Agriculture remains the main driving force of Ghana’s economy, accounting for about forty-two percent of the country’s total value of goods and services produced, technically referred to as GDP. Agriculture also employs about fifty-four percent of Ghana’s work force, but quite unfortunately, the sector like most ones in the country, is bedeviled with challenges. Fertilizer production, distribution and application is one of such persisting concerns of the sector.
Why Fertilizers are Integral
To grow healthy crops, farmers need to ensure that they have healthy soil. However, when crops are harvested repeatedly, important nutrients disappear from the soil. If the health of the soil is not restored with fertilizer, crop yields deteriorate over time. In Ghana, cases of soil deterioration are largely due to, insufficient credit support for farmers; high lending rates and problems associated with marketing agricultural produce. Others include, over-dependence on rain for crop production; dependence on donor sources for funding of agricultural projects; and poor knowledge in fertilizer usage, continue to hinder the Ghanaian farmer from adopting the use of fertilizers, constantly and correctly when planting. Fertilizers therefore become the chemical substances that contain the essential nutrients required by the plants to increase their productivity. In most cases, farmers are expected to fertilizer daily if they want to experience great harvest. Fertilizers is made up of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and increase its fertility.
CDF Canada Introduce 4R Solution Principles
At the recent fourth Agricultural Students’ Career Guidance Mentorship Dialogue and Bootcamp (AGSTUD-AFRICA), Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada— CDF Canada, one of the major sponsors of this year’s Bootcamp, as part of competence-based training sessions, introduced the agri-students to the 4R Solution Project. The 4R solution, according to CDF Canada, emphasizes the strategic application of fertilizers maximum benefit of the process.
In a presentation at the Bootcamp, the Ghana Country Director of CDF Canada, Madam Christiana K. Yakubu, noted that the 4r principles emphasizes four main factors all farmers and agriculturalist must take note of when applying fertilizers: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place. “These principles, when applied correctly will ensure that farmers derive maximum benefits and yields from the fertilizers they apply to their crops,” she stressed.
The Right Source principle encourages farmers to use the right kind of fertilizers on their plants. In using the right fertilizers, they must ensure to use them at the Right Rate or Amount, taking note of timing and proper positioning of the fertilizer. CDF Ghana is working with local partners like SEND Ghana and the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute to disseminate these nutrient management recommendations, to Ghanaians, with greater focus on farmers in the northern part of the country. According to the organization, while increased fertilizer application is a key entry point for enhanced crop productivity in African, most smallholder farms in the north frequently lack tools and guidelines that help them optimize benefits of increased fertilizer use. “To address this, the 4R Solutions Project provides a platform for the development and demonstration of locally adapted 4R practices that help smallholder farmers in select focal districts in northern Ghana.”
SEND Ghana is playing the key role of mobilizing smallholder farmers into co-operatives and linking them to value chains. They are also responsible to mainstream gender component throughout the project. SARI is providing technical directions on 4R principles, setting up demonstration plots, training of extension agents etc. with guidance from African Plant Nutrition Institute (APNI). The bigger vision of this project, according to CDF Ghana, is to enable sustainable crop production within smallholder farming systems of northern Ghana.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the 4R Solution Project will improve agricultural productivity and sustainability for more than 80,000 smallholder farmers (50% women) in Ethiopia and Senegal, as well. Half a billion people live on small farms, most of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. These small farms, of which women manage the majority, produce 80 per cent of food in developing countries, employ 62 per cent of the population, and generate 27 per cent of GDP. They are however still faced with unfavorable issues like, limited quality of their production, resulting from depleted soils, unsustainable agricultural practices, especially fertilizer usage; Poor post-harvest handling and; and limited access to markets. These challenges are even more intense for women farmers who are further constrained by limited and unreliable access to land, labour, financial services and training opportunities.
The 4R Solutions Approach
In light of the above challenges, the 4R Solution, which is $17 million Canadian project ($15 million from the Government of Canada and $2 million from industry partners), and expected to run from April 2019 to March 2024, is expected to:
Enhance sustainable production, using climate smart, best management practices in agriculture and increased value chain access and integration by women and men farmers in the targeted regions in Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal
Enhance representation and influence of women in leadership positions & decision-making bodies, especially in co-operatives within targeted communities of Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal
Increase integration of gender sensitive 4R principles in relevant standards and policies in Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal. Working together, smallholder farmers and agricultural extension workers will benefit from using improved agricultural practices, especially 4R Nutrient Stewardship. Individually, farmers will benefit from increased yields and access to markets while co-operatives will increase their business, production and handling capacity, sustainably consolidating these gains. Government and research institutions will engage in research and exposure programs to increase recognition of the benefits of using 4R globally.
CDF Canada Urge AG-STUD Participants to Align with 4R Solutions
Madam Christiana K. Yakubu in her interactions with the agri-students and beginner entrepreneurs therefore encouraged them to take advantage of the 4R Solution Projects, to become 4R Champions, through the ‘4r Championship Program.’ 4R Champions, she noted, will become advocates for the 4R Solution project and incorporate the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework into agriculture in their respective regions, “Champions will play a key role in sharing information, intelligence and helping to identify issues and resolve those top down, bottom up and across,” she stressed.
According to her, the perception that agriculture is not profitable is what keeps many young people away from the sector, emphasizing that, currently in the northern parts of the country, most young people have abandoned the sector, and in search of non-existing white-collar jobs, “In Tamale, farmlands are being taken over for buildings and other non-agricultural purposes,” she bemoaned.
The way forward, she noted, is to intensify youth in agric projects and interventions, like AG-STUD Bootcamp and 4R Championship Program, which highlights a science-based fertilizer management program, using the 4r principles. She said much of the five-and-a-half-year program is targeting the youth; to give those who participate and win a grant of about 1000 Canadian dollars that can enable them apply the 4r principles as part of their farming activities. Therefore, 4R Champions can be anyone from local government, ministries, farm groups and key rural development actors. They might be academics, policy makers, scientists or agribusiness owners. She added, “We believe ones young people in agric are able to apply these principles, together with all the climate smart strategies, when they do their cost benefit analysis, they will see the need to go into production.”
About AG-STUD Africa Bootcamp
Annually, the Bootcamp brings together agricultural students, beginner agribusinesses and start-ups to help them appreciate the pivotal role they are expected to play, in building resilience and preparedness towards sustaining the food security of the nation through creative and innovative agriculture.
This year, the Bootcamp was on theme, “We have Enabled and Established the Agri-youth! Time to Scale-Up them-Up to Feed Ghana,” a call on corporate institutions, development partners, Government and stakeholders to join hands with Agrihouse Foundation, to support in scaling-up Agri-businesses that have been established by young Ghanaians working in the agricultural sector, whiles supporting other promising youth to identify and build career paths within the value chain.
The 5-day bootcamp was generously supported by organizations including, OCP Africa, Agricultrural Development Bank, Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF-Canada), 4r Solution, Soya Beans Meal, Nanam, B-Diet, ADDFRA, Holland Akokor, New Okaff Industries, Kovi, My Barnes, Africa Business Bureau (abb) and IWAD.
Representatives of the organizations showed up in their numbers, many of them serving as mentors, coaches and trainers: Hon. Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, MP Klottey Korle and Patron of AG-STUD; Mr. Samuel Oduro-Asare, Country Manager of OCP Africa in Ghana; Madam Nana Pomaa, a industrious Rabbit & Piggery Farmer based in the Ashanti Region; Madam Regina Richardson, Ag. Country Manager of AGRA; Mr. Danquah-Addo-Yobo, West-Africa Regional Director of Yara International; Madam Shirley Tony Kum, Corporate Communications Manager of Vivo Energy Ghana; Mrs. Tucci Ivowi, CEO of Ghana Commodity Exchange; Mr. James Boateng, National 2018 Best Farmer; Ing. Busia Dawuni, Manging Director of IWAD Ghana; and Mr. Samuel Wangul of Agricultural & Advocacy Lead (4R-NSP, CDF Canada).
The rest are, Mr. Theophilus Djorbuah of Yara Ghana; Mr. Nicholas Nikoi of ADB; Mr. Alex Attakora, Chief Operating Officer Technical and Logistics Group, Jospong Group of Companies; Mr. Haidar Malhas, Manager, Irrigation Service – Interplast; Mr. Desmond Bress-Biney, Business Consultant; Madam Carianne De Boer, Chief of Party GPP; Mr. Prosper Ahmed Amuquandoh; Energy Consultant – IWAD; Mr. Kenneth Barnes, CEO – My Barnes; Mr. Mark Segbefia, Supply Chain Manager at OCP Africa; Mr. Kojo Amissah; COO – Sokoni Limited; Mr. Chris Ibyisintabyo, World Food Programme; Mr. Andrews Ahiaku of Food, Agricultural Finance & SME Banking Professional; and Richard Nunekpebu, Founder & Chief Farmer of Anyako Farms ltd.
The Bootcamp hosted students from sixteen agricultural institutions in the country, including Kwadaso Agric College, Ohawo Agric College, Fair River Farm Institute, Damango Agric College, Ejura Agric College, Methodist University, Northern Hub, KNUST, All Nations University, University of Ghana, Central University, UCC, Gh media, Christian College University and Adidome Farm Institute.