the importance of improving the utilization of Frafra potato to enhance its economic importance, I have partnered with the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences of the University of Ghana to evaluate the potential of Frafra potato flour as a partial substitute for wheat flour in bread making.

In partnership with the Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana (PFAG) and the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, I currently serve as a representative of ACCAI-UG, contributing my expertise in horticulture and general agricultural science, to a project on climate change and farmer perceptions in Ghana. On this project, “Agroecology/Sustainable Farming and Food Systems, and Political Participation of Small Scale Farmers in Ghana”, we recently completed a baseline survey in the study areas of the Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo and Northern Regions of Ghana, and will use the information obtained from this survey to assess climate change resilience and the potential for adoption of sustainable agricultural practices among smallholder farmers. The goal of the project is to identify appropriate technologies, as well as promote the use of alternative farming practices to improve nutrient recycling, reforestation and soil sustainability, amongst others. In follow-up discussions on presentations I gave to key stakeholders (farmers and other project partners) in Techiman in the Brong-Ahafo Region, we assessed findings from the baseline survey and have mapped out strategies for further implementation of the project.

Working with local and international collaborators, my short-term research goals include using my knowledge in biotechnology systems to develop in vitro protocols for C. sanguinolenta and the characterization of S. rotundifolius, an indigenous tuber crop in Ghana with the potential to become a food security crop. My immediate aim will be to supply interested medicinal plant collectors with planting material for the cultivation of C. sanguinolenta and conduct additional research to improve the tuber sizes of S. rotundifolius. Over the long term, I plan to utilize my expertise in biotechnology and knowledge of plant cropping cycles for the preservation of biodiversity and conservation of other important indigenous plant species, working with farmer groups such as PFAG to promote the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices that would increase productivity and crop yield among small-scale farmers across Ghana.