- On May 27, 2015
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The performance of the Agricultural sector has taken a nose dive making every Ghanaian wonder whether the measures being adopted to boost growth in this sector are working at all.
Erratic rainfalls, high price of fertilizer, inadequate access to credit and tractor services, high post-harvest losses, inadequate storage facilities, low extension agent-farmer ratio, low technology, high inequality gap between men and women in respect of access to and control of productive resources, among others have greeted the sector; largely accounting for the state of affairs in the sector. This undermines our quest to increasing food security. Problems in the sector are more pronounced in Northern Ghana, particularly in the districts of Eastern Corridor. Production in these areas is mainly subsistence with no significant economic component thereby increasing the vulnerability of smallholder farmers.
Ironically, there is a growing global recognition for the need to address issues of food insecurity at community, district, regional and national levels of all nations. It is against this background that, SEND-GHANA is scaling up its food security programming in the Northern region under the Food Security through Cooperatives in Northern Ghana (FOSTERING) Project.
The project is being funded by Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development, Canada with the goal of increasing sustainable, gender equitable food security for over 42,000 men and women in eight (8) districts.
As access to credit is very challenging for small holder farmers, production credit is being disbursed through the various Credit Unions within eight districts in the eastern corridor to support small holder farmers cultivate soya. Pursuant to this, an amount of GH₵457,200.00 was disbursed to 800 farmers in the three (3) old districts (East Gonja, Nanumba South and Kpandai) as production loans. These loans are given at reduced interest rates and are accompanied by capacity building interventions to increase soya production.
It is undisputable that, fertile lands have the propensity of increasing crop yields. Most farmers have transitioned from traditional methods of improving soil fertility levels to the use of chemical fertilizers. This practice has often been abused by small holder farmers causing enormous environmental hazards. SEND-GHANA recognizes this by rather encouraging farmers not to undermine the great impact of organic matter. To combat this trend, farmers are going to receive training on composting techniques, aimed at replenishing the soil with natural nutrition.
Extension services play pivotal role in agriculture production since farmers learn and adopt best agronomic practices through Extension Agents. The country’s extension agent-farmer ratio is 1:1500. SEND-GHANA mitigates this effect through innovative measures. Men and women are selected as Community Volunteer Extension Agents (CVEAs) and are to be equipped with extension skills to augment the existing but few agents in the eastern corridor. The CVEAs receive routine training on extension services and would subsequently, share the knowledge gained with their colleagues within the cooperatives to promote the adoption and incorporation of best agronomic practices at all levels of production. Equally imperative is the fact that tractor services are to be provided for farmers to increase production acres. This has the potential of enabling farmers to utilize the vast arable lands that lie uncultivated. Also, transport services and storage facilities are provided to farmers in an attempt to ensuring that the farm produce are safely transported and stored to reduce post-harvest losses.
Whilst increased production is at the heart of the FOSTERING project, nutrition utilization is equally an important component for healthy growth and development of people, especially children and pregnant women. Therefore, farmers within the cooperatives’ are to be trained on soya processing and utilization, intended to promote healthy growth of children under five (5).
Peace and livelihood are intertwined. When one is compromised, there are adverse effects on the other. A peaceful environment is a driving force for increased production and food security. Embedded in the project is a peace building component that seeks to constitute twelve member peace Animators across the districts to carry out surveillance and resolve the year round conflicts in the eastern corridor in order to provide an enabling and level playing ground for both women and men to actively engage in productive activities that could possibly increase food security in the Eastern Corridor for improved sustainable livelihood of all project beneficiaries.
Story by Alurugo Kennedy Winpanga, Agric. Extension Field Officer, SEND-GHANA