Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has assured of a commitment to implement the strategies to consolidate and sustain the work of the Community Based Advisors (CBAs) among other stakeholders, under the Ghana Extension System Strengthening Project (GESSiP).
Deputy Ministry of the sector, Mohammed Hardi Tufeiru, said this is because the CBA model has contributed to improved yields through the use of improved technologies and good agronomic practices among smallholder farmers and the CBA.
He gave the assurance at the close-out meeting of the GESSiP consortium with key stakeholders in Sunyani to officially inform them about the closure of the project.
The project, funded by AGRA, ends on November 30, 2021, after running for three years in 29 districts in the Bono, Bono East, Northern, North East, and Savannah Regions.
GESSiP was initiated to address the problem of weak agricultural extension services delivery by catalysing and sustaining an inclusive agricultural transformation to increase productivity and incomes for smallholder farmers and improve food security in Ghana.
This goal, the minister said is in line with the government’s planting for food and jobs, which also seeks to ensure food security through accelerated on-farm productivity of smallholder farmers.
The meeting afforded stakeholders the chance to share achievements, outcomes and lessons learned so far, and forge local ownership of the initiative and agree on the way forward to the work of the CBAs after the project ends.
According to the project manager, Isaac Olesu-Adjei, the project targeted crops including soybeans, rice, maize, and cassava.
He revealed the project reached out to 618,317 smallholder farmers with inputs and extension information, while 2,285 CBAs were recruited and trained.
In addition, 494,023 small packs of the certified seeds, fertilizers, and crop production products were distributed, and the CBAs also conducted 3,977 mother demos for training the smallholder farmers.
Mr. Olesu-Agyei also said the project developed and utilized 5 extension training modules and trained 136 CBAs in entrepreneurship and agro dealerships.
All these interventions, he noted, resulted in increased extension knowledge, adoption of good agronomic practices, including appropriate fertilizer application, plant spacing, and use of hybrid seeds.
This, the Deputy Agric Minister, Hardi Tufeiru, said explains “why the development of a pluralistic regulatory framework and standards for public-private extension, and advisory services has become a matter of priority for the ministry”.
The challenges associated with the coordination of extensions and advisory services, he said, need to be addressed urgently to enhance and maintain the required pace of agricultural and rural development in Ghana.
He urged AGRA, development partners, and other stakeholders to “support the work of CBA’s as their continued success would lead to the attainment of the district-level industrialisation drive with agriculture supplying the needed raw material base and providing the much-needed jobs for the teeming unemployed youth”.
Bono Regional Minister, Justina Owusu Banahene, while commending the stakeholders for successfully implementing the GESSiP initiative, said improving agriculture is critical for national development.
She encouraged the beneficiaries of the project to claim ownership of it and continue to use the knowledge and skills acquired to improve productivity and livelihood.
Bono Regional Director of Agriculture, Denis Abugri Amenga, admits they have witnessed some improvement in public extension delivery due to an increased number of officers and enhanced logistics recently.
He, however, said the extension system is still characterised by a high farmer-to-Agriculture Extension Agents (AEAs) ratio of about 3,000:1.
He, therefore, commended the Directors and Extension officers of the participating District Assemblies for a successful project which he insists affirms the fact that with requisite resources and logistics they can perform.
A maize farmer, Janet Sarkodie, selected by her community to become a CBA, in an interview, appreciated the impact the knowledge acquired is having on her and the other farmer’s yield.
“For an acre of land, I got only about 5 bags. But this season, thanks to the training, I had 15 bags. The situation is the same with the other farmers in my community, especially the women since I have also been assisting them with the right farming extension systems”.
She said an increased yield means an increased income, as they can take good care of their families, and for that, they are grateful for the GESSiP initiative.
Some of the key recommendations include Regional Offices being given the Digital Classroom System, and an upscale of the Project to other non-beneficiary Regions & Districts.
The project manager, Isaac Olesu-Adjei, however, hopes other donors will come on board to assist in that regard and appealed to the government to integrate the system with the planting for food and jobs initiative because of the enormous benefit to the agricultural sector.
To achieve food security, he advocated for more funding, cold storage facilities for the hybrid seeds, and irrigation technology to reduce the overreliance on nature for rains for farming.
The GESSiP, funded under the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa (PIATA), was implemented through a consortium involving: The Hunger Project -Ghana, Catholic Relief Services, Farmerline, and the Directorate of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES) of MoFA.