Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A rich harvest from organic agriculture

Opportunities in organic agriculture are fast spreading among farmers in Ghana, particularly, in the Northern sector where support from the World Bank, European Union and other international organisations are yielding a positive result and a paradigm shift.
Ghana is doing well in discouraging practices such as bush burning and use of harmful pesticides and herbicides. Farmers have been educated on the harmful nature of chemicals and bush
burning to the environment, and its danger to healthy food production. Even though some considerable feat have been attained, the need to nib harmful practices in the bud is more pressing now as the debate on genetically modified (GM) foods was recently a topical issue in Ghana. 
The Coalition for the Advancement of Organic Farming (CAOF) some years back presented an overview of organic farming in Ghana, specifically in the Northern Sector. The verdict, which was given to the government of Ghana pointed out that organic farming is a possible alternative to negative agricultural practices that remain with us. 
Farms with specialisation
Indeed, the issue of Climate Change and good environmental practices have led to the establishment of many greenhouse agricultural farms with a specialisation in organic farming.
There are currently many such farms which include Contelmall Green Farms in Cantonment, Karat Wells Ghana in North Accra, Corporate Bureau Ltd in Spintex, Ghana Farming Network Ltd in Mamprobi , and Thomsula Limited on the Kasoa-Mallam Road Over the years, many more farms have specialized in the production and export of organic greenhouse vegetables like Roma tomatoes, Chili pepper, and Sweet pepper. To ensure a comprehensive result, we must insist on such farms to employ the latest humane and environmentally friendly methods in the production of their vegetables to meet both local and international standards or face a ban.
The Ghana Farming Network Ltd (GHAFAN) for instance, has provided expert support in the areas of building fish farm cages and other farming infrastructure, including technical support.
The farm is into the production of tilapia, rabbits, guinea fowls and grasscutters among others for both the local and international (African) markets. The farm grows fingerlings in ponds. The fish are then transferred to cages in the Volta River and other streams and rivers to grow to market size.
Recently, an improved variety of maize known as “Obantapa” was introduced to a farmer group in Yua under the SEISUD FFRP programme. This new variety, according to researchers has little protein component in it. The farmers preferred this variety because it is a medium variety and can improve poultry feed as well. Most of the farmers in the area were also taken through the agronomical practices.
To succeed in the fight against Climate Change, we must make farmers in Ghana aware that organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity while stabilizing returns, as well as incomes. We must encourage the usage of local technologies which do not harm the environment.
We must further point out that a high demand for organic produce will economically drive local investors into the sector. This could lead to increased income and improved living conditions for the producers and exporters of organic produce.
Various benefits
Farmers must be alerted that the benefits include maintenance and building of soil fertility on land that is often threatened by degradation and erosion, as well as enhancing their socio-economic wellbeing through the purchase of their products.
In addition to these benefits for the environment and farmers, we must encourage consumers that organic produce limits exposure to synthetic insecticides, fungicides and herbicides.
A study by Yaw Bonsi Osei-Asare conducted in 2009 concluded that “consumers are willing to pay a maximum of 20 per cent premium on organic products.” 
The government of Ghana must make sure that the processes leading to organic certification are simplified so that organic produce can attract premium prices on the market. The government needs to increase extension services to train and share information about organic farming, its positive effect on the environment, and the fact that it results in healthier foods and farming practices.
Organic agriculture is crucial for environmental sustainability, as well as improving the health of consumers. Other benefits include contributing to employment creation, food security, poverty reduction and health.
We believe that the government, the private sector and development partners can all promote the benefits of organic agriculture to encourage its consumption for the farmer to continue.

Ghana Farming Network discovers the advantages of productivity increases and higher incomes, with little impact on climate.

Source : The Hindu Business Line

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