Ghana Agricultural News Digest – March 3, 2014.

Below are some current developments on Agriculture in Africa:

Agricultural Issues
The State of Our Nation is One of Un-ending Impoverishment
Across the length and breadth of our nation, from village to town , suburban to city communities, our citizens pause in contemplation each year at this time , looking for signs of hope, a glimmer of possibilities that will transform their lives, they look for words of understanding of their plight, but alas another “State of the Nation” (SON) address by the President of the Republic has been delivered and the majority are consumed with their usual disappointment in what is becoming an annual ritual of “promise and fail”… On Agriculture the government has repeatedly talked about modernisation and the President last year emphasized giving special advantage to accelerate agricultural and aquaculture development through modernization. The reality however is that the agricultural sector has indeed lost its prime spot as the largest contributor to GDP so the President’s emphasis now that “Government’s vision to ensure food security in Ghana has been largely achieved “or Ghana achieving the MDG of reducing hunger and malnutrition in advance of the 2015 target date misses the point on its own objective.

President Assures Investors of Guaranteed Repatriation of Profits
President John Mahama has assured investors that all agreements governing their investments remain in force and that the repatriation of profits and dividends are guaranteed. President Mahama gave this assurance on Tuesday when he delivered his second State of the Nation's Address to Parliament… Touching on Agriculture and Food Security, President Mahama said despite the fact that the agricultural sector had lost its prime spot as the largest contributor to GDP to the services sector, agriculture remained a key priority of Government…On transforming the economy, President Mahama called for the need to change the structure of the economy by reducing the importation of items that could be produced here in Ghana. He stressed the need to also "add value to our exports through primary, secondary and tertiary processing: add value to our cocoa by increased domestic processing…

AGRA to Assist Increase Productivity of Maize-legume
The Soil Health Project (SHP) of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) designed to increase productivity of maize-legume cropping systems through scaling up proven Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) technologies in northern Ghana has ended. The ISFM is the application of strategies that centre on the combined use of mineral fertilizers and locally available soil amendments such as lime, phosphate rock and organic matter like crop residues, compost and green manure to replenish lost soil nutrients. The four-year project, which began in 2010, was implemented by the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 31 districts in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions.

Ghanaian Cocoa Farmers Schooled on Agronomic Practices
The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), an advocacy group against the use of child labour on cocoa farms, is establishing Cocoa Farmers’ Field Schools in some selected cocoa-growing communities in the country, to train cocoa farmers on modern agronomic practices to help increase crop yield and boost incomes of cocoa farmers. The aim is to expose the farmers to and help them adopt new and modern planting techniques, proper farm maintenance practices, as well as the use and application of approved fertilizers and agro-chemicals on their farms. Mr. Prince Gyamfi, a Programme Associate of ICI, told the Ghana News Agency, that the objective of the project is to help cocoa farmers increase crop yield in their farms, boost incomes, cater properly for their families, send and maintain their children in schools.

Cocoa Sprayers Should Use Protective Gear- MOFA
The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) has urged cocoa spraying gangs to adhere strictly to safety measures when spraying pesticides on cocoa farms. The advice followed complaints by some cocoa spraying gangs in Asaasetre in the Ellembelle District of the Western Region that they were experiencing sexual impotency and other adverse health effects after they had sprayed cocoa farms with pesticides without wearing protective gear. The Western Regional Director of MOFA, Mr. Victor Oko Nai, gave the advice in an interview with the GNA in Takoradi on Friday…. Using agro-chemicals without the necessary protective gear or clothing could result in cumulative negative health effects in the future, hence the need for cocoa spraying gangs to observe the safety precautionary guidelines before touching agro-chemicals.

