Ghana — Agriculturists and other discussants at a public forum have called for a multi-sectoral approach and inclusive strategies towards stemming the perennial bushfire menace in the country.
They said such move would make land more productive in the agricultural value-chain entrepreneurship.
The participants contended that if outmoded practices such as slash and burn had impacted negatively on land, then the annual unwarranted wild bushfires posed even more grave consequences.
This came up during an open forum at the launch of a Sustainable Food Security and Environmental Health project at Jasikan-Nsuta for the Hohoe Municipal, Jasikan and Kadjebi districts in the Volta Region last Friday.
It was organized by Africare, a US based non-profit international non-governmental organisation (INGO) and funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
It aims to promote Integrated Soil Fertility management (ISFM) practice to reduce land degradation, increase crop productivity, food security and income in environmentally sustainable ways.
The experts called for enforcement of anti-bushfire bye-laws enacted at the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembly levels and stringent collaboration among major stakeholders, including traditional authorities and other civil society groups.
Dr Kwasi Ampofo, Country Coordinator of Africare, said the project was to scale-up agro-forestry interventions widely to strengthen biodiversity restoration for an environmentally sound agricultural production.
He said the project targets strengthening stakeholder partnerships in the promotion of technologies for sustainable agriculture and natural resource management, building capacity of farmers to access appropriate agro-inputs and improved agronomic practices.
Dr Ampofo said it envisaged increasing smallholder agricultural productivity in the region through the transfer of ISFM strategies and interventions to improve food security and income.
He said the projects hoped to reach out to 50,000 farmers through Farmer-Based Organisations (FBOs), including agro-dealer groups, produce buyers, agro-processors, mechanization service providers and innovative financing.
Dr Ampofo called for multi-stakeholder fora on the menace as its impact was causing major devastation to the environment and rendering lands infertile.
Dr Kehinde Makinde, Country Officer of AGRA-Ghana, said the project – initiated by Mr Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations and supported by Rockefeller Foundation – is a dynamic Africa-led partnership to help millions of smallerholder farmers and families to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger.
He said over 25 million dollars had been invested in the Ghana project spanning 36 development projects in the Volta, Northern, Afram Plains in the Eastern and Accra Plains in the Greater Accra region.
Dr Makinde added that part of its investment was into building the capacity of scientists, seed breeders, establishment of seed companies, public awareness creation, agro-dealer development and access to markets in 13 other African counties including Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso.
He said it has a target of self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) of raising rice production from 3 percent to 70 percent and maize from 80 to 100 percent and increase income of farmers from 350 to 500 dollars.
Dr Marie Rarieya, Programme Officer of AGRA in-charge of Education and Training, said negative agronomic practice of slash and burn methods was rendering the soil barren and yields dwindling despite agriculture contributing 40 percent to Gross Domestic Products (GDP), 15 percent to exports and between 60-80 percent of employment avenues.
She noted that the potential for agriculture to drive development had been demonstrated in other jurisdictions but yet to be fully exploited in Sub-Saharan Africa, blaming the situation on lack of critical mass of scientists and researchers.
According to Dr Rarieya, degraded and poor soil exacerbated by nutrients mining practices could be nurtured to revive its health and productivity through high organic matter, good water retention, improved soil aggregates leading to higher yield and biomass production.
Mr Isaac K. Asare, Project Manager of Ghana Agro-Dealer Development (GADD) project of the International Centre for Soil Fertility and
Agriculture Development (IFDC), said his outfit had increased agricultural productivity, incomes and well-being of some 850,000 smallholder farmers to increase availability, accessibility and affordability of quality seeds, fertilizer and crop protection products in rural Ghana.
He said 149 agro-dealers were trained in the Volta Region out of 2,287 trained nationwide with women constituting 17 percent.
Mr Asare said limited access to credit, adulteration of seeds and chemicals by agro-dealers as well as indiscriminate use of agro-chemicals by farmers were their challenges.
Nana Kumessy Bonsy, Jasikan District Chief Executive, on behalf of beneficiary districts pledged their collective support for a smooth take-off believing that it would enhance the socio-economic self-sufficiency of the people.
The beneficiary districts share identical geographic features – land formation and agricultural farming methods and productivity.