6 September 2019 - Smallholder farmers in Ghana are enjoying greater food security and more profitable livelihoods by practicing Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI) alongside the government’s overarching plan to promote ‘one village, one dam’, ‘planting for food and jobs’, and ‘rearing for food and jobs.’
A CABI-sponsored field trip to Northern Ghana revealed farmers – unblighted by the devastating Fall armyworm – celebrating successful yields for their crops by employing various SAI practices including the application of the correct compost, ridging, bunding, mixed cropping and crop rotation.
In fact, these steps were not only beneficial in managing soil erosion but they also allowed the necessary levels of moisture to be trapped to grow healthier and more profitable crops. According to one farmer, this resulted in an increase of 2 to 3 bags of produce per acre, a 12-month long supply of food and a surplus sold at market.
One ‘chief’, however, added that he was more inclined to use bullocks to prepare the soil – instead of modern tractors – and condition the land with compost rather than inorganic fertilizers which have led to soil degradation over a number of years. He also said he favoured locally-produced seeds instead of hybrid varieties.
Photo (Pixabay): tilling by animal can cause less damage to the soil than by more mechanical means
Another farmer was also of the similar view that the use of tractors has added to the risks of soil degradation – losing essential nutrients as the earth is vigorously turned over – but that machinery does have a place in agriculture, particularly when moving water and compost around. This was especially important, the farmers said, to remove the burden of transportation which is often placed on the ‘shoulders’ of women.
CABI joined partners in seeking the views of farmers in Ghana’s Upper West Region who have been part of SAI research being carried out under the five-year Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa (SAIRLA) programme which started in 2015. Its aim is to encourage SAI practices in the subcontinent as part of eight research projects running across five African countries.
The Sustainable Intensification: Trade Offs for Agricultural Management (SITAM) project is one such initiative which was launched in 2016 and was visited by CABI and members of the Ghana National Learning Alliance (NLA) for review. Other partners on the project include local government (Lawra Municipality and Namdom District), the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Organisational Development (CIKOD) and the University of Development Studies.
Among the other positive changes farmers highlighted included the introduction of a coupon system which makes it far easier and quicker for them to collect essential agricultural products from local dealers.
Overall, the partners believe that policy makers at all levels should continue to promote SAI practices to smallholder farmers – particularly those who are still unaware of unsure of the benefits for their businesses. Policy makers are also urged to support these SAI-enabling traditional practices by tailoring government subsidy programs to the needs of farmers.
SAIRLA is present in 5 countries (Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia and has set up NLAs in each of these countries. It currently runs eight research projects spread across these five countries.
SITAM is led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and in partnership with Groundswell International.
Bunding: (contour) bunding is a technique to reduce water runoff and controls soil erosion through ridges covered with perennial grasses; (block) bunding is used for the same purpose but using rocks or stone.
Ridging: a method of preventing soil erosion: new crop is planted into ridges formed during the cultivation of the previous crop.
The Africa Soil Health Consortium (ASHC)
Find out more about the Africa Soil Health Consortium which gives people who work with smallholder farmers a one-stop library of materials on Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM).
Soil science & hydrology
Soil and water are fundamental to crop cultivation and the conservation of natural resources. CABI’s information resources cover soil formation, classification and surveying, the biological, chemical, physical and fertility components of soils, and how these properties relate to the soil’s conservation and management.
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