 Project to Boost Legumes Underway
Soybean is now increasingly becoming an important crop following demand from the booming animal feed industry. However, yields of all grain legumes are still low and far below potential. This was said by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Food Security and Cooperatives, Sophia Kaduma at the launch of the N2africa project in Tanzania. She said due to agriculture’s playing an important role in Tanzanian’s economy of providing more than 75% of the population, in Tanzania….The project was initiated in 2009 and covers 10 countries which are DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Phase II of the project which will run for five years commenced in January 2014,it will focus on five core countries which is Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda but maintain activities in the other countries under phase one which is Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

Cashew Farmers Call for Regulatory Price Body
Cashew has become one of the leading cash crops in the country in recent years. It is normally grown in the tropical countries because the cashew tree is said to be very frost —sensitive. Ghana, by its location, falls within the tropic zone, and with its vast savannah area, it is a safe ground for the cultivation of cashew. It is, therefore, not surprising that tonnes of cashew nuts are almost always carted out of the country every year. The numerous uses of cashew (which is widely cultivated purposely for its nuts) are well known.  Agriculture is said to be Ghana’s most important economic sector, employing more than half the population on formal and informal bases and accounting for almost half of GDP and export earnings…Cashew farmers from past years have been appealing to the government to set up a body to regulate the pricing of cashew in the country, like other cash crops in the country. But this plea of the cashew farmers is yet to attract government attention.

NDC Shortchanging Cocoa Farmers-NPP Cries Out
The Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Parliament has accused the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) of deliberately shortchanging poor cocoa farmers who should have been compensated for their hard work in sustaining the cocoa industry. According to the Minority, cocoa farmers should be paid GH¢319 per bag of 64kg and not GH¢212 per bag of cocoa being given to them. At a press conference yesterday in Parliament, the Minority’s spokesperson on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Dr Owusu Afriyie-Akoto said, “The NDC government is now making cocoa farmers poorer and at the same time benefitting hugely from efforts of poor cocoa farmers.”

$10m Farming Project to Begin at Anyanboni
The Chinese Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Gong Jianzhong, has cut the sod for a $10-million aquaculture and mechanised farming project for the Anyanboni community and its surrounding villages in the Upper Manya Krobo District in the Eastern Region. Two hundred hectares have been acquired for the project, which is an initiative of the Member of Parliament for Upper Manya Krobo, Mr Jeff Tetteh Kavianu. Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Jianzhong described agriculture as a necessity for economic development, adding, “We cannot support democracy with an empty stomach, so we should take agriculture as a priority in our economic development.” He promised that China would support Ghana in its efforts at developing agriculture through education and the provision of technology, among others.

Food Sovereignty Ghana Organises Workshop on GMOs
Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG), a body against genetically modified foods (GMOs) has organised a two-day capacity building and skills sharing workshop in Accra on the Biosafety Law. The workshop also exposed the participants including civil society organisations, smallholder farmers, the media, scientists and other stakeholders to the Plant Breeders Bill and the Plant and Fertiliser Act (seed law) and Ghana’s Plant Breeders’ Bill. A communiqué issued at the end of the workshop and copied to Ghana News Agency by Duke Tagoe, Deputy Chairperson of FSG, noted that the Plant Breeders Bill is modelled on the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV… “Ghana should use this flexibility to develop a plant variety protection/plant breeders’ regime that suits its national conditions as many developing countries have done.

The Criminality of the GM Biotech Industry
There is currently a battle waging across the planet over genetically modified (GM) crops. It seems like not a month goes by when a new report is released on the health, environmental or productivity aspects of GM organisms. The GM biotech industry tries to assure governments and the public about the safety and efficacy of their products, while study after study calls into question its claims… The GM debate may ultimately not be decided by scientific debate or on the pages of journals, however. The battle could be lost for those opposing GM crops by default, or to be more specific, by the flagrant contamination of our food supply – and our air and water as well.

Fisheries Commission to Stop Trawlers from Fishing
The Dixcove Co-management Forum Tuesday called on the Fisheries Commission to stop trawlers from fishing in the In-shore Exclusive Zone (IEZ) on the shores of Dixcove. Members of the forum made the call at a stakeholders workshop on the Fisheries Law organized by the Forum and sponsored by the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund at Takoradi. The forum, which was attended by representatives from various fisheries associations, was to find the way forward in the enforcement of the Fisheries Act. They said trawlers were competing with artisanal fishermen in the IEZ on the shores of Dixcove, although trawlers were not supposed to fish in In-shore Exclusive Zones which were reserved by law for artisanal fishing….Trawlers are not supposed to fish in In-shore Exclusive Zones and it is illegal to do so without permission.”

Despite Climate Change, Africa Can Feed Africa
Climate change comes with never-before-experienced impacts. For example, crop yields and growing seasons will decrease even as changing rain patterns will worsen people’s access to water. Yet Africa’s population is projected to reach 2 billion in less than 37 years, and in 86 years three out of every four people added to the planet will be African. Decreasing crop yields and increasing population will put additional pressure on an already fragile food production system. That is why experts have warned that if the current situation persists, Africa will be fulfilling only 13% of its food needs by 2050. This situation will further threaten about 65% of African workers who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods including children and the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.

CSIR Urges Government to Prioritize R&D
Dr Abdulai Baba Salifu Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has called on government to invest in Research and Development (R&D) and make it a priority in national scheme of resource allocation. He explained that investment in R&D was imperative for economic growth and national development, and that; government should not leave that to private initiatives or external funding interests, since the interests of these external donors might not necessarily coincide with the national interests. Dr Salifu said this when he commissioned a new two-storey building office complex for the Science Technology and Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) of the CSIR. The building, which has 24 office rooms and conference room facilities, cost GH¢ 84 million and was funded mainly from Internally Generated Fund (IGF) and donor support

Turning Waste to Energy: Ghana Struggles to Replicate Old Tech
Ghana is struggling to replicate an age old technology that has come into fashion to power domestic households in the midst of an unstable energy supply. Cow dung and pig waste which for many in Ghana represents public nuisance is seen elsewhere as a precious commodity that is used to produce biogas to power light in homes and for other industrial use. For a 59-year-old Danish, Erik Broholm Andersen, it is a precious commodity that powers his business and sustains his livelihood by buying tones of pig waste in Aalborg to generate renewable energy. Owner of Boel farms, which is about 45 minutes’ drive west from the Danish city of Aalborg is keen to replicate his business model to Africa, where energy sources are dwindling in the midst of rising demand.

Food Security/Crisis
Better Chickens, Improved Food Security in Africa
Improving the diets and the food security of families in Ghana and Tanzania is one of the goals of an international collaboration, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, that took Lamont to the continent earlier this year… Susan Lamont, a distinguished professor of animal science at Iowa State University, says for many families in Africa it could be significant. “When we look at food security in Africa, we have to recognize that for the poorest people there, their diets are very deficient in protein. This can have huge impacts, especially on cognitive development of young children,” Lamont said…Diseases including Newcastle Disease, a highly contagious respiratory illness that is known in the U.S. but is not usually as virulent as the strain found in parts of Africa. Lamont says it can be devastating there, especially for small farmers.

Empowering Cassava Value Chain; Actors to Contribute to Food Security
Ghana and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have launched a Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) on cassava to enhance food security and incomes in selected cassava growing areas in Ghana. The growing interest in the cultivation of the crop in recent times can be ascribed to the increasing realization by government and other stakeholders of its potential as a food security and emergence crop, which could generate employment for the rural poor and foreign exchange for the country. “The project on Empowering Cassava Value Chain Actors to Contribute to Increased Food, targets vulnerable farming communities particularly small scale farmers, small scale informal processors, cassava aggregators and possibly industrial enterprises engaged in processing cassava,” said Dr L. Thiombiano, FAO Representative in Ghana, at the launching ceremony, at Winneba in the Central Region.

Reports/Articles
Cooperating to Make the Best Use of Plant Genetic Resources in West and Central Africa: A Regional Imperative
A Stakeholders - Cooperating to Make the Best Use of Plant Genetic …, 2014
Plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) are a precious heritage of the people of West and Central Africa (WCA) where the agricultural sector is the major contributor to the livelihoods of its people. The region is endowed with diversified agroecosystems in which plant genetic resources (PGR) play an integral role by contributing to the provision of food as well as ecosystem services. The region is recognized as a primary centre of diversity of key food crops such as millet, cowpea, fonio, several types of yam, African rice, Bambara groundnut and oil palm. It is a secondary centre of diversity for sorghum and robusta coffee. A significant number of staple food crops and commodities have also been introduced into the region and have developed genetic complexes and wild relatives that have adapted to environmental conditions in WCA. There is a growing challenge, however, in ensuring that the potential benefits of the PGR of WCA are sustainably conserved and utilized for both the present and future generations of the region and also the world at large.

Economic Returns of Gari Processing Enterprises in the Mampong Municipality, Ghana
S Opoku-Mensah, H Agbekpornu, CA Wongnaa - IJAIR, 2014
This study sought to ascertain the economic viability of gari processing enterprises in the Mampong District of the Ashanti Region under the Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Program (RTIMP). To determine the socio-economic characteristics, profitability and the factors influencing net margins accruing to processors, a multistage sampling technique was employed to gather data on 110 processors from across three communities in the district. Descriptive statistics, budgetary technique, and a multiple regression model were used to analyze data collected. The study revealed that gari processing was a female-dominated (84.5%) activity, with a majority (85%) aged between 31-50 years and a mean age of 46 years. Most of processors were married (86%), were either breadwinners or co-breadwinner (99%); and with an average household size of 7.3 persons. Most processors (71%) had only basic level education; had an average of 7.3 years of processing experience and 72% depended on personal savings as source of finance for business. The study also showed that gari processing was economically viable as it generated an average gross margin and net returns of GH¢31,038.85 and GH¢30,474.16 respectively very within the period. Again all the financial indicators namely operating ratio, profitability index, and rate of return were favorable at 0.59, 0.40 and 67% respectively.

Narratives of Scarcity: Understanding the ‘Global Resource Grab’
I Scoones, R Smalley, R Hall, D Tsikata - 2014
Global resource scarcity has become a central policy concern, with predictions of rising populations, natural resource depletion and hunger. Resulting narratives of scarcity drive behaviour and justify actions to harness resources considered ‘under-utilised’, leading to contestations over rights and entitlements and producing new scarcities. Yet scarcity is contingent, contextual and above all political. We present an analysis of three framings – absolute scarcity, relative scarcity and political scarcity – associated with the intellectual traditions of Malthus, Ricardo and Marx, respectively. A review of 134 global and Africa-specific policy and related sources produced over the past six years demonstrates how diverse framings of scarcity – what it is, its causes and what is to be done – are evident in competing narratives that animate debates about the future of food and farming in Africa and globally. We argue that current mainstream narratives emphasise absolute and relative scarcity, while ignoring political scarcity. We suggest a more political framing of scarcity requires paying attention to how resources are distributed between different needs and uses, and so different people and social classes. This requires, we argue, a policy emphasis for land and resource issues on rights and access, and distributional issues, centred on equity and justice.

 Cost And Return Analysis Of Rice Production In Kwara State, Nigeria Under Sawah Technology
MO Raufu - 2014
As a result of high population growth and urbanization, there is a high and increasing demand for rice, this necessitates the high attention for its production. Sawah technology if properly employed would improve the output of Nigeria’s rice production; hence, resulting in a high financial return at sales. A number of factors which need to be considered for profitable sawah rice output include: land availability, availability of machineries, application of appropriate fertilizer, technical knowhow, lowland farm size, availability and management of irrigation water. The study therefore examines the economic analysis of rice production under Sawah programme in Kwara state. Out of 80 Sawah rice farmers interviewed with the aid of a well-structured interview schedule, the descriptive statistics revealed that majority of the respondents are male with a year experience of the technology and are of secondary level of education. Rice production under Sawah system is profitable going by the cost and return analysis… The study therefore recommends that more awareness should be made for the technology through the media, workshops and seminars and supported by policies of government at various levels.