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RURAL FARMERS SCHOOLED ON AGRI-BUSINESS MANAGEMENT

A training on Agri-Business Management has taken place at Bongo, capital of the Bongo District in the Upper East Region.

 

The training formed part of the Rhizobium Inoculum Technology Project which seeks to increase the yields and incomes of smallholder soya bean producers in order to propel the Ghanaian Soya bean Value Chain for Accelerated Poverty Reduction.

 

It was organized by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and its partner, the Savannah Agriculture Research Institute (SARI), with funding and other forms of support from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Scientific Co-operation Research Project and the North Carolina A&T University.

 

Under the project, the implementers will distribute soya bean seeds, inoculum (a bio-fertilizer) and fertilizers (the regular ones)to the farmers and also conduct participatory evaluation of the growth, yield and biological nitrogen fixation responses of different soya bean varieties to rhizobium inoculation and fertilizer types.

 

In addition, the Project will enhance the capacity of farmers, Farmer-Based Organizations(FBOs), local institutions and the Department of Agriculture to deliver information as well as access and use technical information on production, processing and marketing activities for increased income to actors.

 

The Bongo District’s Department of Agriculture and ADRO-Bongo will team up for the implementation in the beneficiary communities, while two farmer learning centres on improved technologies in soya bean production will also be established in two communities within the district to allow for knowledge transfer to a majority of farmers.

 

Participants, selected from across the district, including members of Farmer-Based Organizations (FBOs), Agriculture Extension Agents, Food Processors, Agro In-put dealers and Agriculture-based Non-Governmental Organizations, among other stakeholders, were taken through topics such as the benefits of co-operatives, direct marketing strategies, contract farming and value-added business planning.

 

In a presentation, Mr Issah Sugri, Senior Research Scientist with SARI, disclosed that by using the rhizobia inoculation technology and other integrated strategies in a broader framework, farmers stood a better chance of harvesting more produce than they would with the use of old-fashioned traditional methods.

 

According to Mr Sugri, rhizobia inoculants could lead to the establishment of large rhizobia population and also improve nodulation and nitrogen fixation even under adverse soil conditions.

 

He disclosed that the project estimated to train over 2,000 soya bean farmers from selected communities across the district on best soya bean production practices and value addition options so as to increase household incomes, utilization and nutrition among the population.

 

Professor Osei-Agyemang Yeboah from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the main facilitator at the training, noted that in the modern world, farmers had no choice but to come together under co-operatives in order to have a strong bargaining power to set prices as well as do bulk sales.

 

Professor Yeboah explained that by operating individually, many farmers were simply unable to expand their operations to the scale necessary to become involved in processing and that by pooling resources as in co-operative ventures, even small producers could reach the necessary size and output levels to vertically integrate and enter the processing arena.  

 

He said co-operatives allowed for the poor rural farmer to obtain products and services otherwise unavailable, help to reduce costs and at same the time, improve incomes and funding opportunities for member farmers.

 

He disclosed that the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions had been designated by the USAID and the USDA as food insecurity zones and this, he said, explained why the majority of interventions by these organizations were prevalent in these parts of Ghana.

 

Professor Yeboah blamed low soil fertility, climate change and erratic, and inadequate rainfall patterns as working against efforts aimed at making these areas food-sufficient.

 

He noted that commercial agriculture was gradually being taken over by industries and that for the average farmer to be successful, such farmers had to come together to produce in bulk and sell in bulk so that they could gain access to good market points and be able to negotiate for higher prices for their products.

 

He said government could be of tremendous help to farmers if it promulgated tailored and purposeful agriculture policies and ensured their strict implementation.

 

Professor Yeboah commended the government’s Planting for Food and Jobs Programme and called for more funding for its sustenance and expansion. 

 

He stressed the need for farmers to cultivate their crops using bio-fertilizers like inoculants in order to reduce possible chemical contamination of farm produce, while urging Ghanaians to consume more organic foods as these foods had a good potential of prolonging the life of humans.

 

Source: ISD (Peter Atogewe Wedam)

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