How information and communication technology can increase the yield of farmers in Ghana.
In years gone by, Ghana was one of the world’s most capable agricultural producers. Regionally-focused policies ensured that the agricultural sector functioned as the nation’s chief source of food, employment and income. The country was not only agriculturally self-supporting and food-secure, but it also blossomed in global markets as one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa and as a significant producer of palm oil, cassava and yam.
But that is not the case now.
Across the major food producing areas in Ghana, food production has either declined or remained stagnant. A situation which can be pointed to poorly distributed rainfall in farming areas; low prices of farm produce; poor selection of appropriate crop varieties; pest and disease troubles; substandard extension connections; poor supply of farm inputs, especially seed and fertilizers; and failure of the smallholder farmer to adapt to changing environments and adopting new technologies.
Schandof Adu Bright, Director of Farmer Services at Farmerline, admits that for improved yield to happen, smallholder farmer need to have an increased access to knowledge. “Without knowledge about local staple crops, changing climatic conditions and crop diseases and pests, efforts at increasing food production will be meaningless,” he says.
“To help farmers make the most of their harvests, they need access to a range of information that can help them decide when best to buy inputs or sell their yields. They also need information on the weather that can help them capitalize on rainfall, picking the best-yielding seed varieties and differentiating between disease and pests to respond appropriately,” Schandorf adds.
For Patrick Sakyi, Monitoring and Evaluation Associate at Farmerline, increased yield can be achieved when farmers start adhering to recommended farming practices. “Farmers are hesitant about adopting new farming practices or crops. This is largely based on a devotion to tradition, sometimes dating back several generations,” Patrick says.
“These farmers need to be shown proof that new practices will result in a better yield. But the adoption of these farming practices require the use of quality inputs such as seeds and fertilizer which most farmers may not be able to afford outright, hence access to loans or simple input facilities are needed.”
Schandorf also argues that providing the price of farm produce will help increase yield. “With prices often undergoing fluctuations on a weekly or even daily basis, farmers need to access up-to-date price information. This helps them not only choose when and where to market crops, but also enables them to better bargain with buyers to ensure they receive fair prices,” he says.
“When they have received fair prices for their yield, they will be encouraged to grow more crops.”
With majority of farming dependent on rains, Patrick makes the case that sending voice call messages and SMS about weather information (in a farmer’s own local language) is also important.
“Changing temperatures and erratic rainfall have reduced yield in Ghana. Farms are especially vulnerable to climate variations and weather extremes, and thus suffer unduly.” he says. “Providing farmers with weather information, like Farmerline is doing, will enable them make informed decisions, better manage risk and take advantage of favorable climate conditions,” he adds.
Increasing yield amongst smallholder farmers in Ghana is important and necessary. When the aforementioned conditions are put in place, Ghana will have an opportunity to return to self-sufficiency in food and become a chief exporter of agricultural products to the world